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Climate change growing threat to Asian food security

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 30 Sep 2010 12:40 GMT
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How quickly could climate change worsen hunger? According to a new report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), expected changes in temperature, rainfall and storms could put an additional 49 million people in Asia at risk of hunger by 2020. That's just 10 years away.

By 2020, the report says, crop yields in some areas of Asia will be down by 10 percent, even as population growth continues to rise. Demand for meat and milk - products that will take an increasing share of agricultural crop production - is also expected to grow.

"This should set off warning alarms across the region," Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO's assistant director-general for Asia and the Pacific, told listeners at a regional FAO conference in South Korea this week.

While some temperate areas of Asia may see production increase as conditions warm, tropical and sub-tropical areas will see crop declines, he warned, with farmers facing everything from attacks by new pest varieties to worsening droughts or floods.

South and Southeast Asia and small Pacific Island nations are expected to be the hardest hit, he said.

The longer term trajectory of crop production in the region is even more worrying. By 2050, crop production in some parts of Asia is expected to fall by 30 percent, leaving 132 million more people at risk of hunger.

What can be done? Adaptive farming - including shifts to more tolerant crop varieties - can help, as well as better use of water resources. Protecting forests, coastal areas and fragile arid and mountain ecosystems, including grazing land, could help stem weather variability and loss of water resources, and protect crop and animal production. And making sure disaster risk management is part of other planning efforts will be key, the FAO report says.

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