Industries in Depth

This is how innovation is helping communities fight climate change

Different vegetables growing in an automated greenhouse prototype by Agrilution are seen in Munich, Germany, August 28, 2015. The Munich start-up Agrilution developed an automated greenhouse appliance known as "plantCube" with the intention of bringing the production of healthier food closer to people. The machine, which is the size of a common built-in fridge, uses special LED lamps to generate different climate situations within the unit to enable the cultivation of a variety of vegetables. plantCube's developers say the appliance should fit in every kitchen or used in restaurants and supermarkets. REUTERS/Lukas Barth? - GF10000185596

Rural areas across the world are feeling the effects of climate change most acutely. Image: REUTERS/Lukas Barth

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
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Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face. Natural disasters and extreme weather events are making it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals and earn a living as we have done in the past, and rural areas across the world are feeling the effects most acutely.

There is hope however. Rural communities are using agricultural innovations to ensure that they are more prepared to deal with the effects of climate change. Transforming food systems and the agricultural sector is vital not just for achieving #ZeroHunger but for all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the aim of bringing people together to discuss global issues, FAO’s Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition, connects individuals from across the world, facilitating online discussions on how to meet these 17 goals by 2030. When the FSN Forum asked its members for examples of successful initiatives designed to improve agriculture and food security, one thing was clear: innovation has the potential to make a huge impact.

Here are three areas in which innovation is making a difference in the fight against climate change:

Food innovations

The effects of climate change on our ecosystems are severe, impacting agriculture, livelihoods and food security. One way to tackle the negative effects on food security is through further research into common food products and innovations in ways to use them.

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Sheilla Sibanda, from the Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe, has been working on a project that incorporates cowpea flour in the production of chicken sausage. Cowpea flour is native to Sub-Saharan Africa and is a great source of calories, vitamins, minerals and protein. Incorporating this readily available legume into other products is a great way to improve diets and food security.

“Children often suffer from kwashiorkor [a severe form of protein malnutrition], amongst other forms of malnutrition, so the development of such products is paramount,” explained Sheilla.

On the other side of the world in Australia, Olumide Odeyemi, from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, is carrying out research to understand exactly how certain types of seafood spoil. His studies have led to the development of a tool for predicting the shelf life of packaged live shellfish, preventing unnecessary spoilage.

Image: ©FAO/Pius Ekpei

Innovations to widen access to water

Water scarcity is a real problem for communities in rural areas, and droughts caused by climate change are only heightening the negative impacts on farmers’ production.

Maria Sonia Lopes da Silva, from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), explained in the FSN forum how underground dams tackle this problem. Using readily available materials such as clay, mud and plastic canvas rather than new and expensive technology, underground dams are a great way to conserve water in Brazil’s semi-arid region. Having lower evaporation rates than surface water reservoirs, they ensure that fresh water is available for longer. As da Silva highlights, near the 7,000 dams that have been built, the impact on communities is huge: “Water provision has a liberating power for women and young people, freeing them from the daily need to fetch water for domestic activities and human consumption.”

Sharing innovative ideas, knowledge and resources

The effects of climate change are devastating for the entire planet, but it is often rural farming communities areas that are worst affected. In Uganda, Margaret Naggujja ensures that farmers have access to the necessary tools to transform smallholder agriculture from subsistence to sustained profit enterprises, helping them create a financial buffer should adverse conditions affect business. Smallholder farmers can rent machinery with flexible financing options, achieved through the establishment of a collective hiring centre.

Of course, new technology signifies a break from traditional farming methods and even the most experienced farmers may need to learn new skills. In Nigeria, The Ohaha Family Foundation trains farmers on modern agricultural practices.

“This includes training farmers on soil health and different types of farming techniques to keep the ecosystem fit for continuous use,” the Foundation’s John Ede told the Forum.

Initiatives like these that focus on sharing resources are key to ensuring farmers in rural areas are prepared to deal with the effects of climate change.

FAO believes that innovation is the central driving force for achieving a world free from hunger and malnutrition. As these stories from our FSN Forum members show, good agricultural practices, technology and innovation have incredible potential to widen access to clean water, energy, food and knowledge, giving communities the tools to survive in changing conditions and paving the way for a #ZeroHunger world.

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Related topics:
Industries in DepthBusinessSustainable DevelopmentFood and WaterClimate Action
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