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May 19th, 2017 / Reliefweb

In a world of plenty, climate-smart seed is conspicuously scarce

The effects of climate change are highly visible around the world, and examples illustrating the challenges faced by regions abound. The Pacific is no exception – a particularly vulnerable region when it concerns the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels threaten the existence of many small island developing states (SIDS) and in particular, low lying atolls; land productivity is on the decline due to processes of accelerated erosion and poor governance, while the incidence of pests and diseases is markedly on the increase. To make things worse, farmers often do not have timely access to the right planting materials, and move to urban areas to pursue other non-agricultural livelihoods.

In an era of globalisation, it is important to contextualise these challenges, with the constraints faced in the Pacific having potential influences on other regions, and vice versa. We must refrain from thinking of the Pacific as an isolated region, and draw parallels from the experiences of farmers in the Pacific, to those in other regions where climate change continues to threaten people’s food security.

In East and Central Africa, it is estimated that an increase in temperature by just one degree Celsius increases the population of the Whitefly, which is the vector[1] that carries the Mosaic and Brown Streak viruses – threatening food security of millions of people in the Great Lakes Region – and therefore affecting the peace process of the conflict in that area. Closer to home, the 1993 outbreak of Taro Leaf Blight in the Pacific negatively affected yields of a principal food security crop and export commodity, continuing to threaten the right to food of thousands in small island communities.

The 1993 outbreak of Taro Leaf blight forced researchers to scout for local and international taro cultivars with traits of tolerance. When leaf blight eventually emerged in West Africa in 2010, national and international partners tapped into the Pacific Community’s (SPC’s) Taro Collection, making appropriate seedlings available to their stakeholders across the region as part of a global initiative to respond to these shocks.

The scale of these problems increases vulnerability of farmers who are not as adequately prepared to respond to change or shocks, let alone manage their daily food needs. Globalisation poses an additional bio-security threat, in that a pest emerging – for example in Samoa – may have dire consequences for a similar incursion across the ocean in Nigeria. Read more