Climate change is having a significant impact on global food supplies which in turn, is exacerbating economic, social and security instability in several regions.
So says Jeunesse Park, Founder of Food & Trees for Africa and the Climate Change Awards. “Evidence of climate change’s impact is playing out right now. The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing the region’s most severe drought in almost 60 years which is affecting over 13 million people.
“In light of the severity of the drought, the World Bank has upped its aid injection into this region from $500 million to $1, 8 billion. But there’s still a shortfall of around $1 billion. Aggravating the situation is the fact that the region’s population is increasing and peace has broken down in Somalia. Add to this equation decreasing natural resources such as water, arable land and livestock and you have all the ingredients for a highly volatile situation.”
Rising global food prices aren’t helping matters adds Park. Former United Nations Chief Kofi Annan has stated that food and basic commodity prices have risen sharply which carries serious implications for everyone, especially the poor.
“Current food prices have passed their 2008 peak which was a time of crisis for the world,” commented Annan. “The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that the high cost of food is re-emerging as a serious threat to economic development and social stability. It has already helped fuel the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.”
According to the World Bank, food prices were recently up 26 percent higher than they were around a year ago. This marks the second time in three years that prices have spiked. The current spike has driven up the price of wheat, maize, sugars and edible oils which according to World Bank estimates has forced 44 million more people into poverty.
According to Park, in a bid to offset some of the impact stemming from climate change in Kenya, the FAO is currently helping 5 000 farmers terrace their fields to preserve more water from the upcoming rainy season. Although technically not part of the Horn of Africa, drought in the region has hit livestock herds hard.
Says Park: “Livestock are more important than crops to the region’s poorest people although there is usually an interdependency of the two. Demand for livestock grows at around 4 percent per year in Africa but productivity of these animals has actually fallen by 0, 5 percent or grown marginally by 0, 6 percent on average. “Adverse climate change obviously hits livestock farmers doubly hard in developing countries because when rainfall is low naturally available grazing suffers, yet supplemental food sources also become more expensive. Consequently, the risk of instability increases overall.”
Park adds that the catalytic event in all of this is climate change which is evidenced perhaps most notably by the rise in global temperatures.Over the past 100 years temperatures have gone up by an average of 0,8°C. According to statistics compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, temperatures could climb by between 1, 5 °C and 6, 1 °C during the course of the next hundred years.
“These are potentially catastrophic numbers as the impact on peace and security will be disastrous. It starts with hunger, leads to conflict and usually ends in war.”
Park explains that the issues cited above are just some of the reasons why it is so important that every individual should make an effort to make a small difference every day. Positive reinforcement is key to this he says and is the reason why the Climate Change Leadership Awards were established.
“Through the awards we encourage good environmental practices across the board from businesses through to schools. After all, the way we go about our everyday lives now could make all the difference to the way we live years from now.”