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Food insecurity, poverty and vulnerability to climate change

Food insecurity, poverty and vulnerability to climate change are very inter-twined.
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BRUCE CAMPBELL: In 2017, 3.4 billion people lived in rural areas. Most in low and middle income countries, many getting their income from small scale agriculture. Globally, there are about 500 million farms less than two hectares. Poverty rates are higher in rural areas than urban areas, as is food insecurity. Vulnerability to climate change is also pronounced amongst these small-scale producers, with many examples of the impacts of climate change already hitting such producers. For example, in northern Ghana, they’ve had many droughts in a row, resulting in production losses, reduced number of meals per day, and no chance of selling surpluses to gain income.
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This has in turn, prompted migration of members of the household, limiting production even further because of the loss of labour from the farms. Thus, food security, poverty, vulnerability to climate change are very much intertwined. If we are serious about reaching the sustainable development goals and combating climate change, this essentially means reaching 500 million small-scale producers within a decade to build their resilience. The action track on food security of the Global Commission on adaptation focuses on these small-scale agricultural producers. It is thus focusing not only on food insecurity and adaptation, but also on poverty reduction. We believe there are several elements needed to drive significant change for small-scale producers. These include number one, new climate-resilient technologies.
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Number two, innovative financial models that bring much more financing to rural areas. Number three, considering the whole supply chain for food, not just for production. And number four, empowering local organisations and groups. Number five, digital solutions in order to reach the 500 million farmers. But central to all of those elements is governance. Without policy and institutional change, we are not going to get the right incentives for the private sector farmers, service providers, et cetera, to rise to the challenges. Without supporting policies in the institutions, we will never reach the goal of 500 million small-scale producers by 2030.
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To give some examples, it took a change in the rules related to land and tree ownership to foster 5 million hectares of land in West Africa to have improved tree cover that in turn, fostered better crop yields and improved ecosystem resilience. It took significant government change in policies in Ethiopia to get agricultural markets functioning, and to enhance rural resilience to droughts. In India, government has got behind significant investments in solar irrigation to improve water availability, link small rural solar schemes to national grids to provide extra income for farmers. This has meant changes to policies related to irrigation, energy and agricultural subsidies.
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The policy actors that need to be involved to achieve significant change for small-scale producers are very diverse, and we often have to look well below beyond the agricultural sector. These include those from the financing and banking sector. For example, how insurance markets work for farmers. From telecommunications. How do we reach 500 million farmers with greater rural connectivity? Energy sectors to drive solar uptake. However, there are also some very strong interest groups in the agricultural sector that do not necessarily support the change that is needed to achieve enhanced outcomes for these small-scale producers. How does one foster positive policy change and enter very political spaces with powerful and less powerful actors?
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We find that for climate change, that visioning or scenario-building in multi-stakeholder groups to be one very powerful mechanism. Working with different stakeholders to vision possible futures under climate change and all the other drivers of change leads to an understanding of what needs to be changed now to achieve desirable futures. If one gets the right group in the room and fosters the voices of those less powerful, this can lead to significant shifts in policies. To end, we need much more action on policies and institutions if we are to achieve food security and poverty reduction for small-scale agricultural producers. We will need to bring in diverse policy makers, including those from outside the agricultural sector.
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And special attention will be needed to be given to actors that tend to be marginalised by powerful interest groups if we want to succeed.

Bruce Campbell from the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) shows us how food insecurity, poverty and vulnerability to climate change are very inter-twined.

If we are serious about reaching the sustainable development goals and combating climate change, this essentially means that 500 million small-scale producers within a decade should strengthen their resilience. There are 5 elements needed to drive significant change for small-scale producers. Bruce discusses those further:

  • New climate-resilient technologies.
  • Innovative financial models that bring much more financing to rural areas.
  • Considering the whole supply chain for food, not just for production.
  • Empowering local organisations and groups.
  • Digital solutions in order to reach the 500 million farmers.

Central to all of those elements is governance. Without policy and institutional change, we are not going to get the right incentives

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