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A Bold and Concerted Response to Climate Change

December 5, 2010
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Amidst growing alarm that climate change could deal a catastrophic blow to farming in the developing world, the CGIAR officially launched today a major new initiative to cope with its impacts on agriculture and to avert dire consequences for global food security.

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By 2020, the effort aims to reduce poverty by 10 percent in targeted regions, lower the number of rural people who are malnourished by 25 percent and help developing country farmers contribute to climate change mitigation by enhancing carbon storage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to 1,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over a decade, compared with a “business-as-usual” scenario.

The program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, or CCAFS, brings together strategic research carried out by the CGIAR, the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) and their respective partners in an innovative collective effort to be coordinated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

“I’m excited about our new collaboration with the CGIAR,” said Diana Liverman, a professor at the University of Arizona, speaking on behalf of the ESSP. “Our collaborative work, particularly on the impacts of average temperature increases of 4 degrees Centigrade or more, have already generated major media coverage and influenced climate negotiations.”

The launch event was held just after Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010, which took place in parallel with the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This program represents a bold and concerted effort to confront the complex challenges that agriculture faces today,” said Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Chair and Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. “It builds on 40 years of CGIAR research, including notable achievements in the development of hardier crop varieties, better ways to manage natural resources and powerful tools for analyzing the impacts of a changing climate.”

The launch of CCAFS marks the beginning of a long-term endeavor with an initial 3-year budget totaling US$206 million. Much of its field work will begin in 2011, with an initial focus on East and West Africa as well as South Asia’s Indo-Gangetic Plain, regions that are especially vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“The program fits within a comprehensive new vision for the CGIAR that encompasses multiple collaborative initiatives dealing with staple crops, livestock, vital natural resources, fragile ecosystems and policy,” said Lloyd Le Page, Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres. “CCAFS will work with all the other programs toward the shared goals of achieving food security, reducing poverty and helping rural people cope with climate change.”

CCAFS partners will identify technologies and policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation that are suitable for poor, smallholder farmers and other rural people. Scientists will also refine models used to predict the impacts of a changing climate on agriculture and livelihoods, and identify ways to select hardier crop varieties and livestock breeds as well as novel farming and food systems that are suitable for future climate conditions.

“The CGIAR centers have always worked to help farmers in poor countries cope with challenging conditions by providing drought-tolerant crops or better soil and water management strategies,” said Bruce Campbell, CCAFS Director. “But climate change threatens to alter growing conditions so rapidly and dramatically as to require an intensive effort that draws on the combined talents of all of our centers and partners.”  

How such changes can affect rural livelihoods was the subject of a multimedia presentation shown during the CCAFS launch event. It vividly depicted the consequences of a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius for rural people in northwest Ghana.

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