We are already living in a world of over 7 billion people that is now 0.8° Celsius warmer, where one billion people live in poverty where a shocking 795 million people suffer from chronic hunger and 161 million children are malnourished and stunted. Compounding that unnecessary injustice is climate change, which threatens to reduce and even reverse development gains, deepening poverty and widening inequality in a growing era of global climate disruption. Exacerbating and driving climate change, resource degradation, hunger and inequality are the High Income Countries, which are over consuming resources at a precarious rate.
Ahead of us are numerous interconnected global challenges but by far the biggest must be how we tackle poverty, end the injustice of hunger and stop climate change, especially for resource poor smallholders in some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Poor people living in rural and urban areas spend as much as 70% of their income on food and in just 15 years, 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities. By 2050, world population is projected to rise to over nine billion people, meaning agriculture production will have to increase by 60% to meet food needs. Compounding that complexity is climate change, which is well underway and its causes and consequences are widening the inequality gap. Increases in extreme weather events and impacts are unfolding already plus predictions are for a warmer world of 4 degrees or more by 2100.
We are already seeing impacts in the communities CARE works in, where hundreds of millions of small-scale food producers are living in poverty, many of whom are women and who suffer the worst impacts.
Not only are women often responsible for much of food production, but 79% of them do not have equal access to resources, meaning their yields are often 20-30% lower than those of male farmers. If women had equal access to resources we would see their production increase by 30%, which could reduce the number of hungry people by up to 150 million.
Agriculture has a key role to play in adapting to climate change, reducing emissions and supporting food security and nutrition, but smallholder farmers in developing countries face many numerous challenges.
So what can we do? We can intervene and create methods to create less food waste or reduce food chains in industrialised agriculture, but we need to do more that directly supports the efforts of small-scale farmers.
CARE is dedicated to tackling the interdependent reality of poverty and climate change and works with communities to adapt to a new world of uncertain and unpredictable climate by using new farming techniques and seed varieties to build their resilience, among other community-centred and driven work. In our innovative Farmer Field Schools and Conservation Agriculture projects in Mozambique, for example, preliminary results show a 400% increase in yields in demonstration plots over three agricultural seasons.
And CARE doesn’t just stop at its work on the ground; it also uses its influence and expertise to raise awareness and help pull the big political levers that drive global negotiations. And the good news is that 2015 is a perfect political year to make substantial changes.
We have the opportunity to steer the right course with potentially significant poverty reduction and climate change deals being negotiated this year. So what do we do on the road to New York and Paris for the post-2015 Development Agenda (also known as Sustainable Development Goals) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, respectively? And what do we do there and ask for while negotiators make deals for humanity?
This is what CARE is demanding:
- A stronger focus on good governance, human rights and gender equality to ensure rights-based approaches that put the needs of women and vulnerable girls at the forefront of sustainable solutions.
- To get all countries to commit to rapidly reducing emissions and support long-term goals that keep global temperature rise as low as possible and not further than a 1.5° increase.
- Prioritisation of food security and adaptation for small-scale food producers, including scaled up financing that is targeted for the poorest.
- Participatory approaches to food security and adaptation from policy to planning to implementation and beyond.
We have an unprecedented moment in global negotiations where we can influence how systems work and think about the problems that humanity faces. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing, but we still have time to influence change that will put women and communities at the heart of agreements ensuring that inequality gaps will grow narrower, while helping nutritiously feeding humanity and keeping the planet from warming to even more dangerous levels.
The time for action is now to end the injustice of hunger and climate change. This is something we can do and we can all play our part.
This article was written in support of CARE.