Food Security and Climate Change

With the ever-increasing unpredictable trend of global climate, the need to mitigate and adapt for the long-term ability to feed the world’s population, has become a priority in achieving some of the sustainable development goals. Climate change is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, which alters the composition of the global atmosphere, and natural climate variability, observed over comparable period of time. Feeding a population of 9 billion people by 2050 is one of the world’s great challenges. The number of people at risk of hunger have been projected to increase by 10–20% by 2050 due to climate change, with 65% of this population in Sub-Saharan Africa. Interestingly, the number of malnourished children could increase by up to 21% (24 million children), the majority in Africa. In addition, empirical evidence suggests that increases in temperature in the period 1980–2008 have already resulted in average global maize and wheat yield reductions of 3.8% and 5.5% respectively, compared to a non-climate scenario.

Thus, climate change could affect all dimensions of food security which includes: food availability, economic and physical access to food, utilization and stability of food supply. Production is affected by temperature increases; changes in the amount, timing, and intensity of precipitation, and drought. Processing, packaging, and storage are very likely to be affected by temperature increases that could increase costs and spoilage. Utilization is more difficult by increasing food safety risks. Sea-level rise alters river and lake levels, and extreme heat can impede waterborne, railway, and road transportation.

The evidence suggests that the impacts of climate change on food security will be spread unevenly, affecting the populations that are currently most at risk of hunger especially in developing countries. Ultimately, how strongly the impacts of climate change are felt will depend on the ability to adapt to these changes. Effective adaptation can reduce food-system vulnerability and detrimental effects of climate change on food security. Unfortunately, socioeconomic conditions can impede the adoption of technically feasible adaptation options.

Furthermore, to achieve food security at a time of climate change, the agricultural sector in developing countries needs to undergo a profound transformation. This involves synergy between adaptation capacity and the mitigation opportunities offered by sustainable agriculture, which accommodates traditional practices, biodiversity and the fundamental role of rural women in developing countries

In conclusion, climate change has, and will continue to have, direct and indirect effects on food security especially in developing countries; the most vulnerable to its consequences. Similarly, there is an emerging consensus that in the absence of adaptation, climate change will have detrimental impacts on the food security of the most vulnerable people. Altogether, the aggregate impact of climate change on food security is not yet fully understood. In particular, several of the impacts are difficult to quantify and depend on a range of assumptions. Thus, public- and private sector investments in agricultural research and development, coupled with rapid deployment of climate-smart techniques, can help to ensure continued innovation in the agricultural sector and invariably achieving sustainable food security.