Help small-scale farmers adapt to climate change or face increased hunger and migration, warns IFAD President

If investments to help rural small-scale farmers adapt to climate change do not substantially increase, we risk widespread hunger and global instability, warned Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), ahead of next week’s Climate Adaptation Summit.

This follows a recent United Nations’ announcement that 2020 was one of the warmest years on record, with catastrophic temperature rises expected this century.

“It is unacceptable that small-scale farmers who grow much of the world’s food are left at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns, with such low investment to help them to adapt,” said Houngbo. “They do little to cause climate change, but suffer the most from its impacts. Their increasingly common crop failures and livestock deaths put our entire food system at risk. It is imperative that we ensure they remain on their land and sustainably produce nutritious food. If not, then hunger, poverty and migration will become even more widespread in the years to come.”

In response, Houngbo will announce the launch of IFAD’s Enhanced Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+) at the Climate Adaptation Summit on 26 January, alongside IFAD’s Goodwill Ambassadors Idris and Sabrina Elba who will discuss the topic with Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, and Dag Inge Ulstei, Norway’s Minister of International Development.

Only 1.7 percent of global climate finance – a fraction of what is needed – goes to small-scale farmers in developing countries despite their disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, according to a report released by IFAD at the end of 2020.

ASAP+ intends to change this. It is envisioned to be the largest fund dedicated to channelling climate finance to small-scale producers. It aims to mobilise US$500 million to reduce climate change threats to food security, lower greenhouse gases and help more than 10 million people adapt to weather changes. Austria, Germany, Ireland and Qatar have already pledged commitments.

ASAP+ will focus on low income countries that depend the most on agriculture and face the greatest challenges in terms of food insecurity, rural poverty and exposure to climate change. It aims to bring 4 million hectares of degraded land under climate resilient practices, and sequester around 110 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over 20 years. It will also help countries achieve their nationally determined contributions set under the Paris agreement.

“Small-scale farmers in rural areas play a pivotal role in ensuring sustainability, stability, and security in the world. Climate adaptation funding must not leave them behind,” said Jo Puri, Director of IFAD’s climate change division. “ASAP+ will contribute to the global call for reducing greenhouse gases while ensuring significant income-related benefits for rural farmers and other vulnerable people.”

Small-scale farming systems currently produce half of the world’s food calories, but are often entirely reliant on natural resources, including rain. As a result, they are at significant risk from increasing temperatures, erratic rainfall, pest infestations, rising sea levels, and extreme events such as floods, droughts, landslides, typhoons and heat waves.

Recent research supported by IFAD shows that the production of important staple crops such beans, maize, and cassava could decrease by as much as 50 to 90 percent by 2050 in parts of Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe due to climate change, which would result in substantial increases in hunger and poverty. If nothing changes, climate change could push more than 140 million people to migrate by 2050. Price volatility is also expected, as natural disasters in one part of the world can cause the price of grain everywhere to increase by more than 50 percent.

ASAP+ builds on IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) which has already channelled $300 million to more than 5 million farmers in 41 countries with investments in promoting climate-sensitive agricultural techniques and nature-based solutions, and access to infrastructure and technologies such as small-scale irrigation, rainwater harvesting systems, weather information and drought- and flood-resistant crops.

Note to the editor:

The Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) brings together global leaders to deliver concrete endeavours to make the world more resilient to the effects of climate change.

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