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Climate change, global conflict threaten food security

Published : 23 Jan 2024 10:45 PM | Updated : 24 Jan 2024 09:49 AM

Bangladesh has made significant progress in improving food production and security in recent years, but food security is under threat due to climate change and global conflicts.  

Climate change is threatening food security across the world, and Bangladesh is no exception. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather, flooding and extreme heat in the country have a direct negative impact on food production and availability, pushing up prices.

A report says that Bangladesh has done well to improve food production and food security, and most measures in this regard are moving in the right direction. However, climate change may make future improvement more challenging.

The report examines the climate change and food security challenges in Bangladesh, the trajectory of policy in this area, and how the agriculture sector can contribute to climate change mitigation.

The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment of London School of Economics (LSE) carried out the report. The LSE released the report on Tuesday (January 23).   

According to the report, the food security of Bangladesh faces an immediate dual crisis from climate change and global conflicts. “Bangladesh is at the forefront of combating the harmful effects of climate change on food security,” says the report.

Professor Elizabeth Robinson, Director of the Grantham Research Institute of London School of Economics, said, “Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in terms of improving food and nutrition security. Yet climate change is making further improvements even harder.”

The LSE report sheds light on the historical efforts and emerging dual crisis faced by Bangladesh in ensuring food security amid the climate change and global conflicts.

Climate change poses a severe global threat to food security, with heightened vulnerability in Bangladesh. 

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war exacerbates the challenge, causing significant surges in staple food, fuel and fertilizer prices, raising concerns about poverty levels and worsening the food insecurity.  In Bangladesh, long-experienced cyclones, drought and flood have been intensified due to the climate change, leading to more frequent and intense extreme weather events. 

“The dual challenge of increasing flooding and heightened extreme heat days compound issues, resulting in reduced crop yields, livestock health issues, altered pest and disease distribution, and decreased agricultural labor supply. This, in turn, leads to income reduction, restricting households’ ability to afford sufficient nutritious food,” says the LSE report. 

Under a catastrophic climate change scenario (3.6°C temperature increase by 2100), the people of Bangladesh will suffer moderate to severe food insecurity by nearly 5% between 2021- 2040. 

In contrast, if the Paris Agreement target of limiting temperature rise to well below 2°C is achieved, the proportion of people affected by food insecurity would increase by 4.4% between 2021- 2040. This suggests that strong action taken globally to mitigate climate change will have clear food security benefits in countries like Bangladesh. 

The report also mentioned that over the years, the journey of Bangladesh to ensure food security has evolved amidst challenges and policy adjustments. 

Since 1971, a focus on agricultural development for self-sufficiency faced challenges, prompting a comprehensive approach after the 1974 famine. Safety nets, including schemes like Food for Work (FFW) and Test Relief (TR), addressed accessibility issues and contributed to stable food supplies. 

The National Agricultural Policy, 1999 and the National Food Policy, 2006 emphasised sustainability and nutritional enhancement. Despite strides, global food price hikes in 2007–2008 increased poverty. Recent setbacks, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict and escalating climate change impacts, pose renewed challenges to food security. 

The evolution of policies reflects Bangladesh’s ongoing commitment to addressing the challenges, emphasising resilience and adaptability in the face of global and climatic uncertainties.

The report also highlighted that for the future policy implications, the government of Bangladeshi is prioritizing adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change impacts, linking food security with climate resilience. 

Policies, such as the 2008 Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) emphasize climate-smart agricultural practices and sustainable farming methods. 

Bangladesh should embrace climate-smart agriculture, incorporating saline-tolerant crops, aquaculture, resilient rice varieties, agro-forestry, and sustainable land management. 

Government initiatives like shrimp aquaculture and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) signify progress. The National Food and Nutrition Security Policy stresses diverse diets. Climate-smart technologies enhance nutrient-dense crops, while safety nets aid affordability. 

Government support, including climate services, crop insurance, and storage practices, will further bolster the sector. Acknowledging agriculture's climate impact, Bangladesh focuses on mitigation through practices like alternate wetting and drying, improved fertilizer management, and addressing residue burning.

Professor Elizabeth Robinson said, “Bangladesh’s government is already promoting climate-smart agricultural practices, and has a number of safety nets in place, but yet more efforts will be needed to build resilience across the food value chain, to improve food and nutritional security across the population.”

Dr. Shouro Dasgupta, Environmental Economist at Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change and Visiting Senior Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute, LSE, also mentioned, “Proactive policies targeting both food production such as reinsurance schemes for smallholder farmers and access to food and nutrition such as cash transfer are needed.”

As Bangladesh continues to face climate change and its impact on food security, experts urge concerted efforts from policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to adopt adaptive strategies and prioritize sustainable practices. 

Bangladesh has made progress, increased efforts, including extended research, targeted consumer protection, and improved healthcare access, are necessary to address rising temperatures. 

Despite associated costs, these investments promise a more resilient and productive population amidst changing climate conditions.

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