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The report, entitled “Achieving food security in the face of climate change” focused on analysing existing evidence around sustainable agriculture to make policy recommendations. The summary report, headed by Professor Sir John Beddington, was published on November 16th, and the results will be presented in Durban on the 3rd of December which is Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2011.The main conclusions were that sustainable agriculture is currently not given enough importance in policy, and as an issue that faces both the developed and developing world, should be given that importance.
The problem of sustainable agriculture
Food related problems are present in both the developed and developing worlds. The statistics in the report highlight this effectively: 0.9 billion undernourished and 1.5 billion overweight. The issue is both with creating more sustainable and healthy food practices, while ensuring that crop production is efficient and that the people can meet their basic nutrition needs.
One of the main problems is with increased scarcity and also increased volatility, the report describes the 2007/8 food price spike, and the recent estimate of tens of millions of people falling into poverty due to higher food prices over the past year and a half. Those who have high dependency on agriculture for sustenance, such as 80% of Kenyans, face high levels of risk from this agricultural yield and price volatility. The report also notes that these people must be taken into consideration when making policy changes, as any short term fall in agricultural activity would affect them the most.
A main cause of these problems is agricultural inefficiency; the report highlights the wide gaps between action and potential yields and the high levels of greenhouse gas emission from inefficient practices. The report highlights the interlinking elements of climate change, water scarcity, changing demographics and others, which all act together to increase pressures on agricultural production. If we continue on as usual, then our agricultural practices will lead us to pass critical levels of being able to feed the population.
A list of policy recommendations is given, including integrating food security and sustainable agriculture into policy, raising investment in the sector, ensure basic nutritional needs and reducing wastage. These evidence-based recommendations are explained more fully in the summary report, and a more detailed report is scheduled to be released.
It also emphasises the fight against climate change, and notes “without a global commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions… no amount of agricultural adaptation will be sufficient under the destabilized climate of the future”.
What this means for Environmental and Agriculture thematic investment
This report highlights the important role that agriculture will play in the future. Key investment themes include fertilisers, irrigation efficiency and other efficiency solutions, particularly if legislation may change to incentivise these practices. There are also opportunities for companies involved in adaptation to these changes, many of which are considered in Environmental investment funds.