Why the world’s largest agribusiness player needs more support to tackle climate change | New times
With operations in all corners of the world, they produce up to $ 1.5 trillion in food, fuel and firewood each year.
But it’s not Unilever, Kraft or Danone. Instead, the biggest private sector player in food and agribusiness is actually the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers, who are responsible for about a third of the world’s food supply.
And these producers, who often depend on rain-fed agriculture and forests for their livelihoods, face an uphill struggle to cope with the increasingly severe impacts of climate change.
As world leaders meet in Glasgow, it is imperative that they recognize that there is no fair and equitable climate action without action on food systems to empower millions of families around the world to s ” adapt to new and extreme conditions.
The recent United Nations Food Systems Summit inspired the launch of national pathways and global coalitions to advocate for the rights and needs of local producers, and this should be reflected in each country’s climate goals, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
First, national climate plans should include efforts to adapt food systems that work with the changing natural environment, rather than against it.
East Africa, for example, faces a higher risk of drought over 65% of its landscape, including Djibouti, Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia and Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
Land degradation already affects 65 percent of Africa’s land mass, and each year the continent loses around four million hectares of forest.
African smallholder farmers need tools and techniques to continue producing food amid increasingly scarce natural resources, and several African countries have joined the Coalition for the Transformation of Food Systems through Agroecology primarily to do their part by adopting policies guided by agroecological principles that may hold promise in reducing emissions from farming systems.
But advanced economies can support this transition by channeling climate finance to developing countries to address loss and damage, advance agroecological research and regenerative practices, and facilitate local innovation.
Second, governments should harness the knowledge benefits of indigenous peoples, who manage a quarter of the Earth’s surface, including tropical forests, but conserve 80 percent of the remaining biodiversity. They are the best stewards of our environment and make us pale in comparison.
Organizations from across Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia came together at the Food Systems Summit to create an Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI).
Commitments to support an indigenous knowledge center would provide a new resource to help countries identify ways to conserve agricultural biodiversity and develop more sustainable food production practices.
Finally, COP26 officials must also recognize and defend the importance of climate adaptation for the lives and livelihoods of smallholder families.
Currently, price incentives and subsidies in low- and middle-income countries can penalize farmers for protecting poor consumers, discouraging them from innovating and diversifying production.
Meanwhile, climate-related disasters and risks could push 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 and 720 million people by 2050, many of whom are already struggling family farmers.
Yet, by directing climate finance towards helping smallholder farmers adapt to the effects of rising temperatures, their resilience can be strengthened enough to shift to healthy and sustainable food production.
Several countries have supported a new Family Farming Coalition, but it is in everyone’s interest to support the United Nations Decade of Family Farming, given the importance of smallholder farmers to global food security.
Smallholders are the unsung heroes of global food systems, but less than 2% of climate finance is invested to support them as they face increasingly difficult conditions.
The Food Systems Summit recognized that climate change is both a threat and a consequence of food systems. Now, climate negotiators must recognize the transformation of food systems as an opportunity not only to survive climate change, but also to thrive. The time has come and these farmers and other low-income communities are betting on our leaders who are showing urgency and ambition at COP26.
The author is a special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the United Nations Food Systems Summit.