Climate action on agricultural sustainability is a priority for reducing carbon emissions, and much of that work is being done among Africa’s smallholders. The support for local food systems and related anti-poverty efforts in rural regions of the continent is among the priorities laid out in the UN State of Food and Agriculture 2016 report, released Monday.
The report includes a look at Malawi and Zambia, among the most 15 vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to climate impacts on agriculture. Small subsistence farmers and herders rely heavily on seasonal rains to support production, and an inability to diversify their crops or livestock – or their income opportunities – leaves them open to climate shocks.
That diversification makes families and their communities more resilient, as it does all over the world, yet what FAO researchers find is that climate risk is already driving that diversification out of necessity.
In Zambia, livestock diversification is higher where long-term rainfall variability is a factor – as is the case with the ongoing drought conditions. Households in Zambia are less likely to fall below the poverty line when they engage in at least one of the three diversifications.
In Malawi, crop and income diversification go up where climate impacts are at work. Malawians see improved food security when their income streams are varied.
The report calls for social protection, education and labor market policies to improve outcomes in both diversification and migration. It also notes the key to successful outcomes lies in local knowledge and institutions to develop policies and strategies, rather than seeking any one-size-fits-all solution.
The World Food Programme and Oxfam have launched a program of the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative in both countries. The R4 framework already operates in Ethiopia and Senegal.
Image: R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, Zambia