Nations told: Invest in innovation to fight hunger amid climate crisis

A billion people are facing the possibility of going hungry due to climate change by 2050, according to the latest report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

In the report, FAO and the EBRD said climate change is characterized by rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and supply chain disruptions which impact food production, undermining global efforts to end hunger.

One of the culprits of worsening climate change are anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, of which 21 to 37 percent is accounted for by agrifood systems emissions.

“Agriculture is both a cause and a victim of climate change, and it must be part of the climate solution,” FAO Investment Centre Director Mohamed Manssouri added, pointing to the potential to engage food and land-use systems to reduce emissions and act as a carbon sink.

FAO encouraged countries to adopt improvements in farming such as the adoption of natural vegetative strips which could be set up in the Philippines at $84 per hectare and maintained at $36 per hectare per year.

Natural vegetative strips are part of the options proposed by the FAO and EBRD which includes soil and water conservation technologies being adopted by some countries.

These soil and water conservation efforts also include improved agronomic practices, conservation agriculture (CA) and integrated nutrient management.

Natural vegetative strips in the Philippines, Grassed Fanya juu terraces in Kenya, and Konso bench terraces in Ethiopia are among the improved agronomic practices mentioned in the report.

“We need to double down and mobilize greater investment, knowledge and innovations to make our agrifood systems greener, more resilient, more productive and more efficient at providing healthy and nutritious diets, good jobs and biodiversity,” Manssouri said.

The report argued that the private sector has much to gain by decarbonizing agrifood systems— including reducing costs, mitigating risks, protecting brand value, ensuring long-term supply chain viability, and gaining competitive advantages.

FAO and EBRD said that while some companies have committed to ambitious emissions reduction targets, efforts have been “uneven.” They noted that for one, achieving carbon neutrality is still voluntary.

“Decarbonizing the agrifood sector is possible and not some utopian ideal or box-ticking exercise. There are low-carbon pathways, as we highlight in the report, but they call for strong political and corporate commitment, concerted action, including sound policies and good governance, and dedicated investment and human resources to see results,” Gianpiero Nacci, EBRD Director, Green Economy and Climate Action, said.

Further, they said it can be significantly more expensive for a smaller company to become carbon neutral than for a larger one. And it can vary from sector to sector.

One of the challenges, FAO and EBRD said, is that consumers are often not willing to pay a premium for carbon-neutral products, which combined with a low implicit price of emitting means that not all carbon reduction approaches pay off for agrifood system actors.

In addition, FAO and EBRD said offsetting costs—at current carbon prices—can be much lower than reduction costs across emissions-intensive sectors.

The report identifies five action areas that different stakeholders —policymakers, agribusinesses, farmers, international organizations—can do to accelerate the transition to greener agrifood systems.

These areas are strategically target carbon neutrality; improve and standardize tools and methods; promote sound governance mechanisms; directly support companies and farmers to decarbonize; and educate and communicate on carbon neutrality.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes