Friday, October 19, 2007

In Rome, Food and Agriculture head discusses climate change adaptation

AfricaNews: Climate change is emerging as one of the main challenges humankind will have to face for many years to come. It could become a major threat to world food security, as it has a strong impact on food production, access and distribution. Abnormal changes in temperature and rainfall and the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and floods have long-term implications for the viability and productivity of world agro-ecosystems.

This was the main message delivered recently by Alexander Muller, FAO Assistant Director General, to over 140 world experts convened in Rome for a workshop on “Adaptation Planning and Strategies.” While continuing to deal with the cause of climate change by reducing emissions and increasing greenhouse gas sinks it is crucial, Muller said, “to also take immediate action to cope with its effects”. “Ways must be found to build up people’s resilience as well as that of food production systems”, he added.

Agriculture is the sector most affected by changes in climate patterns and will be increasingly vulnerable in the future. Especially at risk are developing counties, which are highly dependent on agriculture and have fewer resources and options to combat damage from climate change.

…Agriculture is both a culprit and a victim when it comes to climate change. It is estimated that the livestock sector alone accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while deforestation is responsible for 18 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

According to FAO, introducing improved livestock management and crop practices, couple with adaptive management of forests could have significant impact on climate change. Adopting land use practices in Agriculture such as conservation would also help to maintain significant amounts of carbon in the soil.

Rice production is another major source of greenhouse gas emission. It is perhaps the main source of anthropogenic methane, with some 50 to 100 million metric tons per year emitted from the world’s 130 million hectares of rice paddies.

…“FAO is already actively assisting its members, particularly developing countries, to enhance their capacity to confront the negative impacts of climate change on agricultural systems aimed at changing conditions and specific stresses. It involves providing creative solutions and alternative approaches such as introducing crop varieties that can tolerate heat and water stress.

Muller went on to say that forecasting extreme events and trends by collecting data and developing tools to produce on-hand information for adaptation by specific countries in agriculture is another area that needs greater attention.

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