If we continue to lose biodiversity, the world’s most vulnerable people will not be able to adapt to climate change nor sustainably produce food, according to a report released today by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The report also details the role that rural small-scale farmers play in protecting biodiversity.
Biodiversity Advantage – Thriving with Nature: Biodiversity for Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Systems outlines the risk to rural small-scale farmers – who make up the majority of the world’s poor and hungry – when biodiversity is compromised.
An estimated 80 percent of the needs of the world’s poor, including their ability to farm and earn incomes, are derived from biological resources. However, biodiversity loss is currently on the rise, with 1 million animal and plant species threatened with extinction, and 31 species declared extinct last year alone.
Despite standing to suffer immensely from any decline in biodiversity, agriculture is ironically the number one driver of biodiversity loss, primarily through expansion and intensification.
“We are at a critical juncture. If we lose biodiversity, we lose our ability to respond to hunger and climate change,” said Dr. Jyotsna Puri, Associate Vice President of IFAD’s Strategy and Knowledge Department which produced the report. “We know that large-scale agriculture threatens biodiversity. On the other hand, small-scale farmers protect our natural resources. When biodiversity is protected, and ecosystems are healthy and diverse, farmers are more productive and more resilient to climate change.”
Biodiversity supports food production through soil formation, land productivity, pest and disease control, replenishing ground water and pollination services. Biological features such as mangrove forests and coral reefs are barriers that reduce the risk of natural disasters. Improving agricultural biodiversity on small-scale farms results in healthy, productive soils which sequester more carbon, and makes an important cumulative contribution to carbon storage.
Published ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP-15) that begins on 11 October, the report also outlines how investments in biodiversity contribute to gender equity, women and youth empowerment, and nutrition. Drawing on case studies, the report shows how investments in protecting and enhancing ecosystems can increase benefits to small-scale farmers and the environment.
For example, in Kenya, restoring degraded forests has improved rain capture, boosting water supply and quality, and enhancing farmers’ productivity.
In Burkina Faso, a range of agroecological techniques and tree planting has improved yields, climate resilience and contributed to storage of over 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide.
“If development investments do not take nature into account, our money will be wasted,” said Puri.
As part of its own increase in biodiversity investments, last month IFAD announced a commitment to focus 30 percent of its climate finance to support nature-based solutions in rural small-scale agriculture by 2030. Nature-based solutions promote the proactive conservation, management and restoration of natural ecosystems and biodiversity to contribute to addressing the challenges of climate change, food and water security, and human health.