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close this bookGATE - 2/87 - IYSH International Year of Shelter for the Homeless - 1987 (GTZ GATE, 1987, 44 p.)
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International scene

Climate Variability and Food Security in Developing Countries

Report on an International Workshop

by Wilfried Bach

While some technological advances have resulted in dramatic increases in food production, farmers everywhere are nevertheless still at risk from drought, floods and other hazardous weather conditions. Therefore, our ability to predict weather and climate must not only be constantly improved, but- and this emerged as the main recommendation of the symposium -the information already available must be communicated to the farmer in a timely and effective manner.

Technological advances in food production include, among others, soil and water conservation, land use management to increase food and fodder production, contingent crop planting to smooth out the vagaries of weather, and cropping systems that match the water supply. It was noted that, unfortunately, transfer and adoption of these technologies is still slow. For example, to assure contingent crop planting at the farm level alternate seed stocks have yet to be provided.

Agroclimatic information, improved crop varieties and better cu1tivation practices could significantly augment crop yields. In sub-humid and humid regions mulch farming, no-till, alley farming and agroforestry can mitigate adverse effects of erratic or low rainfall during the growing season and of low soil fertility. In semiarid and arid regions mixed cropping, mulch farming, the tied-ridge system for moisture conservation, timely sowing and early maturing varieties would all be conducive to high yield.

Climatic constraints, such as droughts, floods, extremes of heat and cold etc. remain a major cause of considerable year-to-year variation in crop production. While these cannot be excluded, a number of precautionary measures can be taken to alleviate their impacts. These include:

1. Scientific scheduling of irrigation, making use of current weather data and remotely sensed observations with the purpose of determining the degree of water-stress experienced by the crop.

2. Windbreaks to protect crops from mechanical damage and from desiccation of hot dry winds.

3. Farming systems other than shifting cultivation and monoculture, such as intercropping, double cropping, relay cropping (and variations of these) that make efficient use of sunlight, soil moisture and fertilizer.

4. Plant breeding to alter the "architecture" (i. e. the arrangement of stems, leaves and fruit) to better adjust the crop to its environmental conditions.

5. Integrated pest management, allowing for reduced reliance on chemicals and increased reliance on natural predators to keep pests under control through improvements in understanding the ways in which disease and insect outbreaks are influenced by weather and climate.

6. Maintenance of soil productivity through composting, mulching and agroforestry.

With the lack of information delivery systems, extension services, and the necessary financial resources, the transfer and implementation of these and other proven technologies to Third-World countries remains seriously hampered. One of the most serious problems is soil degradation. It would therefore be important to develop research-based criteria and to derive threshold levels of soil and climatic variables to quantify the severity and trend of soil deterioration. Restoration of the productivity of degraded and eroded soil deserves the highest priority.

Troublesome developments

There is a growing realization that man can perturb the natural climate through fossil fuel combustion, synthetic chemicals production, biomass burning, as well as forest and soil destruction. There is a growing scientific consensus that his will lead to an unprecedented climatic change within the next decades with potentially far-reaching impacts on ecosystems, food production, water resources, sea level etc. The challenge to climatologists and agronomists is to plan anticipatory action which will help farmers and government officials to cope with the impacts.

Some of the disturbing developments include:

1. Trace gases other than CO2, such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFC 11 and CFC 12), and ozone (O3), amplify the greenhouse effect of CO2.

2. So far some 40 additional greenhouse gases (GHG) have been identified. The list is growing; here mankind is planting a chemical/climatological time bomb.

3. The greenhouse effect of the other GHG is at present aImost as great as that of CO2 alone.

4. Should present trends continue, the combined effects could reach the equivalent of double the preindustrial CO2 (ca. 550 ppm) as early as the first half of the next century.

5. Climate model calculations show that this could lead to a mean global temperature increase of between 1.5 and 4.5°C, with values two to three times higher toward the poles.

6. The other GHG will increase in importance relative to CO2, because of

- their greater growth rates

- their longer residence times in the atmosphere, and

- their greater absorption efficiencies (e. g. on a molecule per molecule basis, the release of one CFC molecule has the same surface heating effect as the addition of 10,000 CO2 molecules).

7. The present warming (the signal) is disguised by the natural variation of climate (the noise). The large heat capacity of the ocean is responsible for this concealment.

8. The oceanic concealment means that

- a certain degree of future warming is inevitable due to man's past actions.


Low-Pollution products now carry this emblem in the Federal Republic of Germany.

- a man-made climatic change cannot be shown unequivocally perhaps for another decade or two,

- by then valuable time needed to initiate precautionary action will have been wasted.

9. The climatic change problems are closely linked to other important environmental issues such
as:

- forest and soil destruction in the tropics

- forest dieback in mid- and northern latitudes, and

- destruction of the earth's ozone shield.

What are the anticipated climatic changes and impacts and what precautionary measures should be taken?

Anticipated climatic changes during the next decades

1. Mean global equivalent temperature increase (i. e. CO2 plus other trace gases) by 2 to 5°C, with about 2°C at low latitudes and up to 8 - 1 0°C at high latitudes.

2. Probably a lower frequency and intensity of low temperature extremes, but higher maximum temperatures.

3. Increase in global average precipitation, probably matched by an increase in global average evaporation (assuming constant relative humidity).

4. Regional changes in precipitation (but they cannot yet be simulated well by the climatic models).

5. Increase in evaporation from all soil and water surfaces, and a probable increase in evapotranspiration from leaf surfaces.

6. Changes in the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts.

7. More frequent tropical storms, but fewer mid-latitude storms.

8. Earlier snow melt a high latitudes and change in surface albedo.

9. A likelihood of more summer melting of Arctic sea ice.

10. A likelihood of changes in ocean circulation.

11. Mean sea level rise by 100 + 50 cm.

12. Ecosystem changes altering the heat and water budget and feeding back on the climate system.

Anticipated agrobiological impacts on future food supply

1. Increased length of growing season at higher latitudes (poleward shift of crop margins by as much as 100 km per degree of warming).

2. Probable increase in photosynthesis (may be counteracted by the increasing levels of such plans end soil pollutants such as O3, SO2, NOX, acid rain, heavy metals etc.).

3. Higher water demand.

4. Greater risk of crop and livestock losses due to floods and tropical storms.

5. Increase in crop and livestock losses due to pests, diseases, parasites, weeds etc.

6. Changes in natural ecosystems and fuelwood supplies.

7. Salt-water intrusion in coastal areas affecting water supply and reducing cultivated land in low-lying regions.

8. Greater soil degradation.

9. Shift of breadbasket to less fertile soils (podsol area).

10. Possibly changes in ocean biological productivity.

The Anticipated socio-economic impacts are diminished food security in many areas, changes in commodity prices, changes in international food and commodity trade, economic development of high latitude regions, changes in the economic base of regions and countries, increasing disputes over food distribution and possibly even human migrations.

Precautionary measures

The consensus is growing that in a world of uncertainty's with a high risk of climatic impacts on the world food supply, it would be prudent to follow a safety strategy which advances basic research as well as research on the causes and impacts of climatic change, but which, at the same time, introduces precautionary measures.

The resulting low-risk policy consists of the following relief strategies:

1. A more efficient use of energy resources. This

- reduces energy demand, and hence fossil fuel use, which

- results automatically in an emission decrease, and hence

- leads to a reduction of the impact on environment and climate, it also

- saves the non-renewable fossiI fuels for purposes less wasteful than mere combustion; and the reduced demand

- permits the pollution-free renewable resources to make a substantial contribution to the energy supply.

2. A more effective control of synthetic chemicals production.
This includes

- safety clearance of all new chemical substances with regard to their individual or combined, short-term and longer term effects on. Man, environment, and climate, and

- a substitution of all synthetic chemicals at present in use which are detrimental to the environment.

3. A more rapid introduction of available abatement techniques.
This includes emission reduction

- prior to combustion (coal cleaning, coal gasification and liquefaction, desulphurization of liquid fuel),

- during combustion (burner technology, fluidized bed combustion), and

- after combustion (flue gas desulphurization, DENOX, and catalyzer technology).

4. A more effective regulation of land use. This includes the reduction of
- deforestation in the tropics,

- biomass burning in the subtropics,

- forest dieback in mid-latitudes, and

- soil destruction worldwide.

Implementation of this strategy would substantially reduce a greenhouse gases-induced climatic threat.

In conclusion, food production will also be greatly influenced in the future by climatic events such as drought, floods, variable monsoons, cold spells and heat waves, etc. This must be seen in connection with ongoing population growth, diminishing land resources and the worldwide pollution damage to our life-support systems. Some increase in agricultural productivity is still possible in some areas. But the pivotal question remains: what happens when the highest possible level of food production has been reached and the population is still growing? This problem must be seriously addressed. There is no room for either complacency or evasion.

Stoves for Food Processing

A four-week training course to be held by ITDG in Rugby, UK, in September 1987, will focus on possible ways of saving fuelwood in smallscale rural food-processing enterprises.

The objectives of the course are:

1. to develop a system for planning and evaluating rural food-processing programmes, with the emphasis on energy conservation;

2. to provide special training in the development and use of stoves which can be used for food processing;

3. to examine the sociocultural and economic factors affecting food processing at micro-scale level.

Participants in the course should be in a position to draw on their own experience and present exemplary cases.

Participants will have an opportunity to visit other institutions where work on these questions is being done (e.g., Tropical Development Institute/Centre for Appropriate Technology).

The course is primarily intended for experienced project staff, from both governmental and non-governmental organizations, who are working in the fields of energy conservation (biomass), rural microbusinesses and domestic production. A good command of English is essential for participation in the course.

For further information contact:

Mrs. J. Pepper
ITDG (Stoves)
Myson House
Railway Terrace
Ruphy CV21 3HT, UK
Telephone: Rugby 60631
Telex: 31 74 66 ITDG G

International Workshop on Stove Dissemination

An international workshop on woodstove dissemination is to be held in Antigua, Guatemala, by the Foundation for Woodstove Dissemination (FOOD) in October 1987.

The workshop is intended to give experts from all over the world who are working on the dissemination of improved wood and charcoal stoves an opportunity to exchange ideas and information.

Enquiries and applications should be addressed to:
Foundation for Woodstove
Dissemination
Jahnstreat 7
3512 GM Utrecht
The Netherlands

Joint Newsletter

The first issue of a joint newsletter produced by RIP (Rural Industries Promotions) and BTC (Botswana Technology Centre) was published in Botswana in March 1987.

The Botswana Technical Information Service (BTIS) of BTC was provided with a small offset printing press and the necessary funds for video equipment. This project was sponsored by GTZ/GATE.

BTIS has already published its first technical papers with the new equipment and has also produced a video film entitled "Making Atchar".

Government Counselling and Structural Reform

Conference of the Economic Government Advisers of GTZ

The next biennial conference of GTZ government advisers is due to be held in 1987. The advisers are engaged in macro-planning, economic advisory services, and coordination of development cooperation in their respective countries.

The principal venue for the conference, which is once again being organized by Section 251 of the GTZ in close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ), will probably be Bad Homburg; some sessions will be in Bonn. The conference will begin on 22 November and end on 3 December 1987.

The main topic this time is one of the serious problems which Third World economies are currently facing and a possible approach to a solution: "Government Counselling and Structural Reform -with special emphasis on the introduction of elements of a social market economy".

The conference will not only deal with the contents, means of application, and problems of structural reform programmes (such as those required by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), and their desirable and undesirable effects. A further aim is to identify and coordinate methods which government advisers can adopt, possibly also making use of other instruments of Technical Cooperation, in order to make a meaningful contribution to the planning and implementation of structural reform programmes of this kind, and in doing so to help mitigate the negative social consequences, if not to prevent them. These ideas spring from the concept of the social market economy - a concept about which our partners still know fart too little. Abrochureon this subject, which is currently being prepared, is also to be discussed at the conference and examined with regard to its practical usability.