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NEWS: Making food systems more resilient to climate change

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A new project aims to make sure Central America’s food systems can withstand climate shifts, as Marius Keller, from the International Institute for Sustainable DevelopmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in ... (IISD), reports

Climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... represents a daunting challenge to food securityFood security is a condition related to the ongoing availability of food. Concerns over food security have existed throughout history. There is evidence of granaries being in use over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in civilizations including Ancient China and Ancient Egypt being ... because of its magnitude and complexity. The extent and timing of future climate impacts is uncertain, and the economic, social and environmental systems that underpin food security have become globalised and highly interconnected. Vulnerable communities, governments and society need guidance on how to ensure people have sufficient food to eat in a changing climate.

This is why, with funding from CDKN, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has launched the Climate Resilience and Food Security in Central America (CREFSCA) project. In cooperation with Central American and global partners we are aiming to identify and understand the factors that influence how resilient food systems are to climate shocks and stresses. We plan to develop practical indicatorsbaseline, monetary indicators so communities and governments can monitor such factors, and develop actions and policies to increase resilienceThe ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions ....

While past studies have focused heavily on the climate risksAll risks associated with the impacts of global warming, such as rising sea levels and unusual rain patterns and additional risks to infrastructure due to climate change.Critical human impacts of climate change arise through impacts on human habitat (for example, desertification, temperature ... facing agricultural production, and corresponding responses by farmers, we aim to take a broader view and look at the vulnerabilityVulnerability. Refers to the magnitude of harm that would result from a particular hazardous event. The concept recognises, for example, that different sub-types of a receptor may differ in their sensitivity to a particular level of hazard. Therefore climate vulnerability defines the extent to ... of all dimensions of food security. For example, the ability of people to digest food can be affected when heavy rainfalls lead to increased prevalence of diarrhea. Communities may be unable to access food when landslides cut off access roads or when hurricanes destroy livelihoodsSustainable livelihood includes job opportunities that are of a non-invasive type, and exclude extensive felling, heavy fishery, mono-cultures and other activities than permanently harm the environment; it also includes an lifestyle that takes care of any gives assets, such as fresh water or .... The combination and interplay of such impacts causes entrenched food insecuritysee food security.

Analysing food production systems in detail will help us identify ways to increase resilience at appropriate scales. For example, where climate extremes affect the food security of women disproportionately more than that of men, gender-specific development interventions may be warranted. Communities may find they are too dependent on one type of livelihoodSustainable livelihood includes job opportunities that are of a non-invasive type, and exclude extensive felling, heavy fishery, mono-cultures and other activities than permanently harm the environment; it also includes an lifestyle that takes care of any gives assets, such as fresh water or ... and diversify to reduce risk. Governments might prioritise improving vulnerable storage and transport networks, or health services, to increase people’s ability to cope in adverse circumstances.

The CREFSCA project will work with 30 pilot communities in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It will analyse the vulnerability of the food systems they depend on and develop a set of locally relevant resilience indicators to help them increase awareness and guide action. This process will be mirrored by close engagement with national policy makers so that they can put in place appropriate supporting policies. The project team will develop guidance tools for use by communities and at the national level; this will allow decision-makers and development practitioners to apply similar processes elsewhere.

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