The impact of climate change on food security and poverty

 In Africa, Climate, Environment

With the unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 27.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018 from 26.7 percent in the previous period. The number of unemployed rose by 103 thousand to 6.08 million while the number of employed fell by 90 thousand to 16.29 million. This has contributed to the challenges of food security in South Africa.

Whilst South Africa is food secure at national level, the country is still food insecure at household level as not all households have access to adequate food. Almost 20% of South African households had inadequate or severe inadequate access to food in 2017. This varied by province, population group of household head and by household size.

Almost two-thirds of the households that were vulnerable to hunger resided in urban areas. Food inadequacy and hunger are still a challenge. Poverty-stricken households lack money to buy food and are unable to produce their own food. These households are constrained by the inability to secure employment or to generate income. Poor households are also typically characterised by few income-earners and many dependents and are particularly vulnerable to economic shock.

Climate change affects food systems in the broadest sense of the word. It affects the availability of, access to and utilisation of food, changing weather patterns or extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts, can have negative consequences for agricultural production. As a result, people have less access to food, which forces them to buy food products. This affects their financial situation.

Which simply means that the victims of climate change are the poorest and most vulnerable in the society. Women and children are particularly exposed to climate related disasters and are more at risk to suffer higher rates of mortality and economic damage to their livelihoods. This unequal impact of climate change is part of the development of capitalism in our society. As capitalism expanded across the globe its concentrated wealth will only benefit a few.

Food that isn’t commodified has no value to capitalism, despite its biological value to a hungry person. The specific use value of food for that person is of no consequence. The farmer who has no use for such food, of course, is not being malicious, just responding to competitive market pressures. This raises a concern as it implies that food security is seriously challenged, as the population growth is greater than the crop production. This implies that food production will not be able to meet global demand for food, leaving millions of people having reduced food security.

Climate change projections indicate significant increases in the frequency and intensity of natural hazards, with current climate related natural disasters happening in South Africa, storm events, floods, draught and earthquakes.

The United Nations Development Report reported, that one in four households in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access adequate food. The IPCC (2007) shows that Southern Africa has higher climate change vulnerability because of the inequality gap, the fast growth of unemployment and poverty, it predicts that the consequences could be severe, exerting far-reaching impacts on the livelihoods of many people more especially women and children.

According to the IPCC (2007), agricultural productivity will decline from 21% to 9% by 2080 due to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa. The report indicates that rising temperatures in precipitation are likely to reduce the production of stable food by up to 50%. Climate change has a profound and unavoidable effect on food security in South Africa, as increasing temperatures and shifting rain patterns reduce access to food.

Climate effects and adaptions

Even if emissions are stabilized relatively soon, climate change and its effects should last many years, and adaptation would be necessary to the resulting changes. The process of adjustment to expected climate change and its effects should vary from place to place, depending on the sensitivity and vulnerability to environmental impacts

Adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of the effects of global warming. The capacity and potential for humans to adapt is unevenly distributed across different regions and populations, and developing countries generally have less capacity to adapt.
It can easily seem like a hopeless situation. However, there is still hope. The next few years could be the most important that we have ever seen, in terms of acting in time to avoid runaway climate change. We must reduce the risks of droughts, extreme heat, storms, biodiversity loss and poverty. Which also means we need to address the relationship between poverty and capitalism.

To successfully address the climate crisis, we must identify and address the deep root connections that link (Capitalism) it to the myriad other crises we face, as well as the intertwined crises of food, water and biodiversity loss. These crises are unified by their common roots in an economic system that encourages banks and corporations to ignore ethical and moral considerations and gamble with the Earth, peoples’ lives, and our collective futures in the service of higher profits.

Successfully addressing climate change will require a fundamental restructuring of our society that, if thoughtfully done, can lay a new foundation that will simultaneously help us achieve both global justice and ecological balance.

The vast gulf in resources between rich and poor, in South Africa is evident of the deepest injustice of our age. This failure of resource-fairness makes it impossible for millions of humans to lead decent lives, the sort of life-opportunities that a commitment to true equality should make an absolute essential. Climate change both highlights and exacerbates this gulf in equality. It also provides the world with an opportunity.

Climate change highlights our true interdependence and, must lead to a new and respectful way of sustainable development. Based on the urgent need to scale up and transfer green technologies and to support low carbon climate resilient strategies for the poorest so that they become part of the combined effort in mitigation and adaptation.

Studies show that a transition to a low-carbon economy will lead to a net increase in employment, importantly, the number of jobs created throughout the transition process depends on the demand and investment for greener products and services, the labour intensity requirements for such products and services, and their overall trade implications.

Adaptation strategies aim to minimize the negative effects of climate change on societies and economies and take advantage of any related opportunities. Adaptation measures offer opportunities for job creation and climate resilient communities, including through, relocation of exposed settlements and industry, establishment of coastal defences, reinforcement of buildings and infrastructure; Construction of new climate resistant infrastructure and transfer of new climate friendly technology.

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