Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Understanding climate impacts on food security and hunger

Kristy Lewis of the UK Met Office in AlertNet: At present, close to one billion people suffer from hunger. Experts agree that there is a high risk of climate change affecting food security at the global level, with the most negative impacts in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. The additional risk of climate change could put several hundred million at risk of food insecurity over the next decades.

But even in today’s climate, food insecurity as a result of weather and climate events is a serious issue.  Extensive droughts and deep food security crises affecting parts of East Africa as well as the emerging crisis in West Africa remind us of this.

In 2011, the drought in East Africa threatened the livelihoods of 9.5 million people, and forecasts of poor rainfall suggest that millions could be at risk again in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. At the same time, food shortages associated with poor rainfall in West Africa could also affect millions of people and their livelihoods over the next few months.

Climate change is expected to impact food security in a number of different ways, exacerbating existing drivers of hunger and malnutrition.  These include:
  • The overall availability of food is affected by changes in agricultural yields as well as by changes in arable land.
  • Changes in food production, together with other factors, are likely to impact food prices and will affect the ability of poor households to access food.
  •  Decreased water availability and quality in some areas are likely to result in increased health and sanitation problems, such as diarrheal disease, which, together with changes in the patterns of vector-borne disease, have the potential to increase malnutrition by negatively affecting food utilisation.
  • Changes in climate and increases in some extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, will disrupt the stability of the food supply, as well as people’s livelihoods, making it more difficult to earn a stable income and purchase food as well as other basic necessities.
A farmer from drought-prone Mahabubnagar District, preparing his field for the rainy season in 2005, shot by Saibhaskar , public domain

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