Japan climate role crucial: U.N.’s Nwanze



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Food for thought: Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in Tokyo recently. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO
While climate change needs to be battled by the global community, Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, stressed that food security also needs continual attention and focus from the global community. "Agriculture is at the intersection between climate change and food security," Nwanze said during a recent visit to Tokyo before the start of the climate talks in Copenhagen on Monday. IFAD is a U.N. body that works to combat rural poverty in the world's poorest regions. It develops and finances projects to assist people, mostly small farmers in rural areas, in overcoming poverty through their own efforts by providing loans and grants. Raising the productivity of these farmers is essential to meeting the food needs of the farmers themselves and the millions who depend on their harvests, according to IFAD. Nwanze, an agricultural entomologist and native of Nigeria, said the swings in productivity and declining yields from climate change threaten agriculture, adding that the problem is multifaceted. The world's population is expected to rise from roughly 6.7 billion today to 9.1 billion by 2050. That will require developing countries, where most of the population growth will occur, to double their food production over the same period. But urbanization and industrialization mean less land will be available to produce that extra food. To fill the gap, agriculture will have to become more intensive, using more chemicals and irrigation, but water resources are being depleted because of climate change, Nwanze said. "So we are going to end up in a situation where food production is going to be more difficult to achieve. "For the developing world, this is getting more serious because they will have less opportunity to grow more food when they are already impacted by the food and financial crisis. And poor farmers are going to have more difficulty accessing resources," Nwanze said. This may encourage "climate refugees" to migrate from rural areas to cities, he said, adding this could also threaten political stability. "We cannot address climate change without addressing agriculture and food production." Because scientific evidence clearly shows the harm caused by climate change, Nwanze said, the international community should make every effort to draw up concrete emissions-reduction commitments at the Copenhagen talks. While most observers are skeptical that a legally binding deal will be reached at the conference that runs through Dec. 18, Nwanze, who planned to attend, said a political commitment is better than nothing, as it will serve as the framework for further negotiations. He said innovative approaches to agricultural production and productivity are needed to achieve food security while fighting climate change. Agriculture and deforestation make up a significant share of greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide and methane, which are released through the use of fertilizers and other agricultural activities. Thus, mitigation — steps to reduce greenhouse gases or absorb them — is a major focus of efforts to limit climate change. But Nwanze said adaptation, or measures to lessen the impact of climate change on those hurt by it, is also vital. "I believe that the international community, especially the developed community, should be able to put enough finances there to help poor people in developing countries adapt to climate change," he said. Before his IFAD post, Nwanze served as director general of the Africa Rice Center, where he actively promoted "New Rice for Africa," also called Nerica rice, a strain resistant to drought and pests and tailored for conditions in Africa. Nerica is an example of both mitigation and adaptation, he said. Nwanze was at the United Nations meeting on climate change in September when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged to cut Japan's greenhouse emissions by 25 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. "We all applauded because it came as a surprise. The former government was thinking of 15 percent cut with 2005 as the baseline, but here you are — 25 percent . . . – the baseline as 1990. It sends a signal to the rest of the world,” he said.

Japan has maintained its leadership with respect to food and agriculture in Africa, Nwanze said, pointing to its commitment to African development through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development that began in 1993.

He also noted that because former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda raised the issue of food security at the 2008 Group of Eight summit in Toyako, Hokkaido, the Joint Statement on Global Food Security was signed at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, in July.

“I hope that Japan, in its balancing role within the OECD and developing countries, continues to demonstrate its role in brokering this agreement (in Copenhagen),” Nwanze said.