Paper: agriculture and food security

An interesting paper that looks at adaptation and mitigation options for farmers, with a particular focus on smallholders. It emphasises the need to address not just the science/technological aspect of mitigation/adaptation but also the social and institutional/knowledge infrastructure.

Reference, abstract and conclusions as follows:

Vermeulen S J, Aggarwal PK, Ainslie A, Angelone C, Campbell B M, Challinor AJ, Hansen J W, Ingram JSI, Jarvis A, Kristjanson P, Lau C, Nelson G C, Thornton P K and Wollenberg E (2012). Options for support to agriculture and food security under climate changeEnvironmental Science and Policy , 15, 136-144  (NB:many of the authors are FCRN mailing list members)


Agriculture and food security are key sectors for intervention under climate change. Agricultural production is highly vulnerable even to 2C (low-end) predictions for global mean temperatures in 2100, with major implications for rural poverty and for both rural and urban food security. Agriculture also presents untapped opportunities for mitigation, given the large land area under crops and rangeland, and the additional mitigation potential of aquaculture. This paper presents a summary of current knowledge on options to support farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, in achieving food security through agriculture under climate change. Actions towards adaptation fall into two broad overlapping areas: (1) accelerated adaptation to progressive climate change over decadal time scales, for example integrated packages of technology, agronomy and policy options for farmers and food systems, and (2) better management of agricultural risks associated with increasing climate variability and extreme events, for example improved climate information services and safety nets. Maximization of agriculture's mitigation potential will require investments in technological innovation and agricultural intensification linked to increased efficiency of inputs, and creation of incentives and monitoring systems that are inclusive of smallholder farmers. Food systems faced with climate change need urgent, broad-based action in spite of uncertainties.


Significant uncertainty exists regarding the direction and magnitude of climate change, which in turn leads to uncertainty in the realm of food production and its impact on food systems and food security across complex geographies andsocieties. Food systems faced with climate change need urgent action in spite of uncertainties. The urgency of climate change provides a new impetus for paradigms of integrated research, policy and action. There is a pressing need to invest in databases and tools to inform policy and practice in the spheres of agricultural risk-management, adaptation and mitigation. Likewise, initiatives to develop capacity to tackle climate change impacts on farming and food must address not only scientific capacity but also the capacity of users to demand, interpret and apply scientific outputs effectively. Decision makers need not just a holistic view of the system but rather a strategic approach that focuses on key dependencies and processes. A key challenge in assuring future food security is to apply such approaches across the whole food system and across multi-purpose landscapes. Action will need to move ahead of knowledge, with decisions made and reviewed on the basis of emerging research and consensus. This paper has provided a brief review of the state of knowledge in the key areas of managing climate variability and risks, accelerating adaptation to progressive climate change, and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. We need to integrate and apply the best and most promising approaches, tools and technologies. The involvement of farmers, policy-makers, the private sector and civil society is vital. Successful mitigation and adaptation will entail changes in individual behavior, technology, institutions, agricultural systems and socio-economic systems. These changes cannot be achieved without improving interactions between scientists and decision-makers at all levels of society.

You can download the paper here (subscription needed).

15 Dec 2011