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Issue 7: Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security

The accelerating pace of climate change, combined with global population growth, threatens food security everywhere. Populations in the developing world, which are already vulnerable and food insecure, are likely to be the most seriously affected. On the other hand, agriculture is responsible for a substantial percentage of global carbon emissions and a key driver of land use change—an often-neglected issue in international negotiations. The need for mitigation and adaptation is great and opportunities are abound, but is it possible to form an international agreement around a highly localized activity like agriculture?

This issue of IDEAS takes a look at a variety of perspectives on the complex issues that arise in addressing the integrated challenges presented by climate change, agriculture, and food security.  We begin with insights from Arthur Ha and Rachel Gordon, who attended at the African Union Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September of 2010, on the potential for African countries to view climate change as an opportunity for improving capacity for development, while mitigating its effects for the most vulnerable communities.  Laura Kuhl and Andrew Tirrell expound on the negotiations following the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security, and Climate Change, one of the first international conference to address these three interrelated issues together, at The Hague in November 2010. Jillian Gladstone takes a look at the opportunities available through land policy, prescribing a model that aims to address the challenge of meeting unprecedented demand for food with less land and in the face of worsening conditions. John Parker considers how integrated management of water and land can strengthen resilience to climate change in Honduras.  And finally, Erin Kempster looks at the human impact of climate change on agricultural communities and women in Niger.

Opportunities for Africa’s Sustainable Development, by Arthur Ha and Rachel Gordon

Reflections on the Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, Laura Kuhl and Andrew Tirrell

REALU: The Way Forward on Land (digest), by Jillian Gladstone. Access full essay here: REALU full version

Can Integrated Land and Water Management Strengthen Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Resource Constraints? Lessons learned from Southwestern Honduras, by John Parker

Improving agency and food security for Niger’s rural women through agricultural methods, by Erin Kempster

Reflection Questions

  • Can an international agreement on climate change address the threat of greater food scarcity and agricultural production in a meaningful and enforceable way?

  • What kind of investments would offset the negative consequences of global warming on agriculturally dependent communities?

  • What is the human impact that greater food insecurity will have in poorer countries?  And what about in rich countries?

  • Is the combination of food security, agriculture, and climate change predominantly an issue for the Global South?

  • What is the role of rich countries on this issue?

  • How can the poorest and most agriculturally dependent countries address the high cost of adaptation?

  • What kind of institutions, financial and market-based, should be created to craft solutions to manage land, water, and other resource use in a greener and more effective way?

  • Are successful innovations in resource management and policy in one country replicable in another or do we have to “recreate the wheel” in every context?