Dryland agriculture a major issue for climate change

People living in rural communities in the world’s driest areas are hit hardest by climate change impacts, according to the report from an International Conference on Food Security in the Drylands. Many of the most effective climate change interventions will be rooted in agriculture, which these communities depend on for their livelihoods.

Oxford University’s Professor Mike Edmunds and Dr Rachael McDonnell were among the invited speakers at the Qatar National Food Security Program conference which was held in Doha, Qatar on 14-15 November 2012, under the auspices of the Heir Apparent, His Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Mike Edmunds’ paper addressed water security in low rainfall areas, emphasising the need to base sustainable development policy on renewable water resources (especially groundwater). He urged people to consider the advantages of locally sourced water as a basis for sustainable rural development. Rachael McDonnell examined the many new science and policy advances being made in using saline and treated wastewater to meet food security challenges in drylands.

The report calls for action to help rural communities produce food and secure their livelihoods while faced with land degradation, water scarcity and unpreditable weather patterns. Many solutions are available now, such as crop diversification, efficient water management, ‘climate smart’ technologies and conservation agriculture. Targeted investment backed up with sound policies are urgently needed to ensure that these opportunities are seized.

The conference brought together over 400 people to discuss the challenges and opportunities for building food security and mitigating climate change in drylands. These included ministers and senior government officials, policymakers, researchers, development practitioners and representatives of international and regional organisations, farmers’ unions, private and public financial institutions, and private agri-business enterprises.

Read the full conference report.

drylands-agriculture
Innovative farming practices in the Sahel. Photo: M.Tall, CGIAR