Agriculture is the source of livelihood and sustenance for the majority of the Earth's poor and an engine of economic growth in much of the developing world. Climate risk is a challenge for agriculture everywhere, but especially for the hundreds of millions whose livelihoods depend precariously on rainfed agriculture in marginal, high-risk environments. Working with a range of partners on several fronts, the IRI seeks to advance and protect food security and rural prosperity through effective management of climatic risk.
High dependence on variable rainfall and exposure to unmitigated climate risk are common features in the marginal, rainfed regions of the tropics and sub-tropics, where hunger and rural poverty have been most persistent. Climate shocks, such as drought, flooding, or heat waves, lead to loss of life, and to long-term loss of livelihood through loss of productive assets, impaired health, and destroyed infrastructure. Climate variability including extreme events also impact drastically the commercial agricultural production in the "breadbaskets" of the world and affect global food stocks and security. The uncertainty associated with climate variability is a disincentive to investment in improved agricultural technology and market opportunities, prompting the risk-averse farmer to favor precautionary strategies that buffer against climatic extremes over activities that are more profitable on average. Effective management of climate risk remain a neglected yet critical piece of the global coordinated effort to improve agriculture and rural welfare.
Avenues for managing climate risk in agriculture include:
- Climate information services for rural communities
- Information and decision support systems for institutional stakeholders
- Innovations in insurance against climate-related risk; and
- Improved early warning and response systems for agricultural production and food insecurity.
The IRI and a growing number of partners recognize that effective management of current climate risk presents a win-win opportunity to contribute to immediate development priorities while protecting agricultural development from the threat of a changing climate.