Climate Change and the World’s Hungry

Erratic weather affects agricultural productivity, contributing to chronic hunger and food shortages. Lack of food makes the longer-lasting sustainable solutions we all hope for harder to reach.

How does climate matter to the world’s hungry?

Erratic weather affects agricultural productivity, contributing to chronic hunger and food shortages. Lack of food makes the longer-lasting sustainable solutions we all hope for harder to reach.

When food is scarce, subsistence farmers may sell livestock; exchange land for food; sell firewood, leading to further deforestation; consume seeds; take children out of school; migrate in search of food or work.

The poorest and most vulnerable communities are heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture and water resources. FAO estimates that 95 percent of agriculture in Africa is rain-dependent.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts yields from rain-dependent agriculture could be down by 50 percent by 2020.

What does WFP do about it?

For WFP, climate change is not an abstract issue. Every day, we feed millions of vulnerable people, many of them left destitute by floods, droughts and other natural disasters, some of which are caused or spurred by climate change.

WFP has delivered emergency assistance to tens of thousands of people in flood-hit regions across Africa and, most recently, in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Mexico.

Our first step is to provide food to the most vulnerable.

Because WFP has people, logistics and technology in the most remote and disaster prone countries, we are best positioned to provide first-order help when severe weather strikes.

Fast and timely deliveries of food and non-food items can help avert the selling of family assets when droughts or other disasters occur. People must first satisfy their daily needs before they can consider longer-term plans.

 WFP has greater logistical power and a larger transport network than any other player. On any given day, WFP has 30 ships, 70 aircraft and some 5,000 trucks delivering assistance.

Then we move to sustainable solutions that help people feed themselves.

For WFP, the key to coping with climate change is adaptation. Our work to alleviate hunger also helps build human resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change vulnerability.

WFP provides community-based food assistance that helps people adapt to and mitigate against climate change. As we feed people, we also look for ways that will help people shift from subsistence farming or dependency to more sustainable livelihoods.

We try to improve productivity and prevent degradation of natural resources as we go.

 Water conservation and management to reduce seasonal droughts and erosion caused by excessive runoff.

 Improved soil management to create favourable conditions for seed germination, root growth, plant development and grain formation and helps combat erosion-induced degradation.

 Introduction of improved crop species, focusing on pest and drought-resistant varieties.

 Hi-tech methods: Satellite data to monitor climate and weather conditions. Crop failures and agricultural losses can be detected early and appropriate measures taken before disaster strikes.

WFP is helping governments and communities build and improve emergency preparedness and response through vulnerability assessment, mapping, early warning systems, contingency planning and risk management.

Other examples of how WFP helps the poor brace against climate change include

 An innovative, weather-based insurance pilot in Ethiopia which protects farmers against devastating shocks caused by severe drought, thus saving both lives and livelihoods early on, and preventing widespread destitution.

 Restoring 300,000 hectares of soil and land eroded after decades of drought, floods, deforestation and over-farming in Ethiopia.

 Planting more than 5 billion trees over the last decades in food-for-work projects worldwide.

 Building 27 km of flood-control dykes in Sudan in exchange for food.

 Irrigating and rehabilitating 14 km of canals, digging 32 wells and protecting 380 hectares of farmland from soil erosion throughout Somalia.

 Digging 227 water wells and rehabilitating 652 water reservoirs throughout Afghanistan – all in exchange for food