By Maria Antip, Sorbonne University, International Relations, MS
This post is recap of the "The Climate-Food Nexus and What It Means for Conflict, Economic Growth, and Sustainability" panel at our fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, DC.
The first session of the 2014 Symposium brought together a renowned panel with a wide range of backgrounds including a journalist, two private sector representatives , an NGO executive, a farmer, and a scientist.
The panel aimed to assess the risk and prioritize the opportunities for global food security in light of climate change. Michael Gerson, columnist at The Washington Post and ONE senior fellow, chaired the session, kicking off with a bold statement that even smallholder farmers in remote developing places can adopt conservation practices. The focus on smallholder farmers continued and the panel reached the consensus that if we teach climate smart practices to farmers, and they understand the benefits, then they will adopt them.
President & CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, stressed that women and children are the most vulnerable victims of weather disaster and hunger. She went on to stress that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical—and after the age of 3, the damage from malnutrition is irreversible.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was confident that the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report should help global food systems start adapting to climate change now. She added that the way to respond to climate extremes today is by understanding how they will intensify tomorrow. Every country is vulnerable. Thirty countries are expected to face a food crisis and 20 of these are in Africa, so there is a need to expand climate models outside North America. "The problem is not that we don't have the data, the problem is getting it to the people that need it,” said Rosenzweig, “We need to make data appropriate and available at the community level to empower local first responders in crises."
William Reilly, senior advisor at TPG Capital, highlighted that crop yields can be increased sustainably with innovation, water conservation, technology, and that most malnutrition in the world has been due to governmental instability.
Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc. CEO Obinna Ufudo insisted on the need to set up markets and warehousing facilities so as to reduce post-harvest losses on the African continent. He sees the private sector as playing a vital role in making the food system more sustainable and resilient to shocks. Ufudo also emphasized the role of smartphone technology for smallholder farmers in his country to improve agricultural productivity.
Panelists agreed that smallholder farmers need better access to crop and weather insurance for their assets against disaster.
Trey Hill of Harborview Farms, the only farmer on the panel, stressed that education on best practices is needed throughout the food supply chain. "Rather than be competitors we should be accomplices,” said Hill, thus highlighting the need for increased multisectorial and multilateral partnerships for climate smart agriculture.
Lastly the panel converged around the idea that agriculture is and should be treated like a business. Greater emphasis on access to agro inputs for smallholder farmers is needed if we are to increase production sustainably to feed a growing population while safeguarding biodiversity and halting climate change.