People waiting for food aid at Motijheel area of Dhaka on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

UN agency warns of widespread hunger risk and global instability if smallholders are not supported in adapting to climate change; Bangladesh eyes US$500 global climate adaptation fund to be launched on January 26 

The world has seen a rapid rise in the number of hungry people from a pre-Covid figure of 690 million to 720 million in 2020, a year affected by Covid-19 induced lockdowns, food supply chain disruptions and climate challenges. 

The coronavirus has made the fight against hunger more difficult – estimates put the number of additional people going hungry at 130 million due to the pandemic, German Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Julia Klöckner told a global food security conference on Friday that Bangladesh’s Agriculture Minister Dr Md Abdur Razzaque also attended.

The 13th Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Conference at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) held virtually at a time (from Jan 18-22) when Rome-based specialized UN agency, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has warned of a risk of widespread hunger and global instability.

 “If investments to help rural small-scale farmers adapt to climate change do not substantially increase, we risk widespread hunger and global instability,” IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo, has warned ahead of Climate Adaptation Summit due tomorrow (January 25-36).   

The Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS), hosted by the Netherlands, brings together global leaders to deliver concrete endeavors to make the world more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Bangladesh witnessed trebling extreme poor (lower poverty line) from 9.4% in 2018 to 28.5% in 2020, a survey released on Saturday by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) said. 

The Berlin conference that brought together agriculture ministers from over 75 countries including Bangladesh adopted a final communique asking all to support agriculture in adapting to climate change through measures in the areas of water, biodiversity, breeding, and animal husbandry. 

Bangladesh’s Agriculture Minister Dr Md Abdur Razzaque called for more investment commitment from the developed nations to ensure global food security.

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The call comes at a time when IFAD has aimed to mobilize US$500 million to reduce climate change threats to food security and announce the launch of its Enhanced Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program (ASAP+) at the Climate Adaptation Summit on 26 January.

The US$500 million ASAP+ money will be spent to help more than 10 million people adapt to weather changes. Austria, Germany, Ireland and Qatar have already pledged commitments.

Bangladesh, hit hard by repeated floods in 2020, saw a substantial crop loss forcing the government to go for huge rice import in 2021, first time in four years.  

Sources say, Bangladesh can now look forward to ASAP+ as the country has been a previous beneficiary of IFAD-led climate-resilient agricultural initiatives.  

ASAP+ builds on IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program (ASAP) which has already channeled US$300 million to more than 5 million farmers in 41 countries with investments in promoting climate-sensitive agricultural techniques and nature-based solutions, and access to infrastructure and technologies such as small-scale irrigation, rainwater harvesting systems, weather information, and drought- and flood-resistant crops. 

Earlier, an ASAP grant helped quarter of a million farmers in Bangladesh’s Haor region to develop resilience to climate change.  

IFAD states, “Bangladesh is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries affected by climate change. During the monsoon period, the Haor region of Bangladesh becomes completely inundated with 4-8 meters of water for around 6-7 months of the year. Flash floods are common, and in some years 80-90% of crops are lost because of extreme weather events………This severely affects food output in the Haor, which provides up to 16% of national rice production.”

Only 1.7 percent of global climate finance – a fraction of what is needed – goes to small-scale farmers in developing countries despite their disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, according to a report released by IFAD at the end of 2020.  

“It is unacceptable that small-scale farmers who grow much of the world’s food are left at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns, with such low investment to help them to adapt,” said IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo. 

“They do little to cause climate change, but suffer the most from its impacts. Their increasingly common crop failures and livestock deaths put our entire food system at risk. It is imperative that we ensure they remain on their land and sustainably produce nutritious food. If not, then hunger, poverty and migration will become even more widespread in the years to come.”

In Bangladesh, more than 76% of the farmers are small and marginal, either owning small farms (up to 1.49 acres of land) or working as tenant. Over a third of the all farmers (36%) are pure tenant, according to Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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