Climate change is no longer a doomsday theory about our distant future – it’s here. Farmers around the world are already dealing with more variable climates and dramatic weather events, like the drought in California and gigantic typhoons in Asia.
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So what can be done?
In light of the fact that today so few of the planet’s residents seem willing or able to reform old habits, farmers – especially those in developing nations – will have to adjust to climate change as fast, and as cheaply, as possible. Or, in the parlance of those who study climate change, they will have to both “mitigate” to lessen the effects of climate change and “adapt” to their new surroundings.
Often, feeding the world in the face of climate change is viewed as a solely technological problem. If we could just get farmers new and improved drought resistant seeds, the argument goes, or more fertilizer, yields could rise and everyone could eat.
But researchers at the CGIAR Research Program onClimate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) – a global consortium of major agricultural research groups with almost 10,000 scientists and staff around the world – says very low-tech adaptation and mitigation strategies for farmers is essential in the face of changing weather. In fact, many of the methods farmers can use to adapt to increased variability will also make their farm more resilient and (mitigation).
“A simple example is, if a farmer increases organic matter in soil, that increases the carbon storage – a mitigation function – but more organic matter also means water capacity,” says Sonja Vermeulen, the Head of Research for CCAFS. “So that means you are much better able to deal with delayed onset of rains, or dry spells which are the kinds of problems farmers are dealing with under climate change.”
The graphic below – created by Column Five Media for CCAFS – depicts strategies believed to be most important for farmers in the developing world. Holistic approaches like diversifying farms, agroforestry (combining trees with crops), and adapting more sustainable farming techniques will be the key to making farmers more resilient. For more information on climate change in agriculture, see CCAFS’s newly designed website.