Agriculture is the source of livelihood and sustenance for the majority of the Earth’s poor and an engine of economic growth in much of the developing world. Climate risk is a challenge for agriculture everywhere, but especially for the hundreds of millions whose livelihoods depend on rainfed agriculture in marginal, high-risk environments.
However, climate risk management remains a neglected yet critical piece of global agricultural development efforts. Working with a range of partners on several fronts, the IRI seeks to advance and protect food security and rural prosperity through effective management of climatic risk, an integral part of reducing the long-term vulnerability of agriculture and food systems to a variable and changing climate.
Climate variability today and long-term climate change are two ends of a continuum of time scales at which the climate varies and impacts agriculture. The damage of climate shocks, such as droughts or floods, to health, productive assets and infrastructure can impact livelihoods long after the shock has passed. Many farmers can’t afford to take risks, for example sacrificing income-generating investment, intensification and adoption of innovation to protect against the threat of shocks. This risk-averse behavior combines with climate variability to contribute to the existence and persistence of poverty. Apart from effective intervention, projected increases in climate variability can be expected to intensify the cycle of poverty, vulnerability and dependence on external assistance.
Avenues for managing climate risk in agriculture include:
- Climate information services for rural communities
- Information and decision support systems for institutional stakeholders
- Innovations in insurance against climate-related risk; and
- Improved early warning and response systems for agricultural production and food insecurity.
The IRI and a growing number of partners recognize that effective management of current climate risk presents a win-win opportunity to contribute to immediate development priorities, and is an integral part of a comprehensive strategy for adapting agriculture and food systems to a changing climate.