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Food insecurity to intensify for countries hardest hit by climate change

The rising cost of staples like maize and rice are reportedly due to restrictions, such as migration and movement, imposed to better contain the disease, which lead to labour shortages for many farms.

The rising cost of staples like maize and rice are reportedly due to restrictions, such as migration and movement, imposed to better contain the disease, which have lead to labour shortages for many farms. Creative Commons: Subharnab Majumdar, 2005

As climate change impacts compound across the globe, recent reports reveal that food insecurity will be one of the leading threats to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Agriculture industries in Africa will continue to struggle with failing crops as smallholder farmers will be overwhelmed by the quick-paced changes imposed by climate change, according to the 2014 African Agriculture status report.

“Small-scale farmers are the backbone of African agriculture,” said Dr. David Sarfo Ameyaw, managing editor of the report and Director of Strategy, Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation at AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. “About 70 percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa are small-scale farmers. They produce about 80 percent of the food [consumed] in Africa.”

The Ebola outbreak, which studies have linked to changing climate conditions, has also sent food prices “soaring” in countries hardest hit by the epidemic, even forcing the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to release a special alert on the price hike in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The rising cost of staples like maize and rice are reportedly due to restrictions, such as migration and movement, imposed to better contain the disease, which have lead to labour shortages for many farms. Among other restrictions, a ban on bushmeat has stretched many dollars thin for affected families, especially in areas where households spend up to 80 per cent of their total income strictly on food.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the FAO’s regional office recently expressed concern that food utilization “could be affected due to the rise in food prices, which could spark changes in the dietary habits of the most vulnerable populations in the region.” In Haiti, where the local agriculture sector represents approximately 25 per cent of the country’s GDP, experts are urging mango and coffee industries to take preventative measures and protect crops from “erratic” rainfall patterns. Tackling the issue of the climate change impacts on Small Island States (SIDS) like Haiti, the UN recently wrapped up talks in Samoa where 3000 delegates from 193 members states addressed the risk of these countries “becoming uninhabitable or wiped out by one metre of sea level rise.”

Despite the shortcoming, experts still believe there is an opportunity to overcome these challenges. “There is enormous potential for smallholder-led agricultural growth,” said Dr. Ameyaw. He does, however, urge for continued investment in “climate smart” agricultural systems through public and private-sector funding for these industries to adapt and flourish in regions that face the greatest threats from a changing climate.

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