Knowledge for Development

Study highlights food risk hotspots

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Date: 12/07/2012

Introduction:

The poorest societies may be more able to adapt to the threat climate change poses to food supplies than their slightly richer peers, a new study suggests. We might assume getting richer would always make a country safer from drought and famine, but that turns out not to be the case. Instead, the very poorest countries seem to become more vulnerable in the early stages of a transition to modern agriculture. There's a crucial period before the benefits of modernisation start to kick in, during which they are more vulnerable to problems like drought than when they started. For example, switching from pastoral farming to settled agriculture can bring benefits to local people in the long-term, once they can introduce new techniques like higher-yielding, drought-resistant crops and modern machinery. But these need investment to work, and it takes time for poor farmers to build up the necessary capital. In the meantime, most land has been parcelled up into private plots and is now crisscrossed by fences, so people can no longer respond to drought as their pastoralist ancestors would have - by simply moving their herds somewhere with more water. (NERC Planet Earth Online, 1/6/2012)

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