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The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA 2016) on Climate change, agriculture and food security

Agriculture, including forestry, fisheries and livestock production, generate around a fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture must both contribute more to combating climate change while bracing to overcome its impacts, according toThe State of Food and Agriculture 2016 which has been presented  during the World Food Day 2016 on the 17th October at the FAO HQ in Rome. As explained in the report, “in adopting the goals of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the international community took responsibility for building a sustainable future. But meeting the goals of eradicating hunger and poverty by 2030, while addressing the threat of climate change, is extremely challenging" and will require a broad-based transformation of food and agriculture systems to ensure global good security , to protect the ecosystem services and to build resilience to climate change.

The FAO report explains  that success in transforming food and agriculture systems will largely depend on urgently supporting smallholders in adapting to climate change. The document thus provides alternative, economically viable ways of helping smallholders to adapt and making the livelihoods of rural populations — often the most exposed to the downside risks of climate change - more resilient.

The main messages of the report are summarized as follows:

Food security and climate change: today’s and tomorrow’s challenges

-          - In tropical developing regions, adverse impacts of climate change are already deeply affecting the livelihoods and food security of vulnerable households and communities.

-     - Beyond 2030, the negative impacts of climate change on agricultural yields will become increasingly severe in all regions.

-            - Deep transformations in agriculture and food systems, from pre-production to consumption, are needed in order to maximize the co-benefits of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

      - The agriculture sectors have potential to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, but ensuring future food security requires a primary focus on adaptation.

Smallholders need support to adapt to climate change

-     -  Smallholder agricultural systems can adapt to climate change by adopting climate-smart practices, diversifying on-farm agricultural production and diversifying into off-farm income and employment.

-          -  Sustainable management of natural resources will be key for adaptation to climate change and to ensure food security.

-            -  Improvements in infrastructure, extension, climate information, market access, credit and social insurance are needed to facilitate adaptation and diversification of smallholder livelihoods.

Food systems in climate change mitigation

-The agriculture sectors face a unique challenge: to produce more food while reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by food production.

-       -  Agriculture could reduce its emission intensity, but not enough to counterbalance projected increases in its total emissions.

-          -  Addressing emissions from land use change driven by agricultural expansion is essential, but sustainable agricultural development will determine its success.

-- Although improvements in carbon and nitrogen management also reduce emissions, they are likely to be driven by adaptation and food security objectives, rather than mitigation goals.

Turning countries ‘commitment into action

-          - The agriculture sectors feature prominently in nearly all the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by countries in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21).

-             -  Follow-up action plans can only be effective if they are part of broader, transformative policies on agriculture, rural development, food security and nutrition.

-           - The international community must support developing countries in strengthening their capacity to design and implement integrated policies that address agriculture and climate change.

Financing the way forward

-          - International public finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation is a growing, but still relatively small, part of overall finance for the agriculture sectors                                                                                                          - More climate finance is needed to fund developing countries’ planned actions on climate change in agriculture.

-      - Capacity constraints currently hamper developing countries’ access to and effective use of climate finance for agriculture.

-        -  Innovative financial mechanisms can strengthen the capacity of financial service providers to manage risks related to climate change, helping to leverage investments for climate-smart agriculture.

The SOFA 2016 is accessible in the form of a brief and as full report here. Other multimedia materials as well as the webcast of the full presentation are available here.  

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Giorgia MEI
4 November 2016

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