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WMO and Asian members tackle impacts of climate change on agriculture

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News and Press Release
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Originally published
Info Note No. 41

For use of the information media. Not an official record

Hanoi/Geneva, 19 December 2007 (WMO) - With climate change and drought threatening agriculture in Asia, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) met with regional members in Hanoi, Viet Nam, to promote sustainable farming practices to feed growing populations. The three-day meeting of WMO's Regional Association Asia Working Group on Agricultural Meteorology ended today.

The meeting started 17 December, the same day the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that global hunger may worsen in 2008 amid increasing food prices and reduced crop production in poor countries caused, partly, by drought and flood associated with climate change.

Of the 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events in 2006, seven were Asian (Philippines, Democratic Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Viet Nam, India, China and Afghanistan). Climate change is causing more frequent and serious droughts, floods and storms across the Asian region, something that is expected to intensify in the future.

In recent years, Afghanistan and other Central and Southwest Asia countries have suffered major droughts. Some 60 million people across the region have been affected by a severe lack of rainfall that started in the late 1990s, causing water shortages, crop failures, and, ultimately, widespread hunger.

This year, floods in China forced more than 788,000 people from their homes, caused damage estimated at more than 2.9 billion yuan (US$371 million) and affected over 300,000 hectares of crops. In Bangladesh, more than 3,000 people were killed and millions more left homeless when Cyclone Sidr hit on 15 November 2007.

WMO is the United Nations' authoritative voice on climate, weather and water. WMO has an Agricultural Meteorology Programme assisting Members with meteorological and related services for developing sustainable and economically viable agricultural systems; improving production and quality; decreasing losses, risks and costs; increasing efficiency in water use, labour and energy; conserving natural resources and decreasing pollution by agricultural chemicals or other agents.

Attending the Hanoi meeting were representatives from China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam. This Asia Working Group discussed issues critical to promoting sustainable agriculture in the region, including drought response, impacts of climate change, water resources, pest and diseases.

WMO recommends countries invest more in urban and indoor agriculture that can assist greatly in providing food for the hundreds of millions of people living in the growing cities of Asia.

"In view of the growing populations in Asia and the need for secure access to food for these populations, indoor and urban agriculture is also receiving special attention to make most efficient use of space using controlled environments," said WMO Secretary-General Mr Michel Jarraud in Geneva.

WMO also urges its Members to use agro-meteorological products more extensively to help farmers adopt sustainable farming practices, which can further enable them to adapt to changing climate conditions.

Stronger efforts to provide seasonal prediction and early warning systems are necessary, as well as monitoring systems for regional droughts, for guiding the agricultural community to make operational decisions on when, where and what crop is best to grow. Forecasts can also help in better managing the spread of pests and diseases.

Similarly, countries must make available the latest information on the impact of climate change on their agricultural and water resources sectors. Countries are encouraged to assess whether modern or traditional methods of rainwater harvesting, or a combination of both, are more suitable for their own agricultural sector.

Improving the level of awareness and understanding within government authorities responsible for promoting sustainable agriculture is also vitally important.

Modern tools are needed, such as automatic weather stations, to collect and transfer data on weather and drought and to help policy makers and rural communities increase sustainable agricultural production. Developing farm-level adaptation strategies are also essential to cope with climate change, which is of major concern to the region.

WMO is the United Nations' authoritative voice on weather, climate and water

For more information please contact:

Ms Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs, WMO. Tel: +41 0 22 730 83 15.

Mr. Paul Garwood, Press officer, Tel: +41 0 22 730 84 17.