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FAO and IOM call for renewed focus on rural development and sustainable agriculture to mitigate climate disasters that are displacing one person every second

tea 169957 640Farming and livestock sectors typically bear more than 80 per cent of the damage and losses caused by climate change. (Photo: Deankruger/Pixabay)

Climate change poses a major risk for rural people in developing countries, often leading to distress-driven migration, and bolstering sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response, FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said today.

Graziano da Silva cited figures showing that since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters – an average of 26mn a year. He pointed out that the trend is likely to intensify in the immediate future as rural areas struggle to cope with warmer weather and more erratic rainfall. The solution to this challenge lies in bolstering the economic activities that the vast majority of rural populations are already engaged in.

"Although less visible than extreme events like a hurricane, slow-onset climate change events tend to have a much greater impact over time," William Lacy Swing, director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, citing the drying up over 30 years of Lake Chad, now a food crisis hotspot. "Many migrants will come from rural areas, with a potentially major impact on agricultural production and food prices."

Graziano da Silva and William Lacy Swing spoke at a meeting during FAO's Conference. FAO and IOM, chosen as co-chairs for 2018 of the Global Migration Group – an inter-agency group of 22 UN organisations - are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community.

Farming and livestock sectors typically bear more than 80 per cent of the damage and losses caused by drought, underscoring how agriculture stands to be a primary victim of climate change. Other impacts include soil degradation, water scarcity and depletion of natural resources.

Agricultural and rural development must be an integral part of solutions to weather and climate-related challenges, especially as they link with distress migration, Graziano da Silva said. Investment in resilient rural livelihoods, decent employment opportunities, especially for youth, and social protection schemes geared to protecting people from risks and shocks, is necessary, he added.

FAO also helps vulnerable members states in various ways, including with setting up early warning and early actions systems, dealing with water scarcity and introducing Climate-Smart Agriculture methods and Safe Access to Fuel and Energy initiatives designed to ease tensions between refugees and their host communities as well as reduce deforestation.