Millions hungry as warming shifts seasons
Nassapir, Uganda, July 5, 2009
In a new report, global aid agency Oxfam says impoverished communities worldwide are being hit hard by the effects of global warming, including increased drought.
Without international funding to help them cope and tough targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the food, water, health and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people will be put at even greater risk.
Oxfam says interviews it carried out with farmers in 15 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America show that seasons are shrinking in number and variety.
This is destroying harvests, pushing farmers to abandon traditional crops and causing widespread hunger -- which, the agency predicts, will likely be "climate change's most savage impact on humanity in the near future".
Rainfall is reported to be more erratic, shorter and more violent. Unusual weather events -- including storms, drier spells and fluctuating temperatures -- are happening more often. And farmers say winds and storms have got stronger.
"We think that 'changing seasonality' may be one of the most significant impacts of climate change for poor farmers, and that is happening now," said Oxfam programme researcher John Magrath in the report.
Savio Carvalho, Oxfam's climate change adviser for the developing world, told Reuters global warming was already affecting people across Africa, and would wipe out efforts to tackle poverty without urgent action like massive tree planting.
"In sub-Saharan Africa, (yields of) maize, which is a staple crop, will decrease by 15 percent by 2020 and that is a big number," he said.
"Drought is now happening on a yearly basis, and there is increased hunger and starvation because of declining food stocks," added Carvalho.
The report says the worst effects of climate change on hunger and poverty can be avoided if communities and governments start adapting now.
Oxfam's Carvalho also recommended developing drought-tolerant maize seeds, and experimenting with alternative sources of energy in poor rural areas, where most people rely on cutting down trees for firewood and construction. - Reuters