Following the recent COP 17, [The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)! Don’t you just love those acronyms...] talks in Durban, a few thoughts from this side of the world. Securing world food security in the light of climate change may well be one of the worlds biggest challenges. An estimated 1020 million people in the world suffer from hunger, of which more than 95% live in developing countries. The projected worldwide population & socio-economic growth will double current food demand by 2050. In order to meet this challenge in developing countries, cereal yield needs to rise by 40%, net irrigation water requirements need to increase by 40-50%, whilst an additional 100-200 million hectares of land may be needed. [Source : Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia. published 2011. Springer Science & Business Media]
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 25 states: “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food [...]”.
Within the South Asian region (link here, and yes I know this is the World Bank link, but maybe that debate’s for another day…), five countries are designated as Least Developed Countries, whilst three, (one of which is Nepal) are designated as Land Locked Least Developed Countries. These countries face key development challenges:- continued population growth; a high incidence of poverty; excessive dependance upon agriculture; an increasing degree of urbanisation; and degradation of the environment. Climate change likely to contribute to a reduction in agricultural yields; increased water stress due to changes in rainfall patterns and glacier melting (within the Himalayas); decline in fishery products; degradation of natural grassland and forest areas. South Asia as a region is already particularly susceptible to natural hazards such as cyclones and storms; droughts & heatwaves; floods; and landslides. Climate change can only serve to aggravate the situation.
Agriculture remains the broad base of the Nepal economy. It is primarily of a subsistence nature, and not able to support and sustain food sufficiency. Grain production is largely driven by food sufficiency needs, and there has already been a stagnation in the level of production as a result of increased overseas labour migration, which is seen by many young Nepalis as a route out of poverty. Add to this the impact of climate change, with the reliability of glacial melt as a source of water being threatened, along with an increasingly unpredictable monsoon pattern, upon a water intensive cropping system, and almost exclusively rain fed agriculture and…yet another case of those with the least standing to lose the most if action isn’t forthcoming.
Footnote: Interesting study by Oxfam (May 2011) here entitled “Improving Food Security For Vulnerable Communities In Nepal”