Climate is changing, agriculture must too


By Seniorl Anzu
Climate change and its negative impact pose much challenges on the environment, economy and population. The world’s many farmers, fishers and pastoralists are the worst affected by impending changes in the climate.
There is now much talk on climate change across various forums as food security becomes a global concern. It has become an international agenda in recent years with many Governments and international and regional organisations taking various initiatives to address this global phenomenon.
This year’s World Food Day (WFD) was coined towards climate change and agriculture. The annual commemoration was observed last Sunday with this year’s theme: Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.
The theme was appropriate in view of the impending climate challenges experienced today.
The scenario is worst in developing countries where agriculture is the mainstay. Farming communities are hit hardest by higher temperatures. Food production is being threatened by rising sea levels, cyclones and tidal waves, which are causing saline contamination of farmland and destroying food crops.
Household food security is at risk in many smallholder farming communities in PNG and other Pacific Island Countries. This is largely due to the effect of natural climate variability from the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), prevailing in the equatorial Pacific.
Food  production  in  vulnerable  parts  of  these  countries  is  frequently  being  disrupted  by  drought  conditions  interspersed  with  prolonged  periods  of  continuous  heavy  rainfall,  which  are  driven  sequentially by El Niño and La Niña events.
At the same time, the population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Feeding the growing population is a major challenge facing the world today. This poses a huge demand on agriculture which is unrelenting.
In order to mitigate those effects on household food security, farming communities need to change their traditional farming practices, food use and preparation as well as adopting strategies to diversify access to food.
The WFD provided an opportunity to share the message, with the selected theme.
A large number of activities and celebrations were organised across the global to commemorate this important day. Such events range from marathons and hunger marches to exhibitions, cultural performances and contests and concerts across some 150 countries.
While there was no official program for PNG this year, the University of Natural Resources and Environment had something for stakeholders from the New Guinea Island region.
The Morobe Agriculture Show (Oct 15-16) coincided with the WFD celebrations with the many displays and information sharing on agriculture, horticulture, livestock, fisheries, agri-business and other forms of entertainment.
WFD celebrations were held in other Pacific Islands such as Solomon Island and Tonga as well, with the latter broadcasting radio and television shows that focused on the WFD theme and how climate change is affecting the country.
The challenges in climate change with a complex manifestation in terms of its impacts on food security, agriculture and environment has been the greatest environmental challenge since recent time. El Niño-induced droughts have been the most immediate risk to PNG as a result of global climate change.
PNG, situated on the western rim of the tropical pacific, has already suffered from:

  • The effects of rising sea levels with some small island communities evacuating,
  • extremes in rainfall intensities linked to La Nina Southern Oscillation events causing floods and landslides,
  • widespread food shortage resulting from recent drought conditions,
  • threats to food and cash crop production posed by pests and diseases like the late blight on potato and leaf scab on sweet potato, and,
  • Increased incidences of malaria in the PNG highlands due to warmer temperatures.

PNG needs to develop a multidimensional strategy to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts on agriculture and food security in the country. The country requires a multi-pronged strategy in the areas of agricultural research for development, policy and resource support, and strategic and effective implementation.
In response to the threat of climate change, a series of projects have being jointly implemented and/or developed by Nari and its various international and local institutions. These projects are in the areas of early warning system, crop and genotype diversification, biotechnology targeting of pests and disease, dissemination and adaptation of drought-coping strategies, and sustainable water supply. There are a number of other targeted interventions by various authorities and development partners.
However more concerted efforts are required with appropriate arrangements. This will require “climate smart agriculture”.  This means adjusting to food production systems that can best respond to the impacts of climate change in view of the locally environmental conditions on a sustainable basis. Such a system should increase production and income, and build resilient to the impacts of climate change now and into the future.
PNG must take the initiative and urgently address the imminent impacts of climate change to safe the nation’s food and water security. The country must make a strategic investment by accepting and implementing smart agriculture as a development agenda for the well-being of the people and prosperity of the nation. – Nari