This post originally appeared on The USDA Blog.
From record droughts in Kansas to deadly wildfires in California, the United States is feeling the effects of climate change. These same conditions have a dire impact across the developing world, especially for poor, rural smallholder farmers whose very lives are threatened every time the rains arrive late, the floods rush in, or the temperature soars.
Climate change induced degradation of land could be the inheritance of inaction regarding climate change. / George Safonov
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion people. Feeding them will require at least a 60 percent increase in agricultural production. There is no greater challenge to meeting this need than climate change. It poses a range of unprecedented threats to the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people and to the very planet that sustains us. In order to ensure that hundreds of millions of people are not born into a debilitating cycle of under-nutrition and hunger, we must address the urgent threat that climate change poses.
That’s why today we’re announcing the launch of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. The idea was born eight months ago, when an international delegation of leaders—including many from the USDA, the State Department, and USAID—met in South Africa for the Global Conference on Climate Change, Food Security, and Agriculture. There, we charted a more sustainable path to food security—one that preserves the environment while driving broad-based economic growth.
The Alliance’s solutions will encompass every type of climate and agricultural system, including better crop, livestock, and aquaculture varieties that can tolerate extreme heat, drought, and floods. We are also testing and deploying innovative tools for farmers, like weather-indexed crop and livestock insurance to help communities build resilience to severe weather.
A boy and a woman struggle with the dusty wind looking for water in Wajir, Kenya. / Jervis Sundays, Kenya Red Cross Society
The Alliance will advance a more inclusive, innovative, and evidence-based approach to food security. It will provide platforms for partners to collaborate on agricultural practices, make key investments, develop policies that empower producers to mitigate the impact of climate change and, through sustainable agriculture practices, contribute to a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It will also provide farmers—particularly women—with greater economic opportunities.
Joining the Alliance represents an ambitious step in the United States’ efforts to integrate climate change policies into every area of our work. The Alliance will work in concert with the U.S. Global Climate Change Initiative, drawing on its expertise and experience grappling with climate change challenges in more than 50 developing countries around the world. This climate-specific knowledge and practice being pioneered today will be critical to protect lives and livelihoods, and promote low-carbon growth and development around the world.
As one of his Administration’s first foreign policy acts, President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Led by USAID—in partnership with USDA, the State Department, and eight other federal agencies—Feed the Future empowers vulnerable communities to move from dependency to self-sufficiency.
In the last year alone, Feed the Future has improved the nutrition for 12.5 million children across 19 countries. At the same time, it has helped 7 million farmers grow their yields, raise their income, and begin the journey out of the devastating cycle of extreme poverty.
In 2012, President Obama rallied a group of global leaders at the G8 Summit at Camp David to launch the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, aimed to increase public-private partnerships and increase investment in agriculture. Today, we’ve leveraged $10 billion in investment from more than 200 companies—the majority from local African firms, including farmer-owned businesses.
Here in the United States, we’ve taken steps to address climate change and its impact on agriculture, setting up seven climate hubs and three sub-hubs; launching the Soil Health Initiative (healthier soil captures more carbon and helps farmers succeed), engaging more farmers than any time in American history in land and water conservation efforts, and we’re contributing to the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses. Our experiences at home can provide lessons that are valuable for farmers around the world.
We don’t have time to wait. From India to the United States, climate change poses drastic risks to every facet of our lives. Ground water supplies are vanishing faster than they can be replenished. Typhoons, wildfires, and floods are showing signs of becoming more frequent and more deadly. And with each day, families are pushed to the brink of survival—threatening our own prosperity and security in an increasingly connected world.
Addressing climate change will not be an easy fix, and it won’t be simple. Long term global food security depends on us acting together now. That’s why the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture is so critical. By joining together, we can design new technologies and create new alliances to effectively protect and manage the environment that supports us—and the thriving ecosystems that will sustain our world for generations to come.