Agri-food actors across the supply chain urgently need to put protective measures in place, whilst making use of trade opportunities and innovative adaptation technologies. That was the key conclusion of a recent Adaptation Committee workshop in Geneva co-hosted by UN Climate Change and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
“Food security is at the core of sustainable development and adaptation action. And yet, the latest available science is indicating that food security is at serious risk from climate change,” said Julio Cordano, UNFCCC Adaptation Committee member, at the launch of the event on October 29, 2018.
The workshop convened entrepreneurs, government representatives, farmers, scientists, researchers, business owners, as well as representatives of civil society and banks. Talks focused on ways to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adapt to climate change.
“Climate change is a threat to SMEs and those working in their supply chains, especially in developing countries,” said Dorothy Tembo, ITC Deputy Executive Director.
She added: “There is another side to the coin, which is that there are market opportunities for goods and services associated with climate adaptation and mitigation. By realising these opportunities, companies can turn climate-related risks into new business and income.”
Innovating to adapt
Experts stressed data gaps as a key barrier to building climate resilience of the agri-food sector.
The challenge is particularly acute for SMEs and smallholder farmers who lack the financial and technological resources of larger firms.
But clever innovations can help overcome these obstacles. For example, the company Ignitia is tackling the data challenge by bringing local tropical weather forecasts to West African farmers via SMS that are low-cost and twice as accurate as global weather forecasts.
This information helps farmers optimise their planning and resource use, decrease their losses and increase their income, thereby bolstering their capacity to adapt to the changing climate.
While the workshop focused on the risks of climate change impacts on the agri-food sector, it also covered the benefits that adaptation can bring.
The Brazilian MAIS project, which recently received the UNFCCC Momentum for Change award, demonstrated how it cultivates these opportunities by working with farmers, financial institutions, technical experts and companies to build resilience through climate-smart, regenerative agricultural practices.
The project restores degraded land, boosts the productivity of the food system, increases farmers’ incomes, and can yield $7 in social and economic output for every $1 invested.
Building resilience through trade
Discussions and case studies featured during the workshop highlighted the role of trade in bolstering the resilience of the agri-food sector.
Carolyn Rodrigues Birkett, Director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Geneva, said: “In the short term, trade can help to address production shortfalls due to extreme weather events and support adaptation efforts by stabilising markets and reallocating food from surplus to deficit regions.”
She emphasised that trade can yield additional long-term benefits: ‘It can help to adjust agricultural production in an efficient manner across countries. This will not only enhance the resilience of the private sector, but of the international food system as a whole.”
ITC is working with SMEs, international buyers, and trade and investment support institutions, to strengthen climate resilience through global value chains. The ITC project Strengthening Competitiveness through Climate Resilience in International Value Chains deploys technical assistance, including online and face-to-face training, to improve climate risk management across value chains.
Implementing national adaptation plans
The national adaptation plans under the UNFCCC, which are being developed by over 80 developing countries, also offer governments and the private sector an opportunity to shape an enabling environment for adaptation for the next five to 10 years. Investment plans are created through public-private partnerships and enable easier access to finance for farmers and SMEs.