An initiative launched during the recently concluded COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, calls attention to the impact of climate change on nutrition, food security and agriculture.
Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s minister of health, announced the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) at a session on November 12.
The initiative comes in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Global Alliance for Improving Nutrition, and other organisations.
I-CAN aims to bring together actors in climate and nutrition to find solutions that address climate change and malnutrition at the same time, said Nancy Aburto, deputy director of the Food and Nutrition Division at FAO.
The initiative is not linked to Africa alone but targets the whole world, given the global nature of climate change-linked dietary issues, she told Al-Fanar Media in an interview.
“The initiative will support agricultural systems to adapt to the effects of climate change, besides supporting access to healthy food for all,” she said. “It will focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, so we can deal with the issue of food and climate change in a more comprehensive perspective.”
“We call for more investments in new technologies that increase food support in the face of climate change. The world is now forced to change its old agriculture models and adopt a sustainable production approach to preserve natural resources.”Zitouni Ould-Dada, deputy director of the FAO’s Climate and Environment Division
Aburto said it was important to focus on providing “high quality and healthy” food for everyone, and not just on providing larger quantities, because malnutrition does not result only from not having enough food, but from the lack of balanced diets.
High Prices for Food and Fuel
Aburto added that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other conflicts had worsened a food security crisis many nations were already facing because of floods, droughts and other extreme climate and weather events.
“There has been instability in the food markets because Russia and Ukraine are at the forefront of producers and exporters of grains and fertilisers,” she said. “The initiative seeks to address these challenges, which include high prices of food commodities and fuel.”
She added that countries need to focus on ensuring that food systems and healthy nutrition remain on the climate action agenda. “The initiative is an opportunity to achieve tangible results in food security” before the next climate summit, COP28 in the United Arab Emirates next year.
Sustainable Healthy Food Systems
A shift towards sustainable, climate-resilient healthy diets would help reduce health and climate-change costs by up to $1.3 trillion, says the initiative’s official statement.
Climate change not only reduces crop yields, it also creates an imbalance in the entire biodiversity system, affecting plant and animal production systems. Extreme weather events worsened by climate change, including hurricanes, floods, and droughts, have led to massive food shortages and the loss of entire crops in countries, added the statement. This increases food market instability, with an unprecedented steep increase in prices.
“We have over three billion people in the world who are in dire need of healthy food,” said Aburto. “If the climate-change crisis continues to escalate at the same pace, the situation will become more catastrophic.”
Zitouni Ould-Dada, deputy director of the Climate and Environment Division at the FAO, told Al-Fanar Media that the adaptation of agricultural systems to climate change has become an urgent necessity.
“Hunger and poverty in the world are increasing year after year,” he said. Climate change worsens the crisis and causes displacement.
“While the greatest impact is on the most vulnerable, the poorest, and those least able to protect themselves,” Ould-Dada said, “it includes the whole world. In all countries, agricultural sectors are the first affected by extreme weather phenomena .”
“The initiative will support agricultural systems to adapt to the effects of climate change, besides supporting access to healthy food for all. It will also focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, so we can deal with the issue of food and climate change in a more comprehensive perspective.”Nancy Aburto, Deputy Director of the Food and Nutrition Division of the FAO.
The Russian war in Ukraine has put Africa at acute risk of food security, he said, as some African countries import more than 40 percent of their wheat needs from Russia and Ukraine. This makes it urgent to work to more efficiently exploit fertile lands and the manpower available to secure food in African countries, he added.
Ould-Dada called for “climate-smart agriculture” technologies, saying adaptation is the only solution. “Technologies like drought-resistant seeds or water-saving irrigation techniques help agricultural systems withstand the effects of climate change,” he said. “Individuals also have a great responsibility in this regard, by reducing food waste.”
Statistics show that the world wastes about 30 percent of the food it produces, he said. This alone is responsible for 8 percent of carbon emissions, at a time when over 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger, he added.
“We call for more investments in new technologies that increase food support in the face of climate change,” said Ould-Dada. “The world is now forced to change its old agriculture models and adopt a sustainable production approach to preserve natural resources.”
He also called for providing “early warning systems” to farmers in African countries, to help them plan ahead for droughts and other extreme weather, and protect their crops and livestock.
“It is important to enable small farmers to have access to this technology,” Ould-Dada said. “If every farmer has a smartphone and can use applications that advise him on the procedures followed during cultivation, he will be able to obtain the necessary knowledge that contributes to adapting to climate change, and thus reducing agricultural losses.”
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Read more about the COP27 climate summit and global climate concerns in Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on these topics.