Climate Change, Water and Food Security

Climate change will have a major impact on the availability of water for growing food in the decades to come.  So warns Climate Change, Water and Food Security, a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

water security and climate changeThe report found that already water-stressed regions, like the semi-arid areas of southern Africa, the America’s, Australia and the Mediterranean, faced reductions in river run-off and aquifer recharges.

As temperatures rise, the rate of water evaporation from land and sea will increase.  Rainfall will increase in the tropics and higher latitudes, but decrease in already dry semi-arid to mid-arid latitudes and in the interior of large continents.  Water scarce areas are expected to become drier and hotter.

“Both the livelihoods of rural communities and the food security of city populations are at risk,” said FAO assistant director general for natural resources, Alexander Mueller.  “But the rural poor are likely to be disproportionately affected.”

The report said that at farm level, growers can change their cropping patterns to allow earlier or later planting, reducing their water use and optimising irrigation.  Yields and productivity can be improved by shifting to soil moisture conservation practices, including zero- and minimum tillage.  Planting deep-rooted crops would allow farmers to better exploit available soil moisture.

FAO’s report also stresses that small-scale producers in developing countries will struggle to adopt such strategies.  “Farm size and access to capital set the limits for the scope of adaptation and change at farm level,” it warns.  Already, many developing-world farms produce yields far below their potential.

Source: Farmer’s Weekly 24 June 2011

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