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Apr 25 2017 Posted: 11:35 IST

Global conference at NUI Galway debates how climate-smart agriculture can ensure global food security and increase sustainability in food production

Over 150 of the world’s leading experts on climate change, agriculture and food security are converging this week in Galway for the International Conference ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security – Where is the cutting edge?’ The conference is being hosted by the NUI Galway Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre, which is a key strategic partner in the global Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security research program.

The planet’s climate is rapidly changing due to global warming. Together with the growing demand for food from a rapidly increasing world population – 9 billion in 2050 – agriculture and food systems will be under fast increasing pressure. In addition, climate and weather-related shocks will affect the livelihoods of millions of people globally, with the poorest being particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Speaking from the conference, Professor Charles Spillane, Head of the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “The agriculture and food sector currently contributes 19-29% of global greenhouse gas emissions. There is growing realisation that reducing emissions from the industrial, transport and energy sector will not be enough, and emissions reductions from agriculture will be necessary if the planet is to stay within the 2oC warming limit agreed by the world’s governments. Recent global analyses have revealed that current agricultural interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will only deliver 21-40% of 2oC target by end of century, indicating the need for transformative technical and policy innovations.

There are no easy fixes, and solutions have to be found along the boundaries of multiple scientific disciplines, government ministries, international organisations, companies, local actors, new technologies and indigenous knowledge. The scale of the challenge is immense and urgent. It is crucial to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and other sectors, and at the same time, ensure the capacity of farmers and food producers to adapt and strengthen their resilience to a fast changing climate. The NUI Galway conference identifies opportunities and synergies for research and innovation, for new partnerships, and for new approaches for scaling up science and technology innovations for Climate Smart Agriculture to reach millions of smallholder farmers globally.”

Professor Bruce Campbell, Head of the global Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security program highlighted that, “millions of farmers are already being hit by extreme events, and these are likely to increase in severity and frequency in the years ahead. By helping farmers cope with such events, we can protect family assets and keep communities on a development trajectory. It also makes economic sense. Early warning systems for flood plain farmers have been shown to reduce emergency response costs by 30% per beneficiary. Research on drought adapted maize has delivered benefits five to eight times more than the research cost.”

Irish Aid is a sponsor of the International Conference, and of the overall global Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security program. Through its support, Irish Aid is investing in research that builds evidence on how the poorest people and countries can best adapt, reduce risk, and build their resilience to withstand future set-backs and disasters. A key focus of Irish Aid’s efforts is on climate resilient agriculture for smallholder farmers, who urgently require systems to adapt to, cope with, and recover from climate risks.

Aidan Fitzpatrick, Senior Development Specialist at Irish Aid indicated that, “Irish Aid recognises that climate change as a key driver of poverty and vulnerability in sub Saharan Africa, and in many of the world’s poorest countries. This conference brings together the worlds leading climate and food security experts and harnesses the research and collective knowledge of 15 of the worlds’ leading international agriculture research centres. This knowledge and research is important in informing Irish Aid's efforts to build poor people’s resilience and ensuring their food security in the face of the growing impacts of climate change.”

NUI Galway has been working closely in partnership with the global program, particularly in relation to running the inter-disciplinary Masters (MSc) degree in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. This award-winning course is providing students with the skills and tools for developing agricultural practices, policies and measures addressing the challenge that global warming poses for agriculture and food security worldwide. Graduates of the MSc course are now playing key roles in local, national and international efforts to promote sustainable agricultural production, climate change adaptation and global food security.

The conference is sponsored by Irish Aid, Bord Bia, Environmental Protection Agency, the GAA, Galway University Foundation, Fáilte Ireland, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security program, and NUI Galway.

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