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Climate Change, Water and Food Security

Climate Change, Water and Food Security

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12/03/2011

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Overseas DevelopmentInstitute
The
 
Overseas Development Institute
 
is the UK’s leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues
.
ODI Background Notes
provide a summary or snapshot o an issue or o an area o ODI work in progress. This and other ODI BackgroundNotes are available rom www.odi.org.uk
By Eva Ludi
he ood price crisis o 2008 has led to there-emergence o debates about globalood security (e.g. Wiggins, 2008) and itsimpact on prospects or achieving the rstMillennium Development Goal (MDG): to end povertyand hunger. On top o a number o shorter-term trig-gers leading to volatile ood prices, the longer-termnegative impacts o climate change need to be takenvery seriously.The United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) warns that the progress in human develop-ment achieved over the last decade may be sloweddown or even reversed by climate change, as newthreats emerge to water and ood security, agri-cultural production and access, and nutrition andpublic health. The impacts o climate change – sealevel rise, droughts, heat waves, foods and rainallvariation – could, by 2080, push another 600 millionpeople into malnutrition and increase the number o people acing water scarcity by 1.8 billion (UNDP2008).Agriculture constitutes the backbone o mostArican economies. It is the largest contributor to GDP;the biggest source o oreign exchange, accounting or about 40% o the continent’s oreign currency earn-ings; and the main generator o savings and tax rev-enues. In addition, about two-thirds o manuacturingvalue-added is based on agricultural raw materials.Agriculture remains crucial or pro-poor economicgrowth in most Arican countries, as rural areas sup-port 70-80% o the total population. More than in anyother sector, improvements in agricultural perorm-ance have the potential to increase rural incomes andpurchasing power or large numbers o people to litthem out o poverty (NEPAD, 2002; Wiggins, 2006).Climate change, however, is considered as posingthe greatest threat to agriculture and ood securityin the 21st century, particularly in many o the poor,agriculture-based countries o sub-Saharan Arica(SSA) with their low capacity to eectively cope (Shahet al., 2008; Nellemann et al., 2009).
Arican agriculture is already under stress as a resulto population increase, industrialisation and urbanisa-tion, competition over resource use, degradation o resources, and insufcient public spending or ruralinrastructure and services. The impact o climate changeis likely to exacerbate these stresses even urther.
The outlook or the coming decades is that agricul-tural productivity needs to continue to increase andwill require more water to meet the demands o grow-ing populations. Ensuring equitable access to water and its benefts now and or uture generations is amajor challenge as scarcity and competition increase.
 The amount o water allocated to agriculture andwater management choices will determine, to a largeextent, whether societies achieve economic andsocial development and environmental sustainability(Molden et al., 2007).This paper reviews current knowledge about therelationships between climate change, water andood security.
Small-holder agriculture, water andclimate change
Smallholder armers (including herders and shers)make up the majority o the world’s poor people. TheInternational Fund or Agricultural Development (IFAD)(IFAD, n.a.) estimates that there are 1.2 billion peoplewho cannot meet their most basic needs or sucient
Climate change, water and oodsecurity 
Background Note
March 2009
 
2
Background Note
ood every day. O these, the largest segment are the800 million poor women, men and children, otenbelonging to indigenous populations, who live in ruralenvironments and try to make a living as subsistencearmers and herders, shers, migrant workers, or arti-sans. They oten occupy marginal lands and dependheavily on rained production systems that are par-ticularly susceptible to droughts, foods and shits inmarkets and prices. Hence, strategies to reduce ruralpoverty will depend largely on improved water man-agement in agriculture.For both rained and irrigated agriculture, thespatial and temporal variation o precipitation iskey. The short-term variability o rainall is a major risk actor. Soil moisture decits, crop damage andcrop disease are all driven by rainall and associ-ated humidity. The variability in rainall intensityand duration makes the perormance o agriculturalsystems in relation to long term climate trends verydicult to anticipate. This is particularly the caseor rained production.Although the dierent climate change modelsare not clear with respect to rainall and periods o drought, temperature projections are generally morereliable. Increased evaporation and evapotranspira-tion with associated soil-moisture decits will impactrained agriculture (Bates et al., 2008). Recent esti-mates show that or each 1°C rise in average tempera-ture dryland arm prots in Arica will drop by nearly10% (FAO, 2008b). In addition, increased evaporationo open water storage can be expected to reduce water availability or irrigation and hydropower generation.Despite considerable uncertainty related to theimpacts o climate change in Arica, the FourthAssessment Report o the Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change (IPPC) predicts decreasing rainall innorthern and southern Arica, increasing rainall over theEthiopian/East Arican Highlands and a considerableincrease in requency o foods and drought (Figure 1).
Food security concerns
Food security is dened as a ‘situation […] when allpeople, at all times, have physical, social and eco-nomic access to sucient, sae, and nutritious oodthat meets their dietary needs and ood preerencesor an active and healthy lie’ (FAO, 2002). Food secu-rity is not narrowly dened as whether ood is avail-able, but whether the monetary and non-monetaryresources at the disposal o the population are su-cient to allow everyone access to adequate quanti-ties and qualities o ood (Schmidhuber and Tubiello,2007). All dimensions o ood security are likely to beaected by climate change (Box 1). Importantly, oodsecurity will depend not only on climate and socio-economic impacts on ood production, but also (andcritically so) on economic growth, changes to tradefows, stocks, and ood aid policy.
Water, ood security and livelihoods
A number o countries in sub-Saharan Arica (SSA)already experience considerable water stress as aresult o insucient and unreliable rainall, changingrainall patterns or fooding. The impacts o climatechange – including predicted increases in extremes– are likely to add to this stress, leading to additionalpressure on water availability, accessibility, supplyand demand. For Arica, it is estimated that 25% o the population (approximately 200 million people)currently experience water stress, with more countriesexpected to ace high risks in the uture. This may, inturn, lead to increased ood and water insecurity or 
Figure 1: Multi-model mean changes in precipitation and soil moisture
Changes are or annual means or the scenario SRES A1B or the period 2080-2099 relative to 1980-1999
 
a) Precipitation b) Soil moisture
 
-0.5 -0.4 -0.3 -0.2 -0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 -25 -20 -15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15 20 25
Source: Adapted rom Bates et al. (2008).
(mm day -1)(%)
 
3
Background Note
at-risk populations, undermining growth.It is estimated that the net balance o changesin the cereal production potential o SSA result-ing rom climate change will be negative, with netlosses o up to 12%. Overall, approximately 40% o SSA countries will be at risk o signicant declinesin crop and pasture production due to climatechange (Fischer et al., 2005; Shah et al., 2008).FAO (2008a) estimates that in 2007 almost 850 mil-lion people were undernourished. Climate change isexpected to increase the number o undernourishedpeople by between 35 and 170 million people in 2080,depending on projected development paths (Shah etal., 2008).In addition to arming areas, many o the world’srangelands are in semi-arid areas and susceptible to
Box 1: Climate change aects all our dimensions o ood security 
Food production and availability:
Climate aects ood production directly through changes in agro-ecological conditionsand indirectly by aecting growth and distribution o incomes, and thus demand or agricultural produce. Changesin land suitability, potential yields (e.g. CO2 ertilisation) and production o current cultivars are likely. Shits in landsuitability are likely to lead to increases in suitable cropland in higher latitudes and declines o potential cropland inlower latitudes.
Stability of food supplies:
Weather conditions are expected to become more variable than at present, with increasingrequency and severity o extreme events. Greater fuctuation in crop yields and local ood supplies can adversely aectthe stability o ood supplies and ood security. Climatic fuctuations will be most pronounced in semi-arid and sub-humid regions and are likely to reduce crop yields and livestock numbers and productivity. As these areas are mostlyin sub-Saharan Arica and South Asia, the poorest regions with the highest levels o chronic undernourishment will beexposed to the highest degree o instability.
 Access to food:
Access to ood reers to the ability o individuals, communities and countries to purchase ood in sucientquantities and quality. Falling real prices or ood and rising real incomes over the last 30 years have led to substantialimprovements in access to ood in many developing countries. Possible ood price increases and declining rates o income growth resulting rom climate change may reverse this trend.
Food utilisation:
Climate change may initiate a vicious circle where inectious diseases, including water-borne diseases,cause or compound hunger, which, in turn, makes the aected population more susceptible to those diseases. Resultsmay include declines in labour productivity and an increase in poverty, morbidity and mortality.
 
Source: Schmidhuber and Tubiello (2007).
Figure 2: Water scarcity in major river basins
Physical scarcity: more than 75% o river ows are allocated to agriculture, industry or domestic consumption. Economic scarcity: water resources are abundant relative to human purposes but human, institutional and fnancial capital limit access to sufcient water and malnutrition in these areas.
 
Source: Adapted rom Molden et al. (2007).
Little or no water scarcityPhysical water scarcityApproaching physical water scarcityEconomic water scarcityNot estimated

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