Bloomberg — Vulnerable countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have less than a decade to install early-warning systems and diversify the crops they produce before the growing “loss and damage” from climate change outstrips their financial ability to tackle it, a United Nations food agency official said.
While “the solutions are all out there,” which also include climate-smart agriculture and information technology to connect with people at risk, governments need to enable an environment where these can “go to scale” and be accessible, especially to the most vulnerable, said Gernot Laganda, director of climate and disaster risk reduction with the World Food Programme.
“If we fail to invest now, if it’s only in 10 years, it will be too late,” he said in an interview in Sharm El-Sheikh, site of the COP27 climate summit. “Then we will have an aid system that is going to not be able to absorb all these impacts.”
The UN last week called for an investment of some $3.1 billion by 2027 to boost preparedness for climate-related catastrophes and ensure communities in some of the world’s poorest countries receive early warnings. Floods that covered more than a third of Pakistan in 2022 have brought the issue to the fore.
An “unprecedented” lack of rainfall over five seasons has struck Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya and “keeps us awake at night because it’s operationally and financially complex to provide aid to so many people that are affected by back-to-back climate impacts without any recovery period in between,” Laganda said.
He named Africa’s Sahel region, Madagascar, Afghanistan and the so-called ‘Dry Corridor’ in Central America’s El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as other places of concern.
With global temperatures set to grow 1.5 degrees Celsius or more above pre-industrial levels, “the shocks will be of a magnitude that the governments are not used to, it’s unprecedented territory,” Laganda said. “The investment in the risk-management systems needs to happen now so that you do not have to pay a much bigger price tag later.”
The WFP, which provides food aid to millions of people caught up in political upheaval or natural disasters, is also encouraging farmers in Africa and elsewhere to vary what they produce. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “shows many countries how risky it is to have so highly concentrated food and energy systems,” Laganda said. “Diversification is a matter of survival.”
“Any government can promote this diversification by strengthening certain value chains and and welcoming new crops to the market,” he said.
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