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Climate is threatening our food and vice versa

News Food systems

The disastrous consequences of climate change threaten the availability of our food. At the same time, food production itself is a major cause of the crisis.

Malawi farmer drought
Alefa Soloti weeds her field of sesame in Dickson, a village in southern Malawi that has been hard hit by drought in recent years, leading to chronic food insecurity, especially during the “hunger season,” when farmers are waiting for the harvest. Image: Paul Jeffrey / ACT Alliance

Farmers worldwide are experiencing this firsthand. Climate change causes rising temperatures, heavy rainfall, severe storms, and extended periods of drought.

Many crops fail due to these extreme weather conditions. This has consequences not only for the farmers themselves, but also for the food they produce, and thus for global food security.

Yet the food sector itself is partly responsible. What’s going on? We will try to explain on the basis of these 3 points:

Monoculture harms biodiversity

Our current, mainstream form of agriculture, in which farmers only grow one crop on one piece of land, depletes the soil and negatively affects biodiversity. Like the large palm oil plantations in Indonesia or the vast fields of grain in the United States. Monoculture causes soil exhaustion, while healthy soil is vital for CO2 absorption. Harmful chemicals exacerbate this problem.

A monoculture also scares off bees and other essential pollinators. Without the help of these hardworking critters, our future food supply is in serious jeopardy.

Food sector emits a lot of greenhouse gases

The food sector is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gases worldwide. This concerns all links in the process: the way we produce, process, package and transport food, up to and including consumption.

We know that meat production emits significant amounts of CO2 and growing rice produces a lot of methane. But transporting food by boats or planes is also extremely polluting. And finally, waste: not only does waste processing release a lot of greenhouse gases, but plastic litter also causes great damage to the environment.

Forests disappear in favour of agriculture

About 80% of all forests that are being cut down worldwide, have to make way for agricultural land. In the Amazon, for example, trees are disappearing at an alarming rate to make room for soy plantations. The wry irony is: forests are indispensable in the fight against climate change because they absorb CO2.

These are just a few examples of the problematic relationship between the food sector and the climate crisis. Cordaid is trying to turn the tide through various projects. For example, in Bangladesh, we support Rohingya refugees to help them reuse waste and we support 22.000 shea butter farmers and plant new trees in Burkina Faso.