Thursday, 15 September 2011 9:07 AM

Climate Change Threatens to Increase Hunger in the Pacific - ADB Report

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Climate change threatens to increase hunger and malnutrition among the Pacific region's poorest people unless there is action soon, says a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The region is already experiencing the harsh effects of climate change, including worsening coastal erosion, floods, drought, and storm surges. These are reducing crop production for both commercial and subsistence farmers, according to Food Security and Climate Change in the Pacific: Rethinking the Options.

"Rising temperatures and rising tides due to climate change could reduce food supply in the Pacific. With over 10 million people in developing countries in the region, this is a threat that we cannot ignore," said Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, a senior economist in ADB's Pacific Department, who wrote the report.

The report urges Pacific nations to increase local food production, particularly of climate-resistant crops such as taro, yam, and cassava. New crops, crop varieties, or technologies could be adopted to help farmers improve their traditional production systems. Carefully managing coastal fisheries and helping them withstand climate change will also be crucial.

Agricultural productivity has stagnated in the last 45 years despite the region's growing population. A steady flow of people from the countryside seeking better work in the cities has contributed to that. This has left Pacific nations increasingly dependent on imported food, particularly in urban areas.

There should also be increased investment in agricultural research and development as well as training in areas such as plant breeding and resource management.

"Communities need to work together to find the best way to adapt to changing agricultural needs and countries should also work with each other and with regional agencies," said Mr. Ahmed.

The report says all national planning and policies should take climate change into account and infrastructure such as water pipes, roads, ports and coastal development needs to be climate proofed. This will increase regional connectivity, production and, ultimately, food security.