An initiative launched at the recently concluded COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, is drawing attention to the impact of climate change on nutrition, food security and agriculture.
Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s Minister of Health, announced the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) during a session on November 12.
The initiative is carried out in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and other organizations.
I-CAN aims to bring climate and nutrition actors together to find solutions that address both climate change and malnutrition, said Nancy Aburto, deputy director of the Food and Nutrition Division at FAO.
The initiative is not only linked to Africa but targets the whole world, given the global nature of food issues related to climate change, she told Al-Fanar Media in an interview.
“The initiative will help agricultural systems adapt to the effects of climate change, in addition to supporting access to healthy food for all,” she said. “It will focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, so that we can address the issue of food and climate change from a more global perspective.”
“We call for more investment in new technologies that increase food support in the face of climate change. The world is now forced to change its old agricultural models and adopt a sustainable production approach to preserve natural resources.
Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director of the FAO Climate and Environment Division
Aburto said it was important to focus on providing “high quality and healthy” food for all, and not just providing larger quantities, because malnutrition is not just a result of a lack of food, but from a lack of a balanced diet.
High food and fuel prices
Aburto added that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other conflicts had worsened a food security crisis that many countries were already facing due to floods, droughts and other extreme climate and weather events.
“There has been instability in the food markets because Russia and Ukraine are leading producers and exporters of grain and fertilizers,” she said. “The initiative aims to address these challenges, which include high food and fuel prices.”
She added that countries must focus on ensuring that food systems and healthy nutrition remain on the climate action agenda. “The initiative is an opportunity to achieve tangible results on food security” ahead of the upcoming climate summit, COP28 in the United Arab Emirates next year.
Healthy and sustainable food systems
A transition to healthy, sustainable and climate-resilient diets would help reduce health and climate change costs by up to $1.3 trillion, according to the initiative’s official statement.
Climate change not only reduces crop yields, but also creates an imbalance in the whole biodiversity system, affecting crop and animal production systems. Extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, including hurricanes, floods and droughts, have led to massive food shortages and the loss of entire crops in countries, the statement added. This increases the instability of the food market, with an unprecedented sharp increase in prices.
“We have over three billion people around the world who desperately need healthy food,” Aburto said. “If the climate change crisis continues to worsen at the same rate, the situation will become more catastrophic.”
Zitouni Ould-Dada, deputy director of FAO’s climate and environment division, told Al-Fanar Media that adapting agricultural systems to climate change has become an urgent necessity.
“Hunger and poverty in the world are increasing year by year,” he said. Climate change is aggravating the crisis and causing displacement.
“While the greatest impact is on the most vulnerable, the poorest and those least able to protect themselves,” Ould-Dada said, “this includes the whole world. In all countries, sectors agriculture are the first to be affected by extreme weather events”.
“The initiative will help agricultural systems adapt to the effects of climate change, in addition to supporting access to healthy food for all. It will also focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, so that we can address the issue of food and climate change from a more global perspective.
Nancy Aburto, Deputy Director of the FAO Food and Nutrition Division.
The Russian war in Ukraine has put Africa at risk for food security, he said, as some African countries import more than 40% of their wheat needs from Russia and Ukraine. There is therefore an urgent need to work to more effectively exploit the fertile land and available labor to ensure food security in African countries, he added.
Ould-Dada called for “climate-smart agriculture” technologies, saying adaptation is the only solution. “Technologies such as drought-resistant seeds or water-saving irrigation techniques help agricultural systems withstand the effects of climate change,” he said. “Individuals also have a great responsibility in this regard, by reducing food waste.”
Statistics show that the world wastes around 30% of the food it produces, he said. This alone is responsible for 8% of carbon emissions, at a time when more than 820 million people worldwide are going hungry, he added.
“We call for more investment in new technologies that increase food support in the face of climate change,” Ould-Dada said. “The world is now forced to change its old agricultural models and adopt a sustainable production approach to preserve natural resources.”
He also called for providing “early warning systems” to farmers in African countries, to help them plan ahead for droughts and other extreme weather conditions, and protect their crops and livestock.
“It is important to enable small farmers to have access to this technology,” said Ould-Dada. “If every farmer has a smartphone and can use apps that advise him on the procedures followed during cultivation, he will be able to obtain the necessary knowledge that helps to adapt to climate change, and thus reduce agricultural losses.”
Learn more about the COP27 climate summit and global climate concerns in Climate and environmentan archive of Al-Fanar Media reporting on these topics.
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