How do we adapt to climate change? Ask the poor who till the land — for they are already dealing with it, flood, drought or disease. The good news is that among them, with a helping hand from science, humanity has cost-effective options. We just have to agree to recognise and value them.

This was the message that some of the world’s top agricultural scientists and U.N. representatives delivered to students and local community members at a public forum at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation here on Tuesday.

Economic viability

“The farmer’s life has been devalued,” said Parviz Koohafkan, Director Food and Water of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. “We need to bring out the importance of what they have created over thousands of years and see how we can economically make these systems viable,” he said.

Farmers have been the custodians of particular types of crop that will help in the future. For example, flood-tolerant rice, in the final stage of being evaluated, has been developed based on a gene from a type of rice traditionally harvested in eastern India, said Robert S. Zeigler, president of the International Rice Research Institute.

Incentive system

An international, legal incentive payment system for “services” rendered to humanity is one method of recognising their value, Angela Cropper, deputy director, U.N. Environment Programme. Another could be a change in labelling, ecotourism or the new Agricultural Heritage status conferred by the UN FAO.

Political will

“Our crisis and our failure is that despite the fact that solutions are available, we have not been able to reduce hunger today,” said Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign. The hope expressed by all was that there is the political will to do it for tomorrow.