Climate change could force as many as 122 million more people into extreme poverty by 2030 if nothing is done to combat it, according to a new report from the United Nations released Monday. That figure is based on an analysis of the impact on small-scale farmer incomes across the world, with farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa among the hardest hit regions. The report -- the 2016 State of Food and Agriculture report -- was published by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency within the broader U.N. Without "widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated," the report says. But the report doesn't let farming off the hook either and says farmers and the farming industry must make moves toward reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. There is, "no doubt that climate change will affect the agriculture sectors and food security and that its negative impact will become more severe as it accelerates," the study says in part.
MAE RIM, THAILAND – Battling drought, debt and ailments blamed on pesticides, rice farmers in northern Thailand have turned to eco-friendly growing methods despite powerful agribusiness interests in a country that is one of the top exporters of the grain in the world. Walking through a sea of green waist-high stalks, farmer Sunnan Somjak said his fields had been "exhausted" by chemicals, his family regularly felt ill and his profits were too low to make ends meet. But that changed when he joined a pilot agricultural project for the SRI method, which aims to boost yields while shunning pesticides and using less water. "Chemicals can destroy everything," the 58-year-old said, adding that the harvest in his village in Chiang Mai province has jumped 40 percent since employing the new method. There have been health benefits too: "It's definitely better, we don't get sick anymore," he added.
"Suicides occur due to extreme economic despair," said M.S. Swaminathan, a geneticist whose work on high-yield rice and wheat crops helped drive India's Green Revolution in the 1960s. His research in the late 1980s found that a 1 degree C (1.8 degree F) temperature rise reduced a crop's duration by about one week, causing losses in the overall weight of harvest. His foundation works to find farming solutions not only to rising heat, but also to drought or salinity from coastal sea rise. Given these growing risks, he said, government policy has a large role to play.
This story was originally published by Grist. It appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Half of all humans owe their lives to small farmers, because that's who grows most of the food in Africa and Asia. But it turns out that small farmers in poorer countries are stuck with seeds that can't cope with a rapidly changing climate. A farmer in Illinois facing drought can plant Pioneer's AQUAmax corn, which provides solid yields in dry years.
Climate change has condensed the cycles of devastating drought, and agriculture across Africa and the world is feeling the heat. Lack of rain in southern Africa delayed this year's planting season by up to two months. Planted areas have shrunk, crops have wilted and food production in South Africa is already down 25%. Meanwhile, far to the north in Ethiopia, the worst drought in 30 years threatens the food security of more than 10 million people, and in neighboring Somalia, around 3 million people have been hit by crop failures and food shortages. Across Africa and the globe, farmers need tools and technologies that will enable them to adapt to a changing climate.