5 December 2013

Africa: 'Climate-Smart' Agriculture Needed to Steer Food Security Through Changing Weather, Ban Says

Agroforestry, diversification of crops with legumes and other practical measures must be scaled up to end hunger while meeting the challenge of climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a global conference on the issue today.

"Agriculture is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, famers worldwide are increasingly feeling the effects of a warming climate," Mr. Ban said in a message to the Third Global Conference on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security and Climate Change taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"The answer to these interconnected problems lies in climate-smart agriculture," he said, emphasizing in particular the need to eliminate of childhood under-nutrition through sustainable agriculture that benefits smallholders around the world.

Mr. Ban said that his recent visit to the Sahel reinforced his perception of how climate change compounds the challenges for small farmers, following three major droughts in a decade that exacerbated poverty, conflict and disease.

"The region's Governments are working to help their people become more resilient, but they need international support, including through an ambitious climate change agreement in 2015," he said.

He called on leaders from Government, finance, business and civil society to work together on solutions, welcoming proposals to develop a Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance and inviting all stakeholders to bring bold initiatives to the table at next September's Climate Summit, to be held at UN Headquarters in NY.

The Secretary-General's message to the three-day Conference, which closed today, was delivered by David Nabarro, his Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition.

In related news, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported today that a record world cereal output is predicted for the year 2013, reaching a new high of almost 2,500 tonnes. At the same time, it warned that food security in several parts of Africa and elsewhere is deteriorating.

The latest issue of the agency's "Crop Prospects and Food Situation" report says that cereal production rose 8.4 per cent, while food security remains precarious in the Sahel, Central Africa, Southern Africa, parts of the Middle East and Philippines due to instability and/or drought, other types of severe weather and land degradation.

At FAO's Rome headquarters, scientists and research organizations gathered today to draw attention to importance of better management of the Earth's soil in the effort to feed a growing world population while coping with climate change.

Healthy soil is not only the foundation of food production but also sequesters twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo, told the gathering.

The UN General Assembly is currently considering a proposal to name 5 December of each year as "World Soil Day," as supported by the FAO Conference this past June, to raise awareness of the importance of this natural resource to agriculture, biodiversity and climate change.

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