In A Changing Climate Can We Feed The World?

It is estimated that 795 million people in the world are going hungry and 815 million people are malnourished. Hunger is one of the biggest challenges that the people on our planet are facing, which is why the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end world hunger. This is going to become even more of an issue as the global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Posing the critical question: how can we feed the world? Simultaneously we are facing a climate crisis and the planet is warming. Solving the issue of hunger cannot be achieved without considering the changing climate. These issues are inextricably linked; this is especially clear when we consider that up to one third of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from the food and farming system. Not only does agriculture contribute to climate change, it is also affected by it. As temperatures rise, flooding, drought and other adverse conditions can negatively impact agriculture, which makes ability to feed the planet more challenging. Ultimately, how we farm now matters for the future of our climate and for food security, and in the future the changing climate will require different ways of farming. So the question now becomes: in a changing climate, can we feed the world? Can we change how we farm?

795000000 in the world are estimated to be hungry
815000000 people are estimated to be malnourished

Is Feeding The World Even Possible?

Some may say that it’s impossible to feed the world. But did you know that there is currently enough food produced to feed the world? So, whilst people in the world are dying from hunger, globally we waste a third of our food and more than 1.9 billion adults are overweight. So why not just give those who need food some of the food we waste? The solutions that have been offered in the past have focused around increasing crop yields and cutting food waste. Current international development policy on hunger in the global south tends to focus on increasing production. However, this approach deals with the symptom of hunger but does not address the causes of hunger. The solution to hunger must address the problems of poverty that contribute to hunger. What is a sustainable solution to hunger and poverty? The best long term solution is to empower the farmers living in hunger and give them the skills to feed themselves. Like the proverb says: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life”. Therefore, farmers need to be encouraged to adopt environmentally sustainable farming methods. Farming with a disregard for the environment will not only exacerbate climate change and can make farmers more vulnerable to its effects. This is especially true for those, like those living in Sub-Saharan Africa, the most climate vulnerable area in the world, where 1 in 4 people are undernourished

Can It Be Done?

But can empowering farmers feed the world? It can. In fact, it is happening right now. Send a Cow is working in Sub-Saharan Africa, empowering smallholder families to farm sustainably. Send a Cow is supporting farmers to learn ‘agroecological’ farming techniques. Agroecology is environmentally-sustainable farming that uses organic principles and is ‘capable of meeting environmental, economic and social needs’. Agroecology supports smallholder farms to be highly diverse, integrated and uses a low level of external input. These three features of agroecology make it a perfect low cost, climate resilient solution for small farms. Send a Cow provides training in farm resource planning, sustainable organic agriculture, gender equality, and enterprise development, along with supporting farmers to gain access to assets such as livestock, seeds, and tools. We worked with Send a Cow to analyse the results of their community education programme. The results of the report found that organic farming methods are among the best (low cost, low risk) options for farmers in places of hunger, such as Sub-Saharan Africa. The data shows that by adopting agroecological farming techniques, rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa have a more secure future. It also allows these communities to eat a varied diet with healthy and nutritious food every day, all year round. It enables farmers to rise well above the absolute poverty line by increasing their yields and selling the surplus of food generated and increases farmers’ ability to combat the effects of climate change by increasing crops resilience. It has had the additional effect of improving gender equality which leads to a more sustainable future.This data has shown that organic farming methods really do have an important role to play in feeding the world!

 

Climate Resilience

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most climate vulnerable area in the world. It’s now more important than ever to implement farming techniques that can withstand the impacts of climate change. There are so many incredible ways that investing in smallholder agrological farming in Sub-Saharan Africa can have a direct and positive impact on sustainability and climate resilience. Here are the top four reasons agroecological farming is a cheaper, low-risk and more climate resilient farming method.

Empowering Women

 Imagine a solution to poverty that was capable of increasing farm-yields by 20-30%, and lift 100-150 million people out of hunger? Female empowerment through smallholder farming has the potential to achieve just that. We are working with our partner, Send a Cow to highlight the impact women can have on alleviating poverty through sustainable, organic farming methods.

Securing Financial Security

In the Global South, most poor and hungry people live in rural areas where they are involved with food production. FAO calculates that around half of the world's hungry people are from smallholder farming communities.  However, poverty and hunger is not inevitable for smallholder farmers. By empowering farmers to use agroecological techniques, farmers are able to grow a healthy and varied crop. This not only provides them and their families with nutritious food all year round but rather than producing food on a subsistence level, farmers can sell any surplus. The income from selling surplus food is enough to enable farmers to rise well above the absolute poverty line. Data collected by Send a Cow in Uganda found that only 54% of the farmers were earning more than a dollar a day. 

 

Kenya Case Study

By empowering Farming families in western Kenya with agroecological farming practises these families are flourishing. They are overcoming immense challenges – such as poverty, gender inequality, a lack of education, and the effects of climate change. Find out about the impact of Send a Cow's project is having in Kenya.

The impact in Kenya

How Can We Support Smallholder Farmers?

We believe that increasing focus on smallholder farming can more effectively deliver the goals of ending world hunger and malnutrition, help mitigate climate change, increase resilience and empower women and communities the world over. Soil Association and Send a Cow submitted written evidence to a parliamentary inquiry on UK aid. Our submission highlighted that increasing production does not necessarily mean that the issue of hunger will be solved, and it certainly does not take account of the pressing issue of climate change. We have presented an alternative to the status quo in development aid that works for both people and planet.

Together We Can Feed The World In A Changing Climate

Poverty and hunger are not inevitable. Support us to take action to change the world for both people and planet.


You can find out more about Send a Cow’s work, and how they are empowering farmers to adopt sustainable farming practises in Sub-Saharan Africa by visiting their website. For more information about the role of organic farming in feeding the world, please see our report Feeding the Future, and visit IFOAM Organics International– the global umbrella organisation of the organic movement, with members in over 120 countries.

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