UN drive to lift up poor farmers must focus on climate: experts

Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:12pm GMT

By Magdalena Mis

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A new push to give farmers in developing countries better access to markets, led by the United Nations' food aid agency, could fall short of its goals if it does not prioritise helping poor farmers adapt to climate change, experts have warned.

    Aimed at boosting incomes and improving food security, the project plans to help 1.5 million small-scale farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America over the next three years with contracts to buy their crops, signed before they are planted, worth $750 million.

    The World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners - including agribusiness giants Bayer and Syngenta, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, Rabobank and Norwegian fertiliser producer Yara International - will also offer farmers access to agricultural inputs, loans and insurance.

    "The platform will enable some of the most marginalised farmers to access reliable markets for the first time," WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in a statement as the programme was launched in Davos, Switzerland, late last month.

    Half of the world's 795 million hungry people are farmers, according to the WFP, and in some African countries up to 90 percent of the population are smallholder farmers. [nL8N15N2RC]   

The U.N. agency said the pre-agreed purchase contracts with local, regional and international buyers, together with financing and other resources, would enable more than 1 million of the world's poorest farmers in 25 countries to shift from subsistence farming to market-oriented agriculture.

    Experts said that, for the programme to succeed, climate change should be a key factor in deciding which crops to plant.

    "Current climate risks which are affecting countries are a big player in the low level of agro-productivity in sub-Saharan Africa," said John Recha, a specialist with the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).   Continued...

Malawian subsistence farmers Simon Sikazwe (L) and Cecelia Kazibuta (R) stand beside communal  maize fields in Dowa near the capital Lilongwe, February 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
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