Climate change has triggered a crisis of a generation which also struggles with natural disasters, public health challenges and also a pandemic like COVID-19. The world is now laid bare with social, economic and environmental underpinnings that constantly alter the nature and tone of developmental safeguards. In the quest towards achieving sustainable development goals as countries continue to make ambitious and speedy recovery, we need to be mindful of the consequences emerging from food insecurity propelled by natural disasters like drought and floods which scar the agricultural outcomes and also from climate change consequences which will push communities and farmers to the brink.
Human health, livelihood, food security and poverty have a fine lining that can shape the course of how much progress countries can achieve and how much impact communities can absorb.
The process through which nutrition influences health outcomes is deep rooted and complex. Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation could possibly reduce the quantity and quality of food being harvested. Evidences emerging across the globe serves to suggest that climate change is a threat to crop productivity in areas that are already food insecure. Impact of heat on farmer productivity can also play a role in food security with temperatures rising.
The coastal city of Mangalore in India reported a temperature of 37.2 in the week of November 2020 when on the contrary mild winters should have set in. not just that, the city witnessed sporadic rains and also bouts of cold waves. With such examples of proliferating extreme weathers, seasoned agricultural practices are now disrupted and remain a major cause of concern. There is good evidence that local food price increases have negative effects on food consumption, and therefore on health. The direct implication of this nature is the result of underlying nutritional issues both moderate acute malnutrition and severely acute malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and the impact on the overall development of growing children, pregnant women and elderly.
Cross sectoral challenges such as food insecurity, natural disasters and extreme weather events calls for solutions that are of cross sectoral nature which factors in community resilience and which addresses vulnerable risks.
Evidence serves to show that yields of most important crops would reduce by 2050 in low- and middle-income countries and in addition to that child underweight would go up by 20% in the absence of a carbon enrichment effect. In many countries in South Asia and South East Asia where the burden of malnutrition is already very high, food insecurity and a COVID-19 like pandemic will mean a watershed moment for structures that engage in building community resilience. Addressing these gaps will mean better social protection among national governments, a more efficiently prepared health system that can deal with preventive healthcare and dietary needs and better research and development working along with seed industry to bridge technology with local farm level requirements that can support farmers through a technology driven agricultural outcome besides addressing occupational risks that may emerge through proliferating weather conditions.
About the authors:
Dr. Edmond Fernandes is CEO, CHD Group.