For about a decade, my work has focused exclusively on dealing with climate change in agriculture, leading a research program that had three areas of focus relevant to adaptation: (i) how do policies and institutions need to change to ensure adaptation, (ii) how can climate information services deliver information to farmers and service providers to help build their resilience and (iii) what climate-smart practices are appropriate for resilience building. Our program worked in about 20 countries and was known for its focus on outcomes rather than merely focusing on research products.
In working in the above areas, we eventually came to the conclusion that a transformation of the food system is needed. If you consider that there are 50 million farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and they need to be reached by resilience building technologies, practices and institutions by 2030 if we are to achieve the SDG of zero hunger, then nothing short of a transformation is going to achieve that. This would include a transformation in climate information services, a transformation in how value chains work and significant policy shifts to support new farming and food systems. We came up with 11 actions that were needed to transform the food system in the face of climate change, covering both adaptation and mitigation.
Agriculture is highly context specific, so what works in one area is not likely to be the solution in other areas; there really are no silver bullets. But we did find that climate information services could be transformational. For example in Vietnam early warning systems for salinity intrusion (partly a result of more severe droughts) allowed farmers over millions of hectares to change their time of planting and thus saved their crops from low yields. In Ghana, digital climate information services (bundled with other services such as market information) stimulated uptake of new technologies and market integration.
One of the 11 actions is around finance. We often look to public sources of funding. However, food systems are integrally linked to markets and there are trillions of dollars involved in food value chains. With urbanization in SSA, food demand will increase and diets will change. Food imports to SSA are also rising. This is an opportunity for local and national markets. It would seem essential to use public finance to help de-risk food value chains, to work on the institutional environment to make “doing business” easier, to incentivize local and national markets; and in so doing leverage private finance into farming and climate change adaptation. De-risking has climate information, technological and institutional adaptation dimensions that all need to be prioritized.
More about Prof. Bruce Campbell:
Dr. Bruce Campbell is Chief Innovation Strategist for Clim-Eat, a Senior Advisor at the Global Center on Adaptation and is attached to the University of Copenhagen. Previously he was the Director of the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). He works on adaptation to increased climatic variability and progressive climate change, and on low emissions development. His work has involved research for development in more than 20 countries. He was previously based in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Australia, and is living in Denmark. He has published over 150 journal articles and more than a dozen books and his passion is getting knowledge into action.