Climate change is perhaps the most imminent threat that is currently facing humanity. Everything we need to survive is in danger with the change in environment. Agriculture and food are among the fields that, if affected, will leave millions hungry.
The Economist recently reported that in the next decade or two, 40 per cent of the land in Africa will no longer be fit for growing even a common strain of corn. Corn is one of the largest produced and consumed crops in Africa and South Asia.
India, a country that was a net exporter of wheat for several years, and in 2022, had to stop exports. This was because of the loss of crop yield due to extremely hot weather.
In other parts of the world too, including in several parts of China, agriculture really suffered greatly.
And who was hurt the most?
The poor and the most vulnerable sections of society are the first casualties in such a situation. This is because governments are unable to feed them due to a lack of production.
The middle class becomes vulnerable to stunting, malnourishment and anaemia due to the fall in crop yield.
For the rich, less production means high prices. For a large part of 2022, we have seen high food inflation leading to the governments having to widen their budget deficits by either borrowing money or raising taxes. So, the impact of low agricultural productivity is not limited to a particular section of society but to the economy as a whole.
What can be done?
Cooperation and collaboration between countries is of the utmost importance in the fight to to make agriculture climate resistant. New technologies and new ways of distribution will have to be explored further and in more depth to ensure food security.
At COP27, increased efforts were made in that particular direction.
It’s perhaps time to stop growing crops for our energy needs, instead, it would also help if crops are grown to primarily feed people rather than fuel.
Farmers can make the shift from fertiliser-based agriculture to natural farming. Or if not completely, agricultural scientists need to come up with methods to provide nutrition to crops without artificial chemicals. This will go great lengths in reducing the Earth’s carbon footprint massively.
Who needs to take the lead?
Along with governments, the private sector, banks, multilateral banks and NGOs must come together to help to revolutionise agriculture.
Not only does it require awareness but it also requires money. Capital can facilitate research and innovation. With more countries coming together and more multi-country banks providing credit, it would be easier to provide relief to the farmers in the instance of famines, droughts or floods.
The private sector could work independently or even with the governments to come up with new products. From solar panels to water pumps and eco-friendly fertilisers, the private sector can use its innovative spirit and help the agriculture sector.
Along with this, in areas that are most vulnerable to food insecurity like Africa and South Asia, businesses can work with the government to ease the adaptation of new technologies. They can educate farmers, provide incentives and even help in adopting new products.
Businesspeople in developed countries in America or Europe can set up their subsidiaries in the most impacted parts of the globe. This will not only serve as a new source of revenue but will also help in making a mark on society.