Climate change disproportionately affects small and marginal farmers: CUTS study

June 27, 2011
“The South Asian region must focus on technology transfer and institutional capacity building to address climate change and food security in the region,” said Dr. M. A. Sattar Mandal, Vice Chancellor, Bangladesh Agricultural University. He was delivering a keynote address to a regional dissemination meeting on “Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia” which was held in Dhaka Bangladesh on June 27, 2011. He touched upon several aspects ranging from regional food bank, environmental degradation, and food nutrition, among others. He further emphasised on creating cross-boundary market opportunities to facilitate trade link in the region.

The event was jointly organised by CUTS International and Practical Action, Bangladesh. The study was conducted by CUTS International with support from Oxfam Novib, The Netherlands. The partners involved in this study were: Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society, India; Practical Action, Bangladesh; Afghan Development Association, Afghanistan; and Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan.

In her welcoming remarks, Veena Khaleque, Country Director, Practical Action, Bangladesh said that South Asia is extremely vulnerable and susceptible to climate change. However, the region lacks necessary adaptation measures to minimise the effects of climate change on food security.

Findings of the study showed that climate change is disproportionately affecting small and marginal farmers in the region. Cropping seasons have altered. Both frequencies and intensities of natural calamities have increased over the past decades. Because of declining production and productivity, farmers are migrating to nearby cities for alternative livelihoods.

Over all, there is a greater need to practice both climate change adaptation and mitigation practices by small and marginal farmers. Farmers will have to implement climate change adaptation strategies such as water harvesting, soil and moisture conservation. At the same time, they will have to implement climate change mitigation practices such as intermittent irrigation to reduce methane emissions from rice cultivation.

At the macro-level, there is a greater need to focus on pro-poor policies, bridge the gap of SAARC initiatives, and facilitate trans-boundary learning to quickly disseminate techniques among South Asian countries.

Tirthankar Mandal, Programme Coordinator, Climate Action Network-South Asia touched upon vulnerability aspects of food security. He emphasised that vulnerability is increased when one or more of four components of food security – that is food availability, food accessibility, food utilisation, and food stability are either uncertain or insecure. He further said that food security polices such as minimum income provisioning and universal access to food should be formulated to address issues of food security.

Rashid S. Kaukab, Associate Director & Research Coordinator, CUTS Geneva Resource Centre made a presentation on a future regional programme on Climate Change, Food Security, and Trade Linkages in South Asia. He mentioned that unlike other regional blocs, the South Asian region remains the least integrated. Intra-regional trade hovers around 5 percent of the total trade of the region. He further mentioned that proposed regional programme will improve the understanding among stakeholders in the region on climate change-food security-trade linkages. It will enhance greater involvement of relevant stakeholders in policy making and implementation.

Summing up the event, Faruk-Ul-Islam, Head of Organisational Development at Practical Action, Bangladesh highlighted increasing awareness among small and marginal farmers about climate change and food security issues. He stressed on the importance of public investment on agriculture to address plethora of issues faced by small and marginal farmers in the region.

The meeting was attended by more than 60 participants from among economists, agronomists, researchers, journalists and members of civil society organisations across the South Asian region.
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