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Dryland farmers face major climate risks


DOHA WOMEN, men and children living in rural communities in the world’s dry areas are the hardest hit by today’s changing climate patterns – ranging from floods and drought to unpredictable rainfall and hot and cold temperature extremes, according to a report released on Friday at the United Nations climate change conference.

Strategies for Combating Climate Change in Drylands Agriculture - published by a group of leading international experts in climate change and agriculture – asks why agricultural solutions are not a higher political priority in the international climate change debate.

The authors argue that many of the solutions are available now but increased investment and urgent action are needed to bring food security to people in the world’s dry areas.

Many of the solutions to climate change in the dry areas are known, say the report’s authors. These approaches have been produced by agricultural research centers over the past four decades.

The report shows how targeted agricultural investment in innovative technologies and practices, backed up by robust policies, can reduce the vulnerability of farming communities to drought and climate change and increase agricultural production, with minimal effects on the environment.

The report is authored by three organisations with vast scientific expertise as members of the CGIAR network of agricultural research centres – the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA); the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); and the new CGIAR Research Programme on Dryland Systems.

The report comes out of the International Conference on Food Security in Dry Lands which took place recently, where dry land government ministers together with the research and international development community released a declaration on how to address the challenge of increasing agricultural production in dry countries, under conditions of severe water scarcity and climate change.

“The best technologies serve little purpose without a strong policy environment in which they can be put into action, financed and managed,” said Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA director-general.

“Unfortunately, today, many dry area countries are under-investing in research and have inadequate policy environments.” He cited the example of several dry land countries – and that of Ethiopia, which has evolved from being the victim of frequent famine and food crises in the 1980s, to becoming a producer of vegetables for home markets and an exporter of high-value vegetable crops for European markets.

“Once the country’s policy environment was in place, the situation progressed rapidly,” he said.

Dry areas cover more than 40 percent of the world’s land surface and are home to 2.5 billion people worldwide – one-third of the global population.

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