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Currently showing: Food security

21 Oct 16 23:58

I was invited by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (The Earth Institute) at Columbia University, to present during September's Climate Week NYC 2016 on Innovative Approaches for Scaling up Climate-Smart Agriculture. 

I must confess that I had not yet come across the term Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). To me, CSA referred to Community Supported Agriculture – a.k.a. buying a farm share for a weekly delivery of fresh, organic produce from a local farm. It was good to realize that Swiss Re is already working on Climate Smart Agriculture! We were invite to the event to talk about how our index insurance solutions help extend access to insurance to rural populations that are vulnerable to weather risks.

The audience, which included
representatives from the private and public sector (government and NGOs), was
particularly interested in the technological developments and challenges behind
index insurance, and how delivery models must change in order to efficiently
reach small holder farmers. Currently the model works as follows:
satellite imagery from space will trigger rapid insurance payout based on
pre-agreed levels of rainfall, temperature and wind speed. In case of drought,
for example, the insurance pays when the earth turns a specific shade of brown.
This will either provide nomadic herders with cash to buy feed and water in
order to prevent their animals from dying – or stationary farmers with cash to
sustain their families and to buy seeds to replant for the next harvest season (see infographic).
A member of the audience raised an
interesting point based on a paper arguing that strong drought seasons due to
climate change in Syria are among the causes for the current civil conflict,
titled "Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the
recent Syrian drought (link).

According to the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Climate-smart agriculture is an integrative approach to address interlinked challenges of food security and climate change, that explicitly aims for three objectives: 
- sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, to support equitable increases in farm incomes, food security and development;
- adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change at multiple levels; and
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (including crops, livestock and fisheries).

The panel was moderated by Ms Mi Nguyen, co-Chair of the Strategic Committee, Global Alliance for CSA, and I shared the floor with:
- Mr James W. Hansen, CCAFS Flagship Leader: Climate Information Services and Climate-Informed Safety Nets – who focused on technology
- Ms Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) – who shared some achievements, challenges and opportunities, and how members of GACSA can leverage genuine partnership to scale up CSA,
- Ms Diane Holdorf, Vice-President, Kellogg Company – who explained how Kellogg is partnering with local producers, helping them organize in cooperatives, and building resilient market value chains from the ground up, and
- The Minister of Agriculture and Livestock from Costa Rica – who described Costa Rica's holistic / agro-ecological system, working to tackle inefficiencies in the agricultural sector via ecological solutions such as strong use of agricultural biomass for energy production, and improving biodiversity by training farmers on lowering the use of pesticides.

All panelists brought in different points of view and experiences. In an open-dialogue set-up, I shared Swiss Re's experience on:
- The role that insurance can play in meeting the 3 pillars of CSA
- Innovations in (index) insurance that can benefit smallholder farmers in the developing world
- Progress and challenges in scaling up agricultural insurance

 You can access the report on the event through this link.

Thank you to IRI for the invitation to such an interesting discussion!

Category: Food security

Location: New York, NY, United States


Alicia Montoya - 25 Oct 2016, 6:10 a.m.

Thanks, Paula. What fabulous work you do!

For me what really stands out is that "smallholder farmers produce about 70% of the food consumed worldwide and are the ones most vulnerable to climate change impacts". We need to help them as much as we can by bringing accessible, affordable and simple solutions that pay out fast so farmers can get back on their feet. So I love that a lot of the questions you got were around technology and tools like parametric insurance, which I believe can make a huge difference.

On the regulatory side of things, is there more we could do to protect farmers from the incentives of growing land-degrading monocultures, so as to incentivise more resilient permaculture agriculture?

Ultimately, how do we help farmers choose long term interests over short term interests?

Josephine Chennell - 25 Oct 2016, 8:28 a.m.

Thanks Paula! I also found the notion interesting that civil conflict in Syria to some degree could have been triggered by drought/food insecurity at the outset. When food and water are scarce the competition for resources will obviously create unrest, especially in highly populated areas. Another good reason to invest every effort in scaling up climate-smart agriculture, supported by smart risk financing tools like index insurance, and technical developments like the towers that can pull water from the air:

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