CR 47:95-110 (2011)  -  DOI:

Contribution to the CR Special: 'Climate services for sustainable development'

Climate science in support of sustainable agriculture and food security

Ramasamy Selvaraju1,*, René Gommes1,2, Michele Bernardi1

1Climate, Energy and Tenure Division (NRC), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome 00153, Italy
2Present address: European Commission Joint Research Centre, Ispra 21027, Italy

ABSTRACT: Agriculture is deeply interconnected with weather and climate, the main drivers of agriculture production, but also the dominant factors in the overall variability of food production. Agriculture constitutes the principal livelihood of 70% of the world’s poor; many of them are hungry and living in vulnerable, climate-sensitive areas. Since the undernourished population reached 1 billion persons in 2009, raising food production by some 70% to meet the needs of a projected world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 may be one of the greatest challenges of the century. In addition, changes in climatic conditions are already having impacts on agriculture and the use of natural resources for food production. Climate science has much to offer in addressing these challenges, especially with respect to the characterisation of agroclimatic resources and development of climate-responsive food and agriculture policies, programmes and practices. However, as food systems expand into marginal and vulnerable areas, the need for a renewed, holistic focus is becoming evident, taking into account ecological, economic and social perspectives. Climate and agriculture services must therefore consider climate as a resource, understand current and future vulnerabilities and risks, and develop synergies that embrace innovation in climate science in order to facilitate sustainable agriculture and food security. The emerging ability of climate science to provide timely and accurate climate information, together with innovative tools and methods for analysis, presents opportunities for managing current climate risks and for initiating strategic climate-resilient adaptation in agriculture. However, to make effective use of these advancements, action-oriented climate advice should integrate information on different time scales (intra-seasonal, seasonal and long-term) for risk/opportunity management and strategies for optimal and sustainable use of land, water and genetic resources. Strong partnerships and collaboration among international institutions, national hydro-meteorological services, agricultural extension agencies, national research institutions, community-based organisations and social networks are a prerequisite for the advancement of action-oriented advice. All of these efforts present key challenges, but offer immense opportunities, for both climate science and agriculture services, with respect to supporting sustainable agriculture and food security.

KEY WORDS: Climate science · Sustainable agriculture · Food security · Climate risk management · Institutional partnerships

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Cite this article as: Selvaraju R, Gommes R, Bernardi M (2011) Climate science in support of sustainable agriculture and food security. Clim Res 47:95-110.

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