by Alessandra Cardone
ROME, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Enhancing small farmers' capability to tackle the impacts of climate change is essential to world food security, according to an agriculture expert.
"Climate change is already impacting global agriculture in numerous ways, and will further affect it in the future," Alexandre Meybeck, an official of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Rural population and small farmers are most vulnerable to the fallout of climate change, especially in developing and poor countries, he said.
Yet, they are also more prone than other communities to adjust to changes in their environment, and this adaptive capacity can be crucial to face the challenges of climate change on global food security.
"In terms of capacity, farmers are used to cope with the natural resources they have," said Meybeck, who is in charge of FAO's Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department.
"They are the most exposed, but also have a prominent role in modifying the climate change's impact on food availability, not only in rural areas but in the cities."
Yet, the expert said that farmers' natural resilience and adaptive capacities must be boosted, given the magnitude of the issue.
"The problem now is that changes in climate are so important, and are happening so quickly, that they exceed the capacity of these (rural) systems to cope with them," he pointed out.
According to FAO, small-scale farmers produce over 70 percent of the world's food, and this figure explains why climate change is increasingly seen as a great priority in terms of food security.
"Climate change poses a fundamental threat to global food security, sustainable development and poverty eradication. It must be addressed as an integral part of the overall development agenda to result in sustainable beneficial outcomes," a FAO report said recently.
The issue is highly topical, as a session of the FAO biennial conference is taking place here from June 6 to 13.
According to the official, agriculture is very much determined by various climatic parameters such as temperatures in the summer or in the night, quantity of rain and its distribution along the year, and much more.
Even small changes in these parameters can affect production and the very existence of the harvest.
"Consider this: more than 70 percent of world agriculture is rainfed, and if rains does not arrive at the right moment you have no crops," he said.
"Small changes in climatic parameters are overall more relevant to agriculture than extreme weather events, and are already taking place all over the world."
"The majority of vulnerable people in the world, those who are already susceptible to hunger, depend on agriculture: they work in it, or in activities related to rural areas," he stressed.
Their number is estimated in more than 2 billion people. "For them, a small change in climate have an immediate impact on food security."
Furthermore, he said, agriculture constitutes a huge part of the national economy in developing countries, and a main source of employment. A crisis in this sector therefore affects the country's wealth and the authorities' capacity to deal with emergencies or implement development policies.