What can savvy global financial market traders learn from humble smallholder farmers in developing countries? Risk management in the face of climate change.
With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expiring in less than 1,000 days, new goals are needed that prioritise support for smallholder farmers to better access markets and increase productivity, nutrition and incomes.
Thanks to food riots in several African cities fuelled by high rice prices between 2007 and 2008, sub-Saharan Africa is growing and eating more rice after governments were forced into ambitious production programmes.
For the past five years, farmer Melusi Mhlanga has spent nearly 200 dollars each season for inputs, but the maize yields have not matched his investment.
It took Gily Ncube’s daughters two weeks to sell enough chickens to raise the 18 dollars needed to buy the morphine tablets their mother takes every four hours.
"Accelerating environmental pressures and growing economic inequality are triggering huge social changes around the world, putting existing democracies to the test,” Halina Ward, director of the London-based Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, tells IPS.
Farmers cannot wait much longer for negotiators to reach an agreement on including a work programme on agriculture in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. And until one is approved, “it will continue to be difficult for farmers to produce the food needed, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
South African smallholder farmer Motlasi Musi is not happy with the African Centre for Biosafety’s call for his country and Africa to ban the cultivation, import and export of all genetically modified maize. "I eat genetically modified maize, which I have been growing on my farm for more than seven years, and I am still alive," he declared.
There is no political will among rich nations to find funding for developing countries experiencing the brunt of changes in global weather patterns, and the current climate change conference will fail to do so, according to Professor Patrick Bond, a leading thinker and analyst on climate change issues.
Give a woman a hand-out and you feed her for a day. But teach her to farm, and how to add value to her product, and you feed her and her family for a lifetime. And if she happens to be Nigerian smallholder farmer Susan Godwin, she in turn will also provide jobs for her community and become a national food hero.
In a major endorsement for investment in women - the bulk of food growers in the developing world - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said food security could not be achieved without women, and that the world's hungry also needed leaders to prioritise actions.
If women had equal access to productive farming resources, they could increase their yields by 20 to 30 percent and potentially raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to four percent.
Small-scale irrigation schemes can provide the biggest opportunity for boosting food security in Africa, according to Meredith Giordano, the research director at the International Water Management Institute.
Humanity is living beyond its means with the growing demand for food, medicines and other nature-based products, making sustainable consumption and conservation a matter of life and death. This is according to the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
With the United Nations Climate Change Conference less than four months away, African countries need to present convincing arguments and successful adaptation projects to attract competitive funding for adjusting to changes in global weather patterns, climate finance experts say.