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‘Climate change can be high risk multiplier of food insecurity’

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on August 08, 2020 Published on August 08, 2020

Climate change can affect the availability of food because of frequent floods, drought and disruption in agriculture and changes in yield, availability of arable land and water for agriculture, said Bishow Parajuli, Representative and Country Director, the World Food Programme of the UN-India.

“Climate change can act as a high risk multiplier exacerbating the drivers of food insecurity,” Parajuli said, adding, “It could lead to decreased productivity, changes in frequency and intensity of climate related hazards resulting in a humanitarian and food security crisis.”

He was addressing the session on ‘Impact of climate on food security/agriculture: Regional perspective and need for regional approach’ at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation Annual conference titled, Science for Resilient Food, Nutrition and Livelihoods: Contemporary Challenges on Saturday.

Noting that the impact of climate change is already evident in many parts of the world and in India, cyclones in Odisha and floods in Kerala are some examples of this phenomenon.

Parajuli served in 11 countries in his nearly four decade career with the United Nations. Prior to the Indian assignment, he was the Resident Coordinator of UNDP in Zimbabwe.

He said Zimbabwe, which was once surplus food producer, witnessed cyclical drought in three out of the last five years.

Sharing a World Bank estimate, Parajuli said, climate change could push 62 million people to extreme poverty by 2030.

“High reliance on climate sensitive livestock and agriculture, high incidence of food insecurity and poverty population, high sensitivity of population exposed to climate related floods, cyclones and drought are extreme vulnerabilities of climate change,” he said.

Noting that climate change is here to stay, Parajuli said, countries should learn to adapt to climate change and find ways to prepare themselves and develop early warning systems.

“In India, some of the safety net programmes like Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), Mid-day Meal scheme and POSHAN Abhiyaan are some excellent examples of safety net support to vulnerable populations but more needs to be done like micro nutrients, diversification of food etc,” the UN official said.

He also lauded professor MS Swaminathan, agricultural universities, research institutes, agri scientists and farmers for turning the country from a food deficit to surplus one.

“India has a surplus of 75-80 million tons this year alone which is a very big achievement,” Parajuli said but added that a bit of sad news is also that globally 690 million people are hungry, out of which over half the population are in Asia and a quite significant number is from India.

“The mere availability of food supply is not enough to address hunger, the crucial aspect is affordability, adequate nutritional availability and the livelihood part of it,” he added.

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Published on August 08, 2020
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