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Climate Change and the Right to Food

“The way the world grows its food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with a growing population and climate change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse” (IAASTD, 2008).

How we produce food, distribute it and consume it has a major impact on the environment.  
Climate change has been and is a contributing factor to increased food insecurity. It is estimated that by 2080, agriculture output in developing countries may decline by 20% due to climate change and yields could decrease by 15% on average.  The number of under-nourished people in Sub Saharan Africa may rise from 138 million in 1990 to 359 million in 2050.   According to the recent report of the IAASTD (Independent Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development), climate change can irreversibly damage the natural resource base on which agriculture depends (2008).

Climate change will therefore pose challenges and setbacks to the realization of the right to food for all people. Recurrent droughts and floods can lead to loss of a variety of crops, particularly seed which is the base on which agriculture depends. Reduced production will force prices of food to rise thus greatly affecting the most vulnerable who in most cases will not be able to afford the food. Shortages of food will force governments to open up markets resulting in the dumping of cheap subsidized food. This further destabilizes local food production and forces high dependency on the market. Access to food at this point will depend on the poor having more purchasing power.

The climate crisis also indirectly poses great challenges towards ensuring food security, by mainly fostering agro-fuel production and land grabbing. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has led to abrupt moves towards agro-fuels production which has reduced the amount of land used for food production.  Fears over climate change and food security have also led national and private interests to grab communal land, ruining the livelihoods and food security of smallholder farmers and communities. Massive land grabbing is taking place in Africa, Asia and Latin America under 50 year lease agreements. One result is that this land, previously tended by the community with their long-term interests in mind, is now put to use intensively, with the danger that the earth is over exploited and not allowed to rest and rejuvenate. In Leviticus 25:1-7 God commanded the children of Israel to sow fields; prune vineyards and take harvests for six years and allow the land to rest in the seventh year so that the land gets complete rest.  With land grabbing, surely the land shall not be put to rest.

What Can We Do?
What happens in society and what happens to the Earth are of essential concern to us as Christians, and to our church. We can take action against climate change through:
•    Seasonal eating and promoting fair trade. As people of faith, we should seek to choose consuming seasonal, locally produced food as a way of fostering the building of communities and a relationship to the land.
•    Writing to national governments on what they are doing to tackle climate change and demanding climate justice.
•    Supporting climate change campaigns.
•    Taking part in the Day of Fasting for Life and fast from fossil fuels by parking your car and walk, ride a bike, or take public transport to help reduce greenhouse gases

Fast For Life