Read the original blog by Dr Peter Carberry @ The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Of the 12 interventions identified for agriculture by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) in its September report, ‘Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience’, research and development has a role to play in nine interventions. That is just about the number of interventions involving policy and markets, and two more than those that require financial input.
In addition to breeding climate resilient varieties, conservation of landscapes and helping pastoralists adapt, the GCA underscores the need for research and development in on- and off-farm diversification, increasing market access, crop and livestock insurance, rights of women farmers, transition funding and helping devise mechanisms to narrow the gap between adaptation and mitigation.
Clearly, the world’s largest agricultural research for development organization, CGIAR, and its partners, have multiple roles of play.
The role of innovation brokers or facilitators–bringing together available capabilities–is just as important as doing the science itself. The need to assimilate capabilities is the greatest in sub-Saharan Africa and South-Asia, regions that are most food-insecure today and where populations are expected to double by 2050 with commensurate increase in demand for food.
Without intervention in these regions, crop productivity gains that might be made can be undermined by climate variability and extreme events, even as contributions to global emissions from agriculture may rise exponentially and augment farm distresses. It is not exaggerated to say that the resulting consequences of economic and food insecurity will be unimaginably troubling.
The Smart Food initiative, founded by ICRISAT and led by Africa and Asia networks, is attempting to change consumption sustainably by returning traditional cereals and legumes to the table. Millets and sorghum, highly nutritious, inherently resilient and modest in input requirement, have nearly disappeared from everyday diets, leaving behind intensive cultivation of a limited number of crops. While bringing food security and economic gains to farmers, this farm-to-plate shift also increased agriculture’s environmental footprint. Increasing dietary diversity will return diversity to farms, in effect orchestrating a plate-to-farm shift buoyed by nutrition.
A series of feeding trials in Tanzania, India and Myanmar in collaboration with governments, private and public-good institutions, revealed that consumption can be changed towards healthier foods with the right communication. In Karnataka state of India, a school feeding intervention showed that growth rate in children can be significantly improved with millet-based diets—rich in iron, zinc and calcium—in just three months.
Behind the initiative is a value-addition support system that encourages farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs to transform dryland crops to food that is appealing, affordable and available. Ripe market conditions and price support mechanisms will help farmers diversify their income sources and gear them to better handle climate vagaries.
Motivated by the high return on investments realized by CGIAR in the past, a coalition of funders last year pledged over US$ 900 million to the group to help 300 million smallholders adapt in the decade that remains before SDGs are to be met. How the CGIAR institutions work to take on the eight grand challenges that have been set for the Two Degree Initiative for Food and Agriculture, CGIAR’s most comprehensive attempt at tackling climate change, will influence to a significant extent the wellbeing of the drylands.