Remarks at ‘Building Smallholders’ Resilience to Climate Change through South-South Cooperation’

Delivered at Side Event for China Pavilion at COP23 in Bonn, Germany

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), I welcome you to the side-event on ‘Building Smallholders’ Resilience to Climate Change through South-South Cooperation’.

Most of the one billion of extremely poor and hungry people are dependent on agriculture as their main source of income. These are vulnerable people and climate change increases their burden. Indeed, the speed and intensity of climate change are outpacing the ability of these poor rural communities to adapt and cope.

Many smallholders are already suffering the impacts of climate change on their crops and on the ecosystems and biodiversity that sustain their agricultural production, but also the rural infrastructure and their livelihoods. For example, climate change is reducing water resources, changing the productivity of crops, the composition of crops and plants; and reducing biodiversity, marine life and animal health. This is threatening smallholders’ food security. Some countries will see a declining yield from agriculture of up to half. Poor rural women - often the primary food producers - are more exposed than men. Indigenous peoples are equally vulnerable due to their high dependence on natural resources.

Rural infrastructure is also increasingly threatened by extreme weather events, which are exacerbated by climate change. Rural roads, drainage and irrigation systems, and storage facilities are all damaged by the climate impact. This is reducing smallholders’ access to markets or disrupting their functioning.

A coherent response to climate change will include the sustainable management of natural resources, increasing productivity, disaster risk management, dealing with land tenure issues, improving smallholders’ access to credit, insurance and climate-related information, and gender awareness.

Sustainable natural resource management can improve water management and community-based forest management, while countering land degradation. This will include measures such as efficient irrigation systems, the sustainable use of ground water and integrated water resource management and harvesting.

Because of their small size, smallholders are at a disadvantage in accessing finance and resources to cope with climate-related risks to strengthen their resilience. According to the FAO, out of the estimated 570 million farms in the world, as many as 84 per cent are smaller than 2 hectares in size. In this regard, the international community should commit to replenishing the Adaptation Fund, which provides direct access by affecting communities to funding resources. Providing parametric micro-insurance to smallholders is another very effective adaptation measure that can be very effective in countering the climate risk and in building resilience to impact.

Limited data for observed and projected impacts of climate change on food production systems in Asia is one of the key barriers to effective planning. This includes the need for more data on changing weather patterns, rainfall, temperature and crop yields. Without this information, smallholders will remain more vulnerable to climate change with negative impacts on livelihoods and the food and nutrition security of entire communities.

Helping smallholders promote climate resilient crops, make the most of efficient planting techniques and other methods to ensure biodiversity and sustainability are urgent. This must be part of national efforts to ensure food security at the local level. Every country must be ready to not only draw upon its own resources, but also complement the strengths and expertise of others.

South-South Cooperation can be an important part of the solution to tackle the climate change challenge. It can help to strengthen the evidence base to support smallholder-centric climate policies and action; it is valuable to share experiences, information and good practices; and it can promote capacity-building of state and non-state stakeholders in member States to enhance climate resilience of smallholders, including climate-related disaster risk reduction.

ESCAP can do more to strengthen the resilience of smallholders, especially in the area of promoting gender awareness, the sustainable management of natural resources, risk-transfer instruments including micro-insurance, and strengthening data and observations.

Our Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization based in China and the Centre for Alleviation of Poverty through Sustainable Agriculture based in Indonesia have both promoted South-South Cooperation for enhancing the resilience of the region’s agricultural systems and food security against intensifying natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, with specific focus on the needs of smallholders.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting this side event at their Pavilion. China has taken rapid strides towards reducing poverty and enhancing food and nutrition security, and has accorded priority to efforts to address climate change and build resilience. I would also like to thank WFP, IFAD and FAO for their collaboration. We look forward to working with all of you towards assisting our member States in strengthening the resilience of our smallholder farmers to ensure we fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda.