World Food Day: Climate change compounds inefficiencies along Africa’s agro-value chains —Munang, UNEP Coordinator

Sunday, October 16, marked another edition of the annual event, World Food Day (WFD), when advocacy campaigns and events were raised to strengthen both national and international solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty, as well as draw attention to achievements in food security and agricultural development.

With the theme, ‘Climate is Changing. Food and Agriculture must too,’ food enthusiasts across the world observed the day, with a call to stakeholders to address food and agriculture in their climate action plans and invest more in rural development.

One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security, as farmers, fishers and agriculturists generally around the world, are being hit the hardest by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in weather-related disasters.

At the same time, the global population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, while the global goal for achieving Zero Hunger is 2030. So to meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable.

Speaking with Ecoscope, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Climate Change Coordinator for Africa, Dr Richard Munang, noted that the theme is timely as it addresses one of the biggest challenges African farmers face in recent times.

“Climate change compounds inefficiencies along Africa’s agro-value chains. The continent loses food worth $4 billion annually due to post harvest losses (PHLs), while the total cost of land degradation in Africa is $68 billion annually. In 2010 alone, the continent lost food worth $48 billion as PHLs, and to cover for the deficit, spent $35 billion to import food.

“So climate change compounds this scenario, with rising temperatures lowering crop productivity and increasing water stress. The globe mitigation regime places the world on track for a warming of around 3-3.5C by 2100 with an over 66 per cent confidence level. And implying impacts could be worse. For instance, for the projected 3.5C warming above pre-industrial levels, the total blue and green water (BWGW) available for agriculture in Africa will decline by more than 10 per cent. So adapting to climate change is therefore an imperative to cushion against these impacts,” he said.

President of the Nigeria National Branch, UNEP Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA), Mr James Oyesola also noted that “The theme is very unique and timely, taken to cognizance that one of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security vis a vis agriculture.

“Agriculture is the human enterprise that is most vulnerable to climate change, while small scale farmers are more vulnerable to it because of their heavy reliance on rain-feed agriculture, widespread of poverty and low levels of technical development. These also limit their climate change adaptation capability particularly in relation to food security.

Oyesola in an interview with Ecoscope, noted that food security will emerge as a core development concern in Nigeria, as extreme climate events will affect all four dimensions of food security: food production, food availability, food accessibility, food utilisation and food systems stability, which will bring uncertainty and volatility to food prices, among others with disproportionate effect on the rural farming families of which majority are women and small scale farmers.

“In Nigeria, climate change is likely to drive majority of the population into destitution as assets are lost and resources are diverted to deal with emergencies, instead of being used for physical, social and economic infrastructure development. Frequency and intensity of extreme events, such as heat, waves, droughts and floods, are likely to increase, leading to reduced yield levels and disruptions in food production and distribution channels. Furthermore, temperature rise and changes in timing magnitude and distribution of precipitations are likely to increase moisture and heat stress on crops and livestock which will make agricultural practices unpredictable.”


Speaking on UNEP’s approach to tackling climate change as it affects food production, Munang said UNEP’s entry into food security in Africa is through the positioning of climate and environmental action to eliminate inefficiencies and ensure not only climate resilience, but also solving socio-economic challenges, such as food insecurity, poverty and unemployment, considering agriculture is the most inclusive sector in Africa employing a majority in the continent.

“Agriculture optimisation through the environment lens promises accelerated poverty reduction and achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, UNEP is supporting countries to put in place policies and investments to optimise agro-value chains holistically. This is by leveraging on Ecosystems Based Adaptation Driven agriculture approaches (EBA agriculture) for on-farm production, which is proven to increase yields by up to 128 per cent under the changing climate and enhance capacity of ecosystems to ensure continued availability of ecosystems’ resources like water and pollinators needed for producing 75 per cent of food produced,” he said.

Proffering solutions, Oyesola noted that feeding the world sustainably requires that we protect the ecological resources that are essential for producing food now and in the future.

“Four decades for scientific evidence show that agro ecological farming, including diversified organic agriculture, is the most effective agricultural response to the environmental challenges that threaten our future food security, such as climate change, soil erosion, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity.

“In the face of climate change and rising demand for resources, the need for ecologically sustainable and resilient food production is more urgent than ever. Claire Kremen, professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Califonia once said that increasing the proportion of agriculture that uses sustainable, organic methods of farming is not a choice, it is a necessity. So we simply cannot continue to produce food far into the future without taking care of our soils, water and biodiversity.”