By Dann Okoth
The experts are now asking global leaders converging in Rio De Geneiro — under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development dubbed Rio+20 — to rethink their strategies on food security by harmonising food security and environmental sustainability through agricultural research and development.
“We call on Rio+20 actors to adopt cross-sectoral approaches, which facilitate broader partnerships, co-ordinated regulatory frameworks and appropriate economic incentives,” said the experts in a joint statement issue in Nairobi under the auspices of Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
“What is required now is the vision and courage to transcend conventional sectoral approaches and apply integrated thinking to the management of agriculture, aquaculture, livestock, forests and water,” they added.
CGIAR is the world’s largest publicly-funded global research partnership bringing together six research organisations and advances science to reduce global poverty and hunger by addressing issues related to climate change, farming, forestry, environment and natural resources management.
The groups says between now and 2050, the demand for maize in the developing countries will double, and by then maize will have become the crop with the greatest production globally and in the developing world.
More than 300 million Africans are dependent on maize. Moreover, nearly all maize in Africa is grown under rain-fed conditions, and frequent droughts now put a majority of small-scale farmers on the continent at risk of starvation.
Climate change studies predict considerable warming of sub-Saharan Africa by 2050. And a when temperatures rise by even one single degree Celsius, yields reduce 65 per cent.
It is even worse under drought conditions, where it is estimated that three-quarters of the maize crops would lose at least 20 per cent of their harvest for one degree Celsius of warming.
“We urge Rio+20 actors to support knowledge sharing systems that engage with smallholder farmers to improve the management of their crops, livestock and natural resources in order to increase production as well as minimize negative environmental impacts,” said Ambassador Amina Mohammed, deputy executive director, Unep.