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DFID research: Drylands agriculture: Making itself heard in the climate change debate

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Drylands agriculture: Making itself heard in the climate change debate.

A new report has been released which places drylands agriculture at the heart of the climate change debate. Strategies for Combating Climate Change in Drylands Agriculture was written following discussions at the International Conference on Food Security in Dry Lands, held in Doha, Qatar, on November 14-15, 2012.

The report has been compiled by authors from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research  (CGIAR) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), supported by CGIAR.

With the Conference of the Parties (COP18) currently underway in Doha, the new report stresses the need for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to further integrate agricultural strategies into climate change negotiations. With rural communities in dry marginal areas being among the most acutely affected by variations in climate, interventions within these areas must operate with two aims: to ensure economic viability for farmers, through crop diversification and mixed crop-livestock systems; and to develop climate smart strategies which build the resilience of existing natural resources.

Taking information from the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, the report claims that the interventions outlined could ensure security and higher earnings for 87 million people in dryland communities while reducing the environmental degradation of almost 11 billion hectares of dryland habitat.

With high levels of food imports to these areas, CGIAR programmes such as Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) recognise the need for greater investment in climate smart agricultural development in order to improve resource management and combat water scarcity in an increasingly unstable environment.

The report was launched alongside the Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day, held as a side event in Doha on the 3rd of December. Bringing together leaders and practitioners in the field of agricultural research and development, the day comprised panel discussions and roundtable debates with the aim of developing a stronger consensus around policy recommendations and the inclusion of eco-agricultural strategies within the broader climate change negotiations currently taking place within the UNFCC.

The day saw a renewed call to action to include agriculture as a key element in addressing global climate change challenges.

The report highlights the level of support indicated at COP17, hosted in Durban in 2011, and outlines the next stages needed to move agriculture further up the climate change agenda. It highlights that while conflicts of opinion still exist between member states, consensus is emerging around the core issues which a new programme of work should include:

  • Better information on agriculture and climate change - knowledge on both adaptation and mitigation, including lessons from the developing world
  • Dissemination and use of knowledge to improve farming practices: so as to: increase outputs adapt to changing conditions and reduce emissions.

The report emphasises the potential for beneficial development in drylands areas and the need for more investment.

Science-based agricultural technologies are a real force for increasing food security in dry areas. Unfortunately…in most parts of the developing world there is the feeling that investment in agriculture does not contribute to the national economy - we need to help change this thinking.”

Says Dr. Mahmoud Solh, Director General of ICARDA in an interview featured in the report. Changing this thinking can only be achieved by moving agriculture from the wings and into the spotlight of the debate.

Prepared specifically to inform government policymakers and agricultural planners from drylands countries and from development partners, the overarching message of this report is that the solutions to current problems are all there but that without investment they cannot be fully realised.