Friday, June 1, 2012

Study highlights climate food risk hotspots

Tom Marshall in PhysOrg: You might assume getting richer would always make a country safer from drought and famine, but that turns out not to be the case. Instead, the very poorest countries seem to become more vulnerable in the early stages of development. There's a crucial period before the benefits of modernisation start to kick in, during which they are more vulnerable to problems like drought than when they started.

'It turns out that the very poor and the relatively wealthy are less vulnerable than the group in the middle,' says Dr Evan Fraser, a researcher specialising in food production and its relation to social and economic conditions who works both in the geography department of the University of Guelph in Canada, and at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.

At a broader scale, his research highlights areas that are at particular risk of climate-induced crop failures, including south-eastern South America and the north-eastern Mediterranean. Fraser suggests the counterintuitive result may be partly because assistance from other nations and NGOs tends to dry up once a country is no longer classed among the very poorest. But it may also be because moving away from traditional farming practices has a cost, and it takes time for new methods to start paying dividends.

..."There seems to be a dangerous middle ground where the old ways no longer function, but the new ways aren't up and running yet, and people are at their most vulnerable," says Fraser. "Development has damaged traditional agriculture, but they can't yet use capital-based adaptation strategies, from fertilisers and bank loans to higher-yielding breeds of cow."...

Plowing with horses, from 1939, National Archives

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