By Saleem Shaikh
LIMA, Peru (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As important food producers, small-scale farmers in the developing world should get a significant share of funds raised to help poorer countries adapt to climate change impacts and curb emissions, agriculture officials said at U.N. climate negotiations in Peru.
Investment in easy-to-access weather information, extensions services, improved disaster preparedness, and other cost-effective and efficient new technology could help small-scale farmers keep feeding themselves and their families, they said.
Farmers “are more than victims of climate change impacts,” said Gernot Laganda, head of the environment and climate change division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“Our experience shows that the smallholder farmers are an integral part of the solution to global warming,” he said at the launch of an IFAD report at the talks.
With around 500 million smallholder farms producing much of the food supply in many developing countries, farmers must be seen as running “vital businesses” in need of greater climate resilience, IFAD officials said.
That greater resilience could come from investment of funds in agricultural adaptation, and efforts to limit climate-changing emissions from agriculture, they said.
“Smallholder farmers are among the most effective clients for public funds for dealing with issues around climate change,” argued IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze.
Around the world, farmers are dealing with increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather, linked to climate change, that threatens to undermine food security.
IFAD investments in a range of countries are bringing farmers better access to the information, finance, social networks and technology needed “to boost farm productivity while at the same time restoring a degraded natural resource base and bringing down agriculture’s carbon footprint,” said Juan De Dios Mattos, a Latin American specialist for the fund.
Agricultural investment programs could provide effective platforms for climate action, he said. In Bolivia, for instance, IFAD is working with community groups to catalog indigenous knowledge about natural resource management and blend it with innovative climate change adaptation strategies to encourage communities to better manage resources.
YEMEN TO BANGLADESH
In Yemen a climate risk analysis program is informing the location and design of rural feeder roads. And in Rwanda, another project helped the government adopt improved building codes and hubs to process harvests using renewable energy, Matoos said.
In Bangladesh, considered one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries, meanwhile, IFAD is working in the flood-prone coastal Hoar region to protect farmer livelihoods by resettling families away from hazards and diversifying their incomes.
The Hoar region is a low-lying bowl shaped basin, covering about 6,000 square kilometers in Sylhet division, mostly in Sunamganj district. It floods with 4-8 meters of water for about half the year, and has become highly vulnerable to high tides and stronger waves.
Widespread deforestation in the region has stripped away the natural barriers that historically would have reduced the impact of waves, the IFAD report said.
As part of a $133 million climate resilience pilot project, four villages for resettling families have been developed with renewable energy supplies, storage facilities and clean water and sanitation infrastructure. The project, which IFAD hopes to scale up, is expected to benefit 240,000 small-scale farmers in 224 villages in the region.
The project aims to test adaptation interventions – including training farmers in alternate skills such as boat building and engine repair – in an effort to build resilience to climate impacts.
(Reporting by Saleem Shaikh; editing by Laurie Goering)