Growing Food in the Changing Climate
World Bank Group numbers presented in April 2011 illustrate that global food prices are 36% higher than they were a year ago. But food prices are just one of the many devastating things that we have taken over the food industry. The Nordic researchers observe that weather conditions do have an impact on the world’s food supply. Clearly, if crops are being damaged, they won’t be any for export or trade, and small farmers that grow crops on their own may suffer.
Research has showed that when the temperature goes beyond 86 to 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit during flowering, crops (such as wheat, maize and rice) “experience a sharp decline in grain set and yield.” Climate change is a grave concern for farmers all around the world. Many persons worldwide have to grow their own food, in order to combat this issue. But even the persons who grow their own food are being affected. The Guardian reports that in Guatemala, “smallholders are finding their staple crops under threat as rains have been accompanied by increasingly violent storms, followed by prolonged drought.” Below, you will see how a corn crop was ruined by drought, in Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. Evidently, changing climate is compromising food security in this country.
Photograph: Daniel Leclair/Reuters
In the last two years, climate change has drastically affected smallholders in Guatemala. As a result of the country’s geographical position in an earthquake and hurricane zone, the country is particularly vulnerable to climate change and extreme events. But Guatemala is not the only country that suffering.
According to the press release from ActionAid USA, the Nordic researchers reveal that due to recent cold snaps in the U.S., corn stocks have declined from 1.7 billion bushels in 2009 to the 695 million bushels projected in June 2011. This is startling.
The group also said that its specialists have warned that this turn down is a result of climate change. “Diminishing corn and soy stocks, revealed in the USDA report, also come from increasing demand for cereals for food, feed and bio fuels,” declared Marie Brill of ActionAid USA.
But it gets worst, a report released by Oxfam, predicts that climate change will have more devastating consequences over the next 20 years as yields of staples in some regions decrease drastically.
In Brazil, wheat yields are predicted to go down by more than 20%. In Central and West Africa, Maize production may fall by more than 10%.
As the quantity of food is going down, some families are trying to grow food on their own. But many are not successful because of the climate change.
Last year and the year before, two hundred and sixty (260) families residing in Guadalupe in the Suchitepéquez region of the Pacific coast lost much of their staple crop.
In recent times, rains have come with increasingly violent storms, and then a long-standing drought. The winter is having more rain now. The rain that used to come in April now only comes near the end of May.
Smallholders had to change harvesting seasons from winter to summer in order for the young plants to have a greater chance of surviving. But then, they have to start irrigating and using seeds that are more resistant to drought.
Red wheat by C.K. Hartman via Creative Commons
In Guadeloupe, the situation is typical. "The climate has changed,” said a co-ordinator of Madre Tierra, a women's co-operative group in Guadalupe village called Marta Domingo. “For the last two years we have lost 30% of our maize and been forced to buy from the market just when prices were so high. We are surrounded by big plantations of palm, sugar and banana, and they have deforested and diverted the rivers. My grandparents used to say the birds sing to bring the rain, but there aren't many birds anymore," she explained.
Marta has struggled at times to feed her six children, even though she has a small plot of land and grows okra. But Marat is not alone, there are many women who are in a similar situation.
In preceding years Maria Transito, and her husband were able to reap 26 sacks of maize from their small plot. Then, they were able to provide an adequate amount for their family and a little extra for income.
Unfortunately, this year, Maria and her husband could only to harvest five sacks. Maria said "we planted the seeds but the rain came and destroyed them. We have to spend $100 a month on maize now, and yes, there are times when we go hungry.”
Growing food in the changing climate is difficult. No one knows how to fully combat this problem. But one thing is for sure, it’s best to grow a bit of food on your own than to rely entirely on global produce. Rain and other natural disasters affecting the crops of many persons around the world, but who says it will affect yours?