Climate change, water and food security

Report / Paper

Climate change, water and food security



May 2012


 The food price crisis of 2008 has led to the re-emergence of debates about global food security (e.g. Wiggins, 2008) and its impact on prospects for achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG): to end poverty and hunger. On top of a number of shorter-term triggers leading to volatile food prices, the longer-term negative impacts of climate change need to be taken very seriously. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warns that the progress in human development achieved over the last decade may be slowed down or even reversed by climate change, as new threats emerge to water and food security, agricultural production and access, and nutrition and public health. The impacts of climate change – sea level rise, droughts, heat waves, floods and rainfall variation – could, by 2080, push another 600 million people into malnutrition and increase the number of people facing water scarcity by 1.8 billion (UNDP 2008). Agriculture constitutes the backbone of most African economies. It is the largest contributor to GDP; the biggest source of foreign exchange, accounting for about 40% of the continent’s foreign currency earnings; and the main generator of savings and tax revenues. In addition, about two-thirds of manufacturing value-added is based on agricultural raw materials. Agriculture remains crucial for pro-poor economic growth in most African countries, as rural areas support 70-80% of the total population. More than in any other sector, improvements in agricultural performance have the potential to increase rural incomes and purchasing power for large numbers of people to lift them out of poverty (NEPAD, 2002; Wiggins, 2006).