Climate change affects poor the most, says FAO chief

José Graziano Da Silva calls for a safer, fairer and more inclusive world

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi
Published: Tuesday 01 December 2015

Climate change has triggered droughts, floods and storms and these events have become frequent over the past 30 years
Credit:Danumurthi Mahendra/Flickr

In the midst of global talks in Paris about drafting an ambitious and strong climate deal, Food and Agriculture Organization Director General José Graziano Da Silva has appealed for a safer, fairer and more inclusive world.

Stressing on sustainability the DG said, “There will be no peace without sustainable development and there will never be sustainable development while people continue to be left behind and while people are suffering from extreme poverty and hunger.”

Achieving food security, reaching zero hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture are among the most important SDG goals adopted in September this year.

There is an increasing fear that climate change will hit food production hard. In an interview with Down To Earth, Aziz Elbehri, senior economist, trade and markets division, FAO, and editor of the book Climate Change and Food Systems, had said how food availability would be climate driven in the future.

Climate resilience and adaptation

The FAO DG addressed participants at COP 21 which included the launch of the UN Secretary General’s new: Initiative on Resilience: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape (A2R), which is aimed at boosting disaster and risk reduction efforts of countries.

Climate change “affects all of us, but especially the poorest and hungry people,” Graziano da Silva said, underscoring how smallholders and family farmers are “in the front line”.

Rob Vos, strategic programme leader in FAO’s economic and social affairs divisions, said, “As many of the poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture, improving production conditions for smallholder family farmers will be one important vehicle to contribute to simultaneously to the targets of food security and poverty reduction.”

The most vulnerable must be helped to adapt to climate change, the DG added, stressing that in relation to the agricultural sectors, this requires environmentally-sound initiatives that must go hand-in-hand with mitigating climate change impacts.

Vos added, “The rural poor, most of whom, depend on agriculture, are disproportionally hit by these conditions (climate change, water scarcity), facing prolonged droughts, more frequent floods, more intense storms... They are less resilient to cope with the consequences of weather shocks and environmental degradation. Poverty and hunger cannot be eradicated without addressing these vulnerabilities.”

Building resilience to tackle crises

Climate change has triggered droughts, floods and storms and these events have become frequent over the past 30 years. A recent FAO study shows that in developing countries, some 25 per cent of the negative economic impact of disasters is borne by the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors alone.

“Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climatic events, both in the short- and long-term. For instance, there’s a real prospect of El Nino deepening early next year, which could disrupt global food supplies with a combination of drought and floods,” FAO economist Adam Prakash said.

The A2R initiative will accelerate efforts to enhance climate resilience of the most vulnerable by 2020. It aims to strengthen the capacities of countries to anticipate and absorb shocks and crises. At the same time it helps countries to sustainably transform the food, agriculture and livelihoods systems that are most at risk.

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