Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.
The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.
And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.
But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.
- weather risks
- Disaster Repsonse
- disaster relief
- disaster recovery
- disaster prevention
- disaster preparedness
- Disaster management
- Sustainable Communities
- Public Sector and Governance
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- The World Region
Agriculture is an inherently risky business. From natural disasters and erratic rainfall to pests, few other sectors are as exposed or as vulnerable to shocks.
Climate change is a source of significant risks for agricultural and food systems: Climate projections suggest that average growing conditions will shift and there will be more uncertainty in predicting climate and weather conditions. More concretely, these impacts will translate into an overall warming trend, an increasingly erratic distribution of precipitation, more frequent and more devastating extreme weather events, and spatial shifts in the occurrence of pests and diseases. These impacts can cause production losses which lead to market volatility and in some cases, reactionary shifts in policies and regulations.
Imagine if you could know where your steak was born, and all of the details about its life until it reached your plate. Since 2011, this has been possible with Uruguay’s national system for livestock information or Sistema Nacional de Información Ganadera (SNIG).
Why 100% traceability of cattle matters
The World Bank aided the development of SNIG, which became fully operational in 2004, as part of its support for Uruguay’s recovery from the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic. The SNIG, which is a livestock registration system with more than 75,000 participants in the agricultural and industrial sectors, paved the way for Uruguay’s mandatory individual cattle traceability program. All animals born in September 2006 or later are required to be tagged with one visual ear tag and one radio frequency identification tag, both for traceability purposes. The novel system allowed Uruguay to become the only country in the Americas (and one of only a few in the world) with 100% traceability of cattle and allowed consumers, mainly in China, Europe and NAFTA areas to know the origin of the beef for health (fewer diseases with full tractability), social (ability to know that the cows were grass-fed) and environmental (sustainability of natural resources) reasons.
So the global challenge is clear: We need to sustainably feed 9 billion people in 2050, while building the resilience of farmers and food companies AND concurrently making agriculture part of the climate solution, not an increasingly large part of the problem.
Daunting? Well, yes of course, but that is why it is a “global challenge” and not just something that incremental change will solve.
There is nothing new in this story and many of the things we need to do are known, but just not done at scale. What is new is the fact that the interests, aspirations and objectives of a wide group of stakeholders are coming together. We have long searched for truly sustainable farming – one that will sustain farmers and enable them to prosper, while ensuring that the landscapes in which we live and work are not the subject of short term gain resulting in long term degradation.
- Are culturally distinct societies and communities – the land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, and economies;
- Are among the most disadvantaged populations in the world, representing roughly 4.5 percent of the global population but more than 10 percent of the poor; and
- Even within their own traditional territories – which hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity – they legally own less than 11 percent of the land.
It should be recognized, however, that improving the conditions for Indigenous Peoples is not an easy task. Indigenous Peoples are often found in remote and isolated regions with poor access to social services and economic infrastructure. They also often suffer from multiple dimensions of exclusion. Furthermore, standard development projects have shown limitations in areas with Indigenous Peoples, particularly if they are not designed and implemented with the active participation of the indigenous communities.
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can help make the food system more sustainable in a changing climate. But does it come at a cost to women, in terms of a heavier workload?
Climate-smart agriculture’s three pillars: improved agricultural productivity, increased adaptation to climate change and reduction of greenhouse gases are goals well worthy of targeting. On the one hand, CSA practices such as water harvesting or planting trees that provide more accessible fuel, fodder and food can save women’s time. On the other hand, some practices such as increased weeding or mulch spreading can require women to spend more time in the field.
Rabies is a serious public health problem in Haiti. Although human rabies in the Americas has declined by more than 95% since 1980, Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Haiti continue to experience cases. The problem is most acute in Haiti, which accounts for 70% of all deaths caused by rabies in the region.
This is the main reason behind the Haitian Government's campaign to vaccinate over 500,000 dogs and reduce the incidence of rabies on the island. Dr. Michel Chancy, State Secretary for Animal Production in Haiti, has repeatedly said that dogs are responsible for more than 99% of all cases of human rabies on the island. Not to mention the fact that human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies are known to be underreported, and estimated to be up to 200 per year.
Launching on September 25, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will call for no less than an end to poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 2030. This is welcome news--and for the nearly 800 million people worldwide who will go to bed hungry-- long overdue.
To get there, it’s not just about raising yields. It’s also about managing risks to protect the most vulnerable. Along with gains in productivity, we also need more resilient agricultural systems. Failing this, unmanaged risks will upend the road to 2030. Climate change only ups the ante with promise of increasing weather extremes and new and more virulent pest and disease outbreaks.
At this week's UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world's oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved -- but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development."
The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives -- whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.
Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty was more than halved. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities.
This attention comes not a moment too soon.
- What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals
- disaster risk management
- coral reef
- food security
- marine resources
- ocean health
- sustainable development goals
- Sustainable Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- East Asia and Pacific
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Sierra Leone