New Delhi: Nearly 258 million people around the world faced acute food insecurity in 2022, and climate change was the major driving force, apart from the coronavirus pandemic and war conflicts, according to the Global Report on Food Crises report. The report further stated that climate change is expected to drive further weather extremes, with food insecurity likely to get worse. On the occasion of World Food Day 2023 (WFP), Elisabeth Faure, Representative and Country Director, World Food Programme, spoke to Banega Swasth India Team about the effects of climate change on agriculture, food security and access to clean water.
Effects of Climate Change On Food Security And Agriculture
Ms Faure said that climate change affects food insecurity and agriculture primarily in two ways:
– Climate shocks, the unpredictable weather events, like cyclones, droughts, or earthquakes, cause widespread food losses and damages. Changes in rainfall and higher temperatures affect crop productivity and reduce the food availability. Around the world, the climate crisis is causing more frequent and intense extreme weather events, Ms Faure said. From droughts to hurricanes to floods, these climate extremes drive more people into severe hunger and poverty.
– Climate change has a creeping effect on agriculture and food systems, in the form of degradation and desertification of land and salinity into soil and groundwater, which has a long-term damaging effect on food production. According to the UN, up to 40 per cent of the planet’s total land area is degraded, forcing farmers to abandon their fields or leaving them with dry land that can barely produce food. Around two billion people live on land vulnerable to desertification, which could displace an estimated 50 million people by 2030. She further added,
Climate change affects the soil, crops, and lifestyle, all of which are interrelated.
Poor crop production due to insufficient water supplies can exacerbate conflicts and trigger social tensions in communities already under stress from existing vulnerabilities.
Effects of Climate Change On Water And Sanitation
The WFP Country Director also discussed the effects of climate change on access to clean water and sanitation, further increasing the cases of malnutrition and food insecurity. She said,
Water is essential for food production, but decades of poor water management, misuse, and pollution have degraded freshwater supplies and ecosystems. Poor drinking water is one of the underlying causes of malnutrition.
Coupled with inadequate sanitation, poor drinking water sources can affect how people prepare and eat their meals by increasing the incidence of waterborne diseases, a significant cause of malnutrition.
Reduced access to water for agriculture has implications for gender equality, education and peace, all hampering efforts to tackle the global food crisis. Inadequate access to water increases the burden of water collection, which disproportionately falls on women and girls who spend 200 million hours every day collecting water, affecting their education and limiting opportunities for livelihood activities. Insufficient water and sanitation facilities also has a significant effect on school students, especially girls, who tend to miss significant time in class or even drop out.
Trends In Climate Change And Food Security At National And Global Level
With regards to India, 60 per cent of agriculture depends on rainfall. Changes in the rainfall patterns are having a direct impact on the agriculture sector, she said. Ms Faure said that bad monsoon, monsoon delay, and monsoon rainfall variability can cause drought.
Specifying states that are more prone to extreme climatic events, Ms Faure said,
We’re worried about states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh that have tribal communities that depend on natural resources. These communities are facing reduced yields and less food production.
Ms Faure further listed down the estimated effect of climate change on agriculture,
Climate change is projected to reduce the rainfed rice yields by 20 per cent, irrigated rice yields by 3.5 per cent, wheat yield by 19 per cent, and the Kharif maize by 18 per cent by 2050. These are very concrete projections. Nearly 80 per cent of farmers in India are smallholders, and they need support in adapting and dealing with effects of climate change on crop production.
Measures Needed To Mitigate Climate Change
WFP’s country director listed down some of the measures that countries can adopt to mitigate the effects of climate change.
– Need stronger humanitarian system to address climate change. This includes conducting national level workshops to identify climate change risks, building capacity to support climate change resilient programmes, and much more.
– Need more anticipatory actions, and not just responding when the emergency hits. This includes having climate risk insurance and increasing humanitarian funds.
– Better safety net programmes are required. India is leading the way in this regard, through initiatives such as the National Food Security Act that covers up to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
– Innovative technologies are required to produce more nutritious food with less water to ensure greener and more sustainable food production. They are needed to improve crop yields, implement efficient irrigation strategies, reuse drainage water and use of water resources of marginal quality, improve crop protection, reduce post-harvest losses, and create more sustainable livestock and marine production.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.