Climate change threatens development efforts of world’s poor – UN official

31 March 2008

Climate change is among a host of new challenges that is making it increasingly difficult for the world’s poorest people to escape from poverty and hunger, the head of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said today.

Climate change is among a host of new challenges that is making it increasingly difficult for the world’s poorest people to escape from poverty and hunger, the head of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said today.

Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas of developing countries and depend on agriculture to survive. In addition, millions of small-scale farmers and members of the rural poor live in areas that face serious risk from degradation and desertification due to climate change.

“Put simply, the price of development just went up,” said IFAD President Lennart Båge. “Substantial and additional money will be needed to help poor countries adapt to climate change.”

The implications of climate change, as well as the rise in global food prices and biofuels top the agenda of talks in Paris today between Mr. Båge and senior French officials, representatives of civil society and researchers. They will be discussing how to help the rural poor in a world where nearly one billion people live in extreme poverty and hunger. The IFAD President will be holding similar discussions with Belgian officials in Brussels tomorrow.

“We can expect future climate change to put almost 50 million extra people at risk of hunger by 2020,” Mr. Båge stated. “Those least responsible for the problem will be hit first, and hardest.”

He noted that Africa is likely to bear the brunt of this, with at least 75 million people there facing increasing water shortages and lack of good quality water.

Closely linked with climate change are rising food prices and the expansion of biofuels. The increased demand for biofuels has sparked concerns that the poor rural people living in marginal areas may lose their lands to those seeking additional land for fuel production.

Many of the world’s poorest people are already feeling the pinch from soaring food prices, which have already sparked riots in numerous countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Mozambique. “Security may very well prove to be a serious issue in the not-too-distant future,” said Mr. Båge.

France and IFAD have a long history of collaboration in developing countries, especially in Africa. To date, France has provided more than $255 million for IFAD-supported poverty reduction programmes and projects. It has also contributed nearly $42 million to IFAD’s Special Programme for sub-Saharan Africa.

 

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