Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Effect of Global Climate Change on Food Security

Global climate change presents a serious threat to the food security of many developing countries. A recent United Nations report, presented at a conference in Angola, warned nations to take action to protect Africa from imminent food security threats. The 23-page report cited higher temperatures, draught and unpredictable weather as likely to cause up to a 7 percent decline in yields of staple crops, such as maize. This decline comes to populations already experiencing an insecure food source and, in many cases, already suffering malnutrition.

Threats to food production from climate change are especially pronounced in many African countries. Many populations in Africa have experienced a long history of food shortage. Non-sustainable agriculture contributed to prolonged shortages of food, which have led to famine, higher infant and maternal mortality, higher rates of disease as a population becomes less healthy, and, at the extreme, to increased wars. Recent research and development into more sustainable and higher producing crops have targeted different environments. Global climate change, which is creating higher temperatures and unpredictable weather, is contributing to the problem of food security in these nations. This makes the need for “sustainable agricultural and natural resource management methods” more pressing as developing nations, especially in Africa, face “looming food security issues.”

Many parts of Africa are prone to drought, including some of the coastal areas where about 60 percent of the population is located. Africans have a long history of planting and harvesting with the wetter cycles of an arid climate, but this new and bigger threat from global climate change overwhelms the ability to adapt. The United Nations, among other groups, have tried to promote sustainable agriculture. Peace Corp workers, religious missions, non-profits, and other groups have been deployed to many developing countries to aid in developing an agricultural program.

The success of these programs is largely dependent on their ability to get the developing nation to commit to natural resource management and sustainable agriculture. Without complete support by the developing country, outside change will have little success in solving the growing food security issues faced by developing nations. The United Nations report predicted that serious challenges to Africa’s food security would occur within the next 50 years. "The presence of major non-climatic stressors that influence sensitivity to changes in climatic conditions, and the endemic poverty often associated with food production exacerbates the situation in Africa," the report adds. Without significant change towards sustainable agriculture and use of natural resources in developing nations, the current problems of food security and famine will worsen substantially in the near future as the effects of global climate change become more pronounced.


  1. this is depressing, and it's a pretty clear sign that no amount of "support for green development" in the developing world is going to matter if the developed world doesn't finally revamp its economy to a carbon neutral one.

  2. I am the last person to decry anyone who has made food a pillar of their lives. I cook professionally. As a journalist, I cover food safety and sustainability. As a food writer, I write about cooking. Clearly, food is something about which I am passionate