Climate change threat is very real, says IFAD chief

November 30, 2009 02:23 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:36 am IST - NEW DELHI

“The threat of climate change and its impact on agriculture is real. We have evidence that by 2025 in some parts of the world including India, parts of Asia and parts of Africa, crop yields will drop from anything between 20 and 40 per cent from rise in temperatures. Large parts of land will become so bad that it would no longer be good for agriculture and new diseases and pests would come up. Unless we have new varieties of crops that can adapt to extremes of weather, we will have difficulty in feeding the world population. Shortage of water resources is one of the greatest problems the world is going face because of climate change,” Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, told The Hindu .

Political accord possible

Pointing out that at Copenhagen, “probably we are not going to arrive at a legal agreement but could probably achieve a political agreement,” he said: “Fortunately countries like Brazil, India and China were able to speak for themselves and defend the need for developed countries to contribute more to mitigation and to assist developing countries in adaptation mechanisms.”

Dr. Nwanze, who is here on his first official visit after taking over as IFAD chief, is not new to India. The agricultural biologist had been here for 10 years as part of the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad.

India is the rural poverty agency’s largest country programme in working with communities for poverty reduction and development in agriculture production and productivity, the IFAD “historically having supported 23 programmes and projects, valued at $ 650 million, since 1979.” This is now going to be enhanced with contribution from the World Bank and the Indian government.

Food security

The IFAD’s programme in India’s hilly regions, tribal areas and the northeast have shown linkages between development and food security, and focusses on putting poor rural people, particularly women (micro-finance) and small farmers at the centre of all development efforts.

“Unless you look at the majority of farmers who have small landholdings and who produce most of the food, how can you achieve national development? Does it not make sense to invest in them?”

Asked about the trade-related shift in focus to diversification, horticulture, cash crops and genetically modified crops, Dr. Nwanze said developing countries or emerging economies like India should not wait for developed countries to set the agenda for them. “[India] should not wait for investment from international community to move its people out of poverty. It must invest its political will and capital in its own country. This is very essential because no country is going to achieve food security or political stability through external assistance.”

Absorbing shocks

On the high prices of food and commodities, Dr. Nwanze said that in today’s global society countries would have to take the responsibility into their own hands to ensure that internal economies were stable to be able to absorb external shocks. “When we expose ourselves to global markets that can fluctuate and there is volatility of prices, then if you do not have a solid internal base you suffer shocks. India has to develop and reinforce its own systems. In many ways, Indian government is doing a lot more than people know.”

During his two-day visit, the IFAD chief met Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Sharad Pawar (Agriculture and Food) and Krishna Tirath (Women and Child Development), The Energy and Resources Institute chief R.K. Pachauri and senior officials of the Centre.

Dr. Nwanze later visited the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai. He will be a keynote speaker at ICRISAT’s annual conference beginning November 30.

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