On my recent visit to a couple of African Countries [Burundi, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Kenya] I interreacted with smallholder farmers on the effects of climate change on yields for both crops and livestock. The message coming from these farmers is the same – crops and animals are dying; yields are going down and the future looks uncertain for farmers depending on rain-fed agriculture.
About 80 percent of the world’s food is produced by family farms, according to the United Nations, so climate change’s effect on agriculture could have repercussions that reach far beyond individual farmers and their families. Unless humans take significant steps to reverse the course and cut greenhouse gas emissions, the situation may continue to intensify.
No one knows for sure what impact this will have on future food supplies, but models by the International Food Policy Research Institute estimate that global crop [maize] production could shrink 24 percent by 2050.
Agriculture has always been deeply dependent on the weather, with farmers needing a steady mixture of sun, warmth, and rain to reliably produce the food that all of humanity depends on for survival. Now, these once predictable growing cycles are at risk from climate change, and smallholder families are on the front lines.
It is now important that every country diligently implements its climate change response strategy as a framework for responding to and slowing down the effects of climate change. As governments are working at the Macro level, it should now be our collective responsibility to join the fight against climate change. Here is how.
Stop wasting food: One-third of all food produced is either lost or wasted. According to UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report 2021, people globally waste 1 billion tons of food each year, which accounts for around 8-10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Avoid waste by only buying what you need.
Take advantage of every edible part of the foods you purchase. Measure portion sizes of rice and other staples before cooking them, store food correctly (use your freezer if you have one), be creative with leftovers, and share extras with your friends and neighbors. Make compost out of inedible remnants and use it to fertilize your garden. Composting is one of the best options for managing organic waste while also reducing environmental impacts.
Plant a tree: Every year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed and this deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can all play a part in reversing this trend by planting trees, either individually or as part of a collective.
Source foods locally: To reduce your food’s carbon footprint,buy local and seasonal foods. You’ll be helping small businesses and farms in your area and reducing fossil fuel emissions associated with transport and cold chain storage.
Sustainable agriculture uses up to 56 percent less energy, creates 64 percent fewer emissions, and allows for greater levels of biodiversity than conventional farming. Go one step further and try growing your fruit, vegetables, and herbs. You can plant them in a garden, on a balcony, or even on a windowsill.
Finally, Dress smart: The fashion industry accounts for 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined – and ‘fast fashion’ has created a throwaway culture that sees clothes quickly end up in landfills. But we can change this. Buy fewer new clothes and wear them longer. Recycle pre-loved clothes and repair them when necessary.
The climate emergency now demands action from all of us. We must work towards slowing down the effects of climate change, for our future survival now depends on the actions we take now.
Nathan Were is an access to finance specialist based in Nairobi.