Pakistan Observer

Climate change & food security

Saleem Shaikh

Monday, May 28, 2012 - Somber state of malnutrition in developing countries like Pakistan is aggravating steadily because of impacts of climate change particularly on its water resources, key input for producing food for over 180 million people, grow more serious. There are now ample findings that show that climate change, ignited by rising temperatures, has badly disturbed the food producing patterns and deepened food insecurity, leading to deaths from malnutrition in the developing countries.

Malnutrition is particularly increasing in the countries, where large populations are dependent on rain-fed subsistence farming. Climate change, growing use of food crops as a source of fuel and soaring food prices are three major challenges that have threatened efforts to overcome food insecurity and malnutrition according to ĎImpact of Climate Change and Bioenergy on Nutritioní joint report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and UNís FAO. The food security has four dimensions: food availability, access to food, stability of supply and access and safe and healthy food utilisation. It is a key factor in good nutrition besides health, sanitation and care practices. Globally, one billion people are currently without access to safe water and over two billion lack adequate sanitation facilities.

Besides climate change and rising bioenergy demands, there are other factors too that can hamper endeavours to address malnutrition, such as: widespread land degradation and scarcity of fresh water resources, extreme climate variations and structural shifts in the food and agricultural systems. However Cutting emissions of greenhouse gases through improved transport, adopting better food producing techniques and energy-use choices can help address climate change and its impact on food production systems.

Global population will gallop by estimated 37 percent, to 9.2 billion by 2050. The global economic managers and food experts at the World Bank and UNís FAO predict that economic growth of 6 percent per year in developing countries during the next few years and rapid urbanisation will drive demand for food to new heights amid shrinking levels of food productions. They have warned that substantial risks from the spread of plant pests, animal diseases and invasive species across international borders and climate change will add more to the severity of these risks.

Galloping populations in developing countries eke out their livelihoods from agriculture and will, thus, be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Research studies have concluded that changing weather patterns will cause more intense and longer droughts, whereas the frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased over most land areas. There is likelihood that heat waves and heavy precipitation events will be more frequent and that future tropical cyclones will become more intense.

Droughts and water scarcity reduce dietary diversity and bring down overall food consumption levels, which also cause malnutrition. Besides, The risk of flooding may increase from both sea-level rise and increased heavy precipitation in coastal areas. This is likely to result in an increase in the number of people exposed to diarrhoeal and other infectious diseases, thus lowering their capacity to utilise food effectively. Above all, populations at greater risk of falling prey to growing food insecurity are smallholder and subsistence farmers, pastoralists, traditional societies, indigenous people, coastal communities and artisanal fisherfolk.

Adaptation action plans to climate change for food security could be autonomous or planned. Autonomous adaptation options can include extensions or intensifications of existing risk management or production-enhancement activities. On the other side, planned adaptations to climate change have been long identified for climate-change vulnerable agriculture, forests and fisheries sectors of economic activity. Such adaptations focus on making the infrastructure climate change-resilient and building the capacity to adapt in the broader user community and institutions, and have linkages with natural resource management, human and animal health.

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