By Jimoh Babatunde with agency reports
The resounding message from this year’s World Food Day celebrations in Rome and in many countries is that climate change, hunger and poverty must be addressed together in order to achieve the sustainable development goals set by the international community.
“Higher temperatures and erratic weather patterns are already undermining the health of soils, forests and oceans on which agricultural sectors and food security depend,” Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO Director-General José Graziano said at the global World Food Day ceremony here today.
Droughts and floods are more frequent and intense as are climate-related outbreaks of diseases and pests, he added, citing the terrible impact of El Nino in parts of Africa, Asia and Central American and more recently, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.
“As usual the poorest and the hungry suffer the most and the vast majority of them are small family farmers that live in rural areas of developing countries,” the FAO Director-General said, noting how adaptation and mitigation to climate change is fundamental, and that this requires “much better access to appropriate technologies, knowledge, markets, information and investments.”
The World Food Day 2016 slogan: Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too, underscores the fact that to feed a global population expected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050, humanity needs to produce more food, but in ways that use up less natural resources and that drastically reduce loss and waste.
In his address, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stressed that the fight against hunger is essentially a political issue. “Italy maintains that the fight for food security is, at this point in history, a question of politics with a capital ‘P’,” he added.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh , said Climate change adaptation for environmental sustainability and increased food production is also a key component of the Agricultural Promotion Policy – the Green Alternative, of the government.
“To increase food production, we have plans to install at least 10 earth dams in each state of the federation and dikes in the riverine areas; while we rehabilitate existing non-functional ones.
“The idea is for fresh food to be available everywhere and every month of the year so we will no longer depend on the rainy season to feed ourselves.
He added “In response to the global call for reduction in Green House gas emission, President Muhammadu Buhari has, in September this year, signed the Paris Agreement which aims at minimizing global warming to the barest minimum degree.
In addition, Nigeria has also aligned itself to the Adaptation of Agriculture in Africa – the AAA Initiative designed to tackle the impact of change in climate on food security in Africa.
Pope urges solidarity with “climate refugees”
In a special message read out at the ceremony, Pope Francis linked the impact of climate change on the planet’s fields, fisheries and forests to migration of people from rural areas of developing countries. “The most recent data tell us that the numbers of ‘climate refugees’ are growing, swelling the ranks of the excluded and forgotten, who are being marginalized from the great human family,” the pontiff said.
“From the wisdom of rural communities we can learn a style of life that can help defend us from the logic of consumerism and production at any cost, a logic that, cloaked in good justification, such as increasing population, is in reality aimed solely at the increase in profit,” he said.
Pope Francis expressed concern that a growing number of actors in agriculture “believe they are omnipotent, or are able to ignore the cycles of the seasons and to improperly modify the various animal and plant species, leading to the loss of variety that, if it exists in nature, has and must have its role”.
“We must change the way we approach food and agriculture. Part of that change is ensuring rural smallholder producers are more resilient than ever before to the impacts of a changing climate,” said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “If we are ever to break the cycle of poverty and hunger, our attention must be focused on these smallholder producers.