It’s a hot October day in Sydney topping 30 degrees again. Three days ago it was 16 degrees and I had my heater on. Crazy weather, huh?
Not really – try this on for size. This summer in the USA temperatures broke 164 records around the country including a chart topping 45o in Smyrna Tennessee.
For farmers in these Southern and Midwestern states it has been the hottest year on record. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic the UK has suffered the wettest and coldest summer on record. Yet despite the huge resources and capability neither country’s authorities were able to predict the extremity of these events, and certainly not in time to help the farmers who have lost so many crops as a direct result of this climate change driven wild weather.
In low income countries, where ActionAid is working with small-scale farmers, the chances of accurately predicting wild weather is even less. Instead, farmers are going a step ahead and planning for extremes and building in resilience in their farming practices.
Perhaps these farmers are better placed than their large-scale farming counterparts in Europe, Australia and America to realise that there will be no magical technical fix for climate change. Perhaps for them the risks of not focusing on resilience are a little bit more obvious, but whatever the reason it is on the small-scale farms in low income countries that some of the most promising responses to the threat of climate change are happening.
In Africa, South America and Southern Asia farmers (mostly women farmers) are eagerly adapting, seeking out new techniques to blend with their local knowledge, and generating sustainable harvests capable of succeeding in a climate changed world.
In Cambodia, Chantou is using raised planter beds to grow Kale to supply local markets even when floods come. In Kenya Susan is using a mixed crop approach together water capture techniques to ensure she can still thrive during drought and in Brazil, women like Deo are driving a burgeoning Agroecological farming movement that is allowing cooperatives to make steady incomes for their members from a varied vegetable and livestock production.
These women and millions more women and men like them are saving seeds, breeding crops that can survive in the extremes and diversifying their produce. And they are doing this largely without much needed investment and technology.
The threat of global climate change to food supply is very real. Climate models that predict temperature rises of 2-4+ degrees this century also predict reduced agricultural production as a result. But now analysts are concerned that these models fail to take into account the amplifying impact on agriculture of extreme weather events like the 450 Tennessee summer.
ActionAid is working with and learning from smallholders around the world. These are the farmers who are innovating and adapting, and in so doing creating more resilient sustainable agriculture to meet this challenge.
This World Food Day it’s perhaps apt to re-think the dominant vision of the small-scale farmers of the world – not as food scarcity victims to be saved but rather food resilience leaders to be followed and empowered.