In the crosshairs of hunger and climate change: New ILRI-CCAFS study maps the global hotspots

Please find a corrected and revised statement below, along with a link to download revised maps here: All edits to the original article posted on this blog are reflected in RED and BOLDFACE below.

Five per cent reduction in crop season sensitivity to change capacity to cope: Corrected version

Five per cent reduction in crop season sensitivity to change capacity to cope: Corrected 13 Jul 2011 (map credit ILRI/CCAFS/Notenbaert).

A new study out today reveals future ‘hotspots’ of risk for hundreds of millions whose food problems are on a collision course with climate change. The scientists conducting the study warn that disaster looms for parts of Africa and all of India if chronic food insecurity converges with crop-wilting weather. They went on to say that Latin America is also vulnerable.

The red areas in the map above are food-insecure and intensively farmed regions that are highly exposed to a potential five per cent or greater reduction in the length of the growing season. Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for 369 million people—many of them smallholder farmers—already living on the edge. This category includes almost all of India and significant parts of West Africa. While Latin America in general is viewed as having a ‘high capacity’ to cope with such shifts, there are millions of poor people living in this region who very dependent on local crop production to meet their nutritional needs (map credit: ILRI-CCAFS/Notenbaert).

This study matches future climate change ‘hotspots’ with regions already suffering chronic food problems to identify highly-vulnerable populations, chiefly in Africa and South Asia, but potentially in China and Latin America as well, where in fewer than 40 years, the prospect of shorter, hotter or drier growing seasons could imperil hundreds of millions of already-impoverished people.

The report, Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics, was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The work was led by a team of scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) responding to an urgent need to focus climate change adaptation efforts on people and places where the potential for harsher growing conditions poses the gravest threat to food production and food security.

The researchers pinpointed areas of intense vulnerability by examining a variety of climate models and indicators of food problems to create a series of detailed maps. One shows regions around the world at risk of crossing certain ‘climate thresholds’—such as temperatures too hot for maize or beans—that over the next 40 years could diminish food production. Another shows regions that may be sensitive to such climate shifts because in general they have large areas of land devoted to crop and livestock production. And finally, scientists produced maps of regions with a long history of food insecurity.

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen, lead author of the hotspots study (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘When you put these maps together they reveal places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous,’ said Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at ILRI, in Nairobi, Kenya and the study’s lead author. ‘These are areas highly exposed to climate shifts, where survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields, and where chronic food problems indicate that farmers are already struggling and they lack the capacity to adapt to new weather patterns.’

‘This is a very troubling combination,’ she added.

For example, in large parts of South Asia, including almost all of India, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa—chiefly West Africa—there are 265 million food-insecure people living in agriculture-intensive areas that are highly exposed to a potential five per cent decrease in the length of the growing period. Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for people—many of them farmers themselves—already living on the edge.

Higher temperatures also could exact a heavy toll. Today, there are 170 million food-insecure and crop-dependent people in parts of West Africa, India and China who live in areas where, by the mid-2050s, maximum daily temperatures during the growing season could exceed 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). This is close to the maximum temperature that beans can tolerate, while maize and rice yields may suffer when temperatures exceed this level. For example, a study last year in Nature found that even with optimal amounts of rain, African maize yields could decline by one percent for each day spent above 30ºC.

Regional predictions for shifts in temperatures and precipitation going out to 2050 were developed by analyzing the outputs of climate models rooted in the extensive data amassed by the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Researchers identified populations as chronically food-insecure if more than 40 per cent of children under the age of five were ‘stunted’—that is, they fall well below the World Health Organization’s height-for-age standards.

CCAFS poverty and climate change hotspots presentation: Wiebke Foerch and Patti Kristjanson of CCAFS

CCAFS staff members Wiebke Foerch, based at ILRI, and Patti Kristjanson, based at the World Agroforestry Centre, hold discussions after ILRI’s Polly Ericksen presents her findings on poverty and climate change hotspots at the World Agroforestry Centre in May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty, but only if we fail to pursue appropriate adaptation strategies,’ said Patti Kristjanson, a research theme leader at CCAFS and former agricultural economist at ILRI. ‘Farmers already adapt to variable weather patterns by changing their planting schedules or moving animals to different grazing areas. What this study suggests is that the speed of climate shifts and the magnitude of the changes required to adapt could be much greater. In some places, farmers might need to consider entirely new crops or new farming systems.’

Crop breeders at CGIAR centres around the world already are focused on developing so-called ‘climate ready’ crop varieties able to produce high yields in more stressful conditions. For some regions, however, that might not be a viable option—in parts of East and Southern Africa, for example, temperatures may become too hot to maintain maize as the staple crop, requiring a shift to other food crops, such as sorghum or cassava, to meet nutrition needs. In addition, farmers who now focus mainly on crop cultivation might need to integrate livestock and agroforestry as a way to maintain and increase food production.

CCAFS Bruce Campbell following Andy Jarvis' seminar on CCAFS

Bruce Campbell, coordinator of the CGIAR program ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)’, based in Copenhagen, talks with guests at a seminar given about CCAFS by Andy Jarvis at ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 13 May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘International trade in agriculture commodities is also likely to assume even more importance for all regions as climate change intensifies the existing limits of national agriculture systems to satisfy domestic food needs,’ said Bruce Campbell, director of CCAFS. ‘We have already seen with the food price spikes of 2008 and 2010 that food security is an international phenomenon and climate change is almost certainly going to intensify that interdependence.’

Ericksen and her colleagues note that regions of concern extend beyond those found to be most at risk. For example, in many parts of Latin America, food security is relatively stable at the moment—suggesting that a certain amount of ‘coping capacity’ could be available to deal with future climate stresses that affect agriculture production. Yet there is cause for concern because millions of people in the region are highly dependent on local agricultural production to meet their food needs and they are living in the very crosshairs of climate change.

The researchers found, for example, that by 2050, prime growing conditions are likely to drop below 120 days per season in intensively-farmed regions of northeast Brazil and Mexico.

Growing seasons of at least 120 days are considered critical not only for the maturation of maize and several other staple food crops, but also for vegetation crucial to feeding livestock.

In addition, parts of Latin America are likely to experience temperatures too hot for bean production, a major food staple in the region.

Mario Herrero, Polly Ericksen and Wiebke Foerch prepare to listen to Andy Jarvis' seminar on CCAFS

Mario Herrero, another ILRI author of the study, with climate Polly Ericksen and CCAFS staff member Wiebke Forech, all based at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, wait to hear a presentation from visiting CCAFS scientist Andy Jarvis at ILRI on 13 May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

The study also shows that some areas today have a ‘low sensitivity’ to the effects of climate change only because there is not a lot of land devoted to crop and livestock production. But agriculture intensification would render them more vulnerable, adding a wrinkle, for example, to the massive effort under way to rapidly expand crop cultivation in the so-called ‘bread-basket’ areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Philip Thornton at Andy Jarvis' CCAFS Seminar

Philip Thornton (white shirt, facing camera), of ILRI and CCAFS, and other ILRI staff following a seminar on CCAFS given by Andy Jarvis at ILRI Nairobi on 13 May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘Evidence suggests that these specific regions in the tropics may be severely affected by 2050 in terms of their crop production and livestock capacity. The window of opportunity to develop innovative solutions that can effectively overcome these challenges is limited,’ said Philip Thornton, a CCAFS research theme leader and ILRI scientist and one of the paper’s co-authors. ‘Major adaptation efforts are needed now if we are to avoid serious food security and livelihood problems later.’
Five per cent reduction in crop season sensitivity to change capacity to cope: Corrected version

Areas where average maximum temperatures are expected to exceed 30⁰C by 2050, corrected version (map credit: ILRI-CCAFS/Notenbaert).

Read the whole report: Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics, by Polly Ericksen, Philip Thornton, An Notenbaert, L Cramer, Peter Jones and Mario Herrero 2011. CCAFS Report no. 5 (final version). CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Copenhagen, Denmark. Also available online at:

Click here for the CCAFS online media room with more materials, including corrected versions of the news release in English, Spanish, French and Chinese, and also versions of the two maps shown here in high resolution suitable for print media.

All the maps will be made available online later this year; for more information on the maps, please contact ILRI’s Polly Ericksen at p.ericksen [at] or CCAFS’ Vanessa Meadu at ccafs.comms [at]

Note: This study was led by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS is a strategic partnership of the CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security. The CGIAR’s Lead Centre for the program is the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia. For more information, visit

Scientists warn of farm failures and climate migrants in Africa in a 4-plus degree world

Maize farming in Mozambique

Smallholder maize and livestock farm in Pacassa Village, in Tete Province, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

As climate change negotiations begin this week in Mexico, a new study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A, examining the potential impact of a four-degree temperature increase on food production in sub-Saharan Africa, reports that growing seasons of much of the region’s cropped areas and rangelands will be reduced in length by the 2090s, seriously damaging the ability of these lands to grow food.

Painting a bleak picture of Africa’s food production in a 'four-plus degree world,' the study sends a strong message to climate negotiators at a time when they are trying to reach international consensus on measures needed to keep average global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Centigrade in this century. The study calls for concerted efforts to help farmers cope with potentially unmanageable impacts of climate change.

In most of southern Africa, growing seasons could be shortened by about 20 per cent, according to the results of simulations carried out using various climate models. Growing seasons may actually expand modestly in eastern Africa. But despite this, for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, a temperature increase of five degrees by the 2090s is expected to depress maize production by 24 per cent and bean production by over 70 per cent.

'Africa’s rural people have shown a remarkable capacity to adapt to climate variability over the centuries,' said lead author Philip Thornton, with the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which forms part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). 'But temperature increases of four degrees or more could create unprecedented conditions in dozens of African countries, pushing farmers beyond the limits of their knowledge and experience.' 

It seems unlikely that international climate policies will succeed in confining global warming to a two-degree increase, and even this will require unprecedented political will and collective action, according to the study.

Many options are already available that could help farmers adapt even to medium levels of warming, assuming substantial investment in new technology, institution building, and infrastructure development, for example. But it is quite possible that the adaptive capacity and resilience of hundreds of millions of people in Africa could simply be overwhelmed by events, say the authors.

The rate of cropping season failure will increase in all parts of the region except Central Africa, according to study results. Over a substantial part of eastern Africa, crops already fail in one out of every four years. By the 2090s, higher temperatures will greatly expand the area where crops fail with this frequency. And much of southern Africa’s rainfed agriculture could fail every other season.

'More frequent crop failures could unleash waves of climate migrants in a massive redistribution of hungry people,' said Thornton. 'Without radical shifts in crop and livestock management and agricultural policies, farming in Africa could exceed key physical and socio-economic thresholds where the measures available cease to be adequate for achieving food security or can’t be implemented because of policy failures.'

'This is a grim prospect for a region where agriculture is still a mainstay of the economy, occupying 60 per cent of the work force,' said Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI. 'Achieving food security and reducing poverty in Africa will require unprecedented efforts, building on 40 years of modest but important successes in improving crop and livestock production.'

To help guide such efforts, the new study takes a hard look at the potential of Africa’s agriculture for adapting successfully to high temperatures in the coming decades; the study also looks at the constraints to doing so.

Buffering the impacts of high temperatures on livestock production will require stronger support for traditional strategies, such as changing species or breeds of animals kept, as well as for novel approaches such as insurance schemes whose payouts are triggered by events like erratic rainfall or high animal death rates, according to the study.

However, Thornton says that uncertainty about the specific impacts of climate change at the local level, and Africa’s weak, poorly resourced rural institutions, hurt African farmers' ability to adopt such practices fast enough to lessen production losses. Moreover, governments may not respond to the policy challenges appropriately, as demonstrated by the 2008 food crisis, when many countries adopted measures like export bans and import tariffs, which actually worsened the plight of poor consumers.

The study recommends four actions to take now to reduce the ways climate change could harm African food security.

1.     In areas where adverse climate change impacts are inevitable, identify appropriate adaptation measures and pro-actively help communities to implement them.

2.     Go 'back to basics' in collecting data and information. Land-based observation and data-collection systems in Africa have been in decline for decades. Yet information on weather, land use, markets, and crop and livestock distributions is critical for responding effectively to climate change. Africa’s data-collection systems could be improved with relatively modest additional effort.

3.     Ramp up efforts to maintain and use global stocks of crop and livestock genetic resources to help Africa’s crop and livestock producers adapt to climate change as well as to the shifts in disease prevalence and severity that such change may bring.

4.     Build on lessons learned in the global food price crisis of 2007–2008 to help address the social, economic and political factors behind food insecurity.

The CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership recently embarked on the most comprehensive program developed so far to address both the new threats and new opportunities that global warming is likely to cause agriculture in the world’s developing countries. The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security program assembles relevant experts to work with decision makers at all levels—from government ministries to farmers’ fields—to translate knowledge into effective action.

The ILRI study underlines the urgency and importance of that research. It will inform the discussions of some 500 policy makers, farmers, scientists and development experts expected to attend an ‘Agriculture and Rural Development Day’, on 4 December, which will be held alongside a two-week United Nations Conference on Climate Change taking place in Cancún, Mexico. Participants at the one-day event will identify agricultural development options for coping with climate change and work to move this key sector to the forefront of the international climate debate.

'A four-plus degree world will be one of rapidly diminishing options for farmers and other rural people,' said Seré. 'We need to know where the points of no return lie and what measures will be needed to create new options for farmers, who otherwise may be driven beyond their capacity to cope.'

For more information on the program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, visit

New partnership launched to keep climate change from crippling food production in Africa and Asia

Fishermen and goats at the Niger River

In much of sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, people rely on both crops and animals for their livelihoods; to cope with a warmer and more variable climate, these farmers will need crop varieties and livestock breeds that can withstand droughts and floods and new diseases; where cropping becomes risky, people will rely more on their livestock than on their crops to feed themselves and make a living; on drying rangelands, many people will switch from cattle- and sheep-keeping to goats and camels, which can remain productive where there is scarce feed and water (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

A new research program on 'Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security' (CCAFS) was launched this week.

It will link much of the best climate-related agricultural research for development work going on at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and 14 other centres in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) with the best global environmental change research being undertaken within the global Earth System Science Partnership.

ILRI is a key partner in this initiative, hosting the new program’s facilitator for the East Africa region, James Kinyangi. ILRI is also home to two CCAFS scientists-–Philip Thornton, who leads the ‘Integrating Knowledge for Decision Making’ theme at CCAFS, and Wiebke Foerch, an agricultural and social scientist working on food security, vulnerability and resilience of smallholders to global change. In addition, Mario Herrero, who leads ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Futures research area, has been instrumental in supporting CCAFS as it makes the challenging transition from a CGIAR Challenge Program as originally envisioned, to this innovative and large new research program of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres.

This new program is the most comprehensive to date seeking to ensure that food security is not crippled by climate change. The leaders of the new program say that urgent action is needed to help poor people adapt to climate shifts that have ominous implications for Africa and Asia.

Amidst growing alarm that climate change could deal a catastrophic blow to food security in poor countries, a partnership of the world’s premiere experts on agriculture, climate, and the environment today announced an intensive global response to confront the impacts of shifting weather patterns on crop and livestock production and their dire consequences for food security.

By 2020, the effort aims to reduce poverty by 10 per cent in the targeted regions; reduce the number of rural poor who are malnourished by 25 per cent; and help farmers in developing countries contribute to climate change mitigation by either enhancing storage or reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to 1,000 million tons over a decade, compared with a 'business-as-usual' scenario.

The CCAFS program will be formally launched on 4 December at Agriculture and Rural Development Day at a United Nations climate change meeting. It is the most comprehensive effort undertaken thus far to address the interactions between climate change and food security, livelihoods and environmental management. Emerging from new collaboration between the CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP), the program brings together strategic research carried out by the CGIAR, ESSP and their respective partners in a collective effort to be coordinated by the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

The launch of CCAFS marks the beginning of a long-term endeavor with an initial 3-year budget totaling US$206 million. By building on current research for development and funding and by attracting new scientific collaboration and financial support, the program will go far toward its goal of achieving sustainable food security in the face of climate change.

Research finds that stressed agriculture systems in Africa are highly vulnerable, with studies predicting climate shifts could dramatically reduce crop yields and incomes with smallholder farmers in struggling developing countries bearing the brunt of the impact. In Asia, there are studies warning of changes in monsoon, glacier and snowmelt in areas already facing stiff competition for water resources. In Asia’s populated and intensely-farmed coastal zones, rising sea levels threaten the viability of fertile croplands.

CCAFS partners will identify and test climate change adaptation and mitigation practices, technologies, and policies that are suitable for poor, smallholder farmers and other stakeholders affected by climate change.

They will also identify 'hot spots' where intervention is urgent and conduct vulnerability assessments. In addition, they will refine models that predict the impacts of a changing climate on agriculture and livelihoods, and identify ways to select crop varieties and livestock breeds with essential traits and novel farming and food systems suitable for future climate conditions.

Partners will further help farmers deal with changes in plant, pest and disease pressures, which are particularly likely in areas where temperatures are rising, and—in collaboration with other critical actors in the food system—they will conduct research on adaptation and mitigation policies that can enhance food security.

Much of the work on the ground will begin in 2011 with an initial focus on East and West Africa and the agricultural regions of south Asia known as the Indo-Gangetic Plain.

Early 'wins' include securing a major role for agriculture in the post-2012 international climate change regime and establishing a global network of data collection sites that can help identify options for adapting to climate change.

To be held alongside the United Nations Conference on Climate Change taking place in Cancún, Mexico, Agriculture and Rural Development Day will convene some 500 policymakers, farmers, scientists and development experts who will seek to identify climate change solutions in agriculture and move this key sector to the forefront of international climate debate.

LE PAGE: 'Farmers have shown a remarkable ability over the centuries to adapt to climate uncertainty, but rapidly rising temperatures and associated unpredictable weather could push more vulnerable small farmers beyond their current ability to cope with the coming changes in crop cycles and in disease, insect and weed pressures,' said Lloyd Le Page, chief executive officer of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres. 'That’s why we’re bringing together the world’s best scientists, and finding new ways for them to work together with farmers and decision-makers to deliver innovation and knowledge that will help solve these challenges.'

ANDERSEN: 'This new collaborative program represents a bold and innovative response to the challenge of adapting agriculture to climate change and variability while realizing the opportunities open to farmers for mitigating global warming,” said Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Chair and Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. 'It goes far beyond current activities, marking a new phase in our efforts to cope with climate change in agriculture through cutting- edge collaborative science.'

CAMPBELL: 'The CGIAR centers have always worked to help farmers in poor countries cope with challenging conditions by providing drought-tolerant crops or better soil and water management strategies,' said Bruce Campbell, CCAFS Director. 'But climate change threatens to alter growing conditions so rapidly and dramatically as to require an intensive effort that draws on the combined talents of all of our centers and partners. We want to bring a sense of urgency to finding and implementing solutions and attracting more support for this effort.'

LEEMANS: 'The collaboration between the CGIAR scientists and the ESSP scholars is unique in bringing together two different and separate but highly skilled research communities that cover basic and applied research on development, sustainability and environmental change,' said Rik Leemans, chair of the scientific steering committee of the ESSP. 'Sharing and joining our resources will unquestionably result in innovative ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change and simultaneously provide successful incentives to advance development.'

Listen to a news conference with the leaders of the CCAFS program.

Visit the CCAFS website and blog.

The program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science, and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security. For more information, visit

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development with the funders of this work. The funders include developing and industrialized country governments, foundations, and international and regional organizations. The work they support is carried out by 15 members of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. –

The Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) was established in 2001 to promote cooperation for the integrated study of the Earth system, the changes that are occurring to the system and the implications of these changes for global sustainability. Brings together global environmental change researchers worldwide, the ESSP comprises four international global environmental change research programmes: DIVERSITAS, specialising in biodiversity and agro- biodiversity; the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), specialising in institutional, socioeconomic and human security issues related to global environmental change and the policies to address it; the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP), specializing in the physical, chemical and biological processes that define Earth system dynamics; and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), specializing in climate science.

Climate experts gather in Nairobi to seek ‘transformative’ solutions for feeding a growing and warming world

Achim Steiner making his introductory remarks at the CCAFS conference

The livelihoods of many of the world’s rural poor are increasingly threatened by climate change. Most of these livelihoods are dependent on farming, fishing and forests. Climate change will affect and worsen the living conditions of people who are already vulnerable and food insecure, especially in developing countries. In the face of what seems an inevitable change, scientists are looking for solutions that will help poor smallholder farmers adapt their agricultural practices to cope with, and mitigate, climate change.

Through a new Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) initiative, a consortium of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is seeking innovative approaches to address the emerging threats to global agriculture and food security. CCAFS is a 10-year initiative launched by the CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). CCAFS works to diagnose and analyse threats to agriculture and food security, to provide evidence for development of climate change policies and to identify and develop pro-poor adaptation and mitigation practices that will benefit poor farmers and urbanites alike.

In a CCAFS workshop held at the World Agroforesty Centre (ICRAF), in Nairobi, Kenya, on 4 May 2010, scientists and researchers held discussions on ways of ‘building food security in the face of climate change’. Among the key challenges to food security identified by the participants were: lack of a platform by which developing countries could share their experiences in dealing with climate change; weaknesses in presenting lessons from climate change impacts on farming; and inability to implement policies to address climatic risks to developing-country agriculture because of widespread poverty, limited human capital, and poor governance in many poor countries.

According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), ‘Agriculture needs to be understood within the greater context of livelihood sustainability’. Steiner believes the threat of climate change offers opportunities for agricultural development if new innovative ways of enhancing agriculture are explored. For example, agricultural practices that help communities reduce carbon emissions should be considered. ‘If we can demonstrate that a farming or production system reduces emissions, communities could be paid to develop it for expansion to solve two challenges at the same time. ‘The future of agriculture is not just in increasing production,’ the UNEP head said, ‘but in having working systems that protect the planet and that benefit those who engage in practices that protect the planet and livelihoods of the poor.

Thomas Rosswall, who chairs the CCAFS Steering Committee, noted that the ‘big disconnect [in addressing agricultural production] has been because development and global change have been addressed, researched and funded as unrelated issues’. He said ‘the approach to research needs to change so that it can link the local experiences to global needs while working with the poor to improve agricultural productivity.

Participants of the meeting agreed that ‘transformative solutions’ are needed to address agricultural challenges in the world. These solutions, they agreed, need to work with, not against, nature and they need to address conflicts of interest among farmers, countries and markets. Researchers, they said, need to focus on plant breeding and improving soil fertility. And regional decision-makers need to integrate development and climate-based polices and strategies between countries. In many countries, agricultural productivity is already being linked to climate change. In Africa, for example, an African Bio-Carbon Initiative is working to reduce the impacts of climate change on the continent’s farmers while increasing and sustaining their agricultural production. In India, environmental studies show that climate change is creating opportunities for farmers to increase their vegetable production, and thus their incomes.

According to David Radcliffe, of the European Commission, the CCAFS initiative will build understanding of the problems climate change is causing smallholder tropical farmers and will provide evidence for policies that can reduce these problems. CCAFS will focus on climate hotspots. It will pilot methods to help farmers both adapt to climate change and reduce their production of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. Both adaptation and mitigation methods, Radcliffe said, will be needed to feed the world’s growing population while using fewer resources.