Climate change is driving millions of people into hunger. On World Food Day, we’re highlighting simple solutions that give communities sustainable access to food – and hope.
By: Meril Cullinan,
Senior Communications Officer,
Action Against Hunger
Around the world, there are as many as 811 million people suffering from hunger. Sadly, due to COVID-19, conflict, and climate change, this figure threatens to grow even larger.
With extreme weather events increasing each year in frequency and severity, climate change is creating a real crisis for countless families around the world. Drought, floods, fires, heatwaves, and other climate shocks are driving people from their homes, destroying livelihoods, and pushing communities deeper into hunger and poverty. Climate change also has a dramatic impact on farming and food production and, if we do not act, it will make food less available and less nutritious.
While we all feel the impacts of changing weather patterns, it is the world’s poorest people - who have done the least to cause climate change - who are most vulnerable to climate shocks.
There is no doubt about it: the road ahead will be a difficult one: governments, businesses, and individuals must step up quickly to dramatically curb harmful greenhouse emissions. At the same time, here’s a piece of good news: we have the knowledge and tools to support families who are struggling now. This is not the time to lose hope in the fight against hunger – despite the immense challenges that humanity faces there are solutions to help communities adapt and build resiliency to extreme weather patterns and disasters, while finding sustainable sources of healthy food.
On World Food Day, here are a few of the many ways that we’re partnering with communities to tackle the climate and hunger crisis:
TEACHING CLIMATE-SMART GROWING TECHNIQUES
From Pakistan to Somalia to Cameroon, Action Against Hunger has established Farmer Field Schools. Our agriculture experts teach farmers climate-smart growing techniques, introduce nutritious, resilient crops, and provide practice plots for people to test what they’ve learned. When participants are ready, they take supplies and new skills home to their own land.
HELPING HERDERS NAVIGATE DROUGHT
In the Sahel region of West Africa, livestock accounts for 40 percent of the agricultural GDP, but climate shocks make decent pasture harder to find. To solve this problem, we created the Pastoral Early Warning System, an innovative system of real-time alerts that help herders find better grazing land.
Our system uses satellite imagery of biomass and water, which we combine with mobile surveys of people on the ground who share market prices, trends in animal diseases, and reports of bushfires. Using artificial intelligence, we then analyze the data and send alerts to approximately 100,000 herders via radio, text, and community bulletins.
IMPROVING SOIL QUALITY
Climate shocks, such as prolonged and severe droughts, can impact the quality of soil – ultimately causing lower harvest yields and less nutritious foods. We’re working with farmers to revitalize the earth and create healthier soil where crops can thrive.
In Pakistan, for example, we’re introducing crops like sugar beets, which can help reduce saline levels in soil – a consequence of drought and rising tides. Around the world, our teams are also working with farmers to teach practices that encourage more fertile fields, such as composting.
GROWING CROPS WITH LESS WATER
Even when rainfall is limited, it’s possible for gardens to flourish and provide enough yield to feed families and livestock. By teaching innovative growing techniques – including hydroponics and vertical gardens – our teams are helping farmers grow crops with less water.
ESTABLISHING LOCALLY-LED FARMER COOPERATIVES
Tackling climate change is a team effort. To foster collaboration and learning, Action Against Hunger creates and supports farmers’ cooperatives. Some of these groups come together to collectively rent land for farming, while others share lessons learned with each other. In Uganda, many farmers’ groups are negotiating fair prices for supplies and creating local demand for nutritious crops like mushrooms.
HARNESSING THE POWER OF THE SUN
During a drought or a heatwave, the sun beats down on rural communities. So, with the help of solar power, we’re putting that sunshine to good use. Now, across many of the countries where we work, the sun helps to fuel everything from water pumps to portable irrigation systems.
OPTIMIZING LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Around the world, Action Against Hunger uses agroecological principles to sustainably improve food security in vulnerable communities. What exactly does that mean? Agroecology is an environmentally-friendly approach that helps people make the most of their local natural resources – including land, water, soil, and seeds - to grow nutritious foods, diversify their crops, and build up markets.
PROVIDING A HELPING HAND IN TOUGH TIMES
Our programs aim to help communities to build their resilience to shocks – but, sometimes, a shock is too severe or sudden for people to cope. That’s why our teams also provide cash transfers in emergencies. For a family displaced by floods, money is often the fastest and most flexible way to help them find food, a place to stay, medicine, and other basic things they need to survive.
MAKING FOOD LAST THROUGH LEAN SEASONS
Each year, many rural communities prepare to face the “hunger season,” or the period between harvests when food supplies run out. Climate change has exacerbated hunger seasons: prolonged droughts and other severe shocks have made hunger seasons longer and more unpredictable. To support families, we’re helping them make their crops last longer with drying and storage tools.
INVESTING IN WOMEN’S FUTURES
The United Nations estimates that about 80 percent of the world’s climate refugees – people displaced by floods or other climate-related shocks – are women. In many communities where traditional gender roles pervade, the responsibilities for gathering water, food, fuel, and for caring for children primarily fall on women. All of these activities will be made more difficult as the planet continues to warm.
That’s why we’re working with women, particularly mothers and grandmothers, to help them earn more income and save for their futures. Through our savings and loans groups, women pool their resources and can borrow to invest in a new business or to cope in an emergency.