Responding to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing humankind. The most severe impacts are likely to be suffered by the poorest and most vulnerable in society who live in more fragile environments and have the least resources to adapt and recover. The majority of the world’s poor continue to live in rural areas and their livelihoods are heavily dependent upon agriculture and natural resources, which will be severely affected by climate change. Therefore, there are serious implications for their food security, health and well-being.
Over the next decades, changes in the averages and variation of rainfall and temperature will have a profound effect on agriculture. Even in the shorter term, climate change is affecting agriculture through increased frequency and severity of extreme events, such as droughts, floods and heatwaves.
There is great potential for smallholders in developing countries to adapt to climate change. Much of this will comprise an intensification of their current adaptations to climate variability through activities such as selection of appropriate crops and varieties, manipulation of planting times, micromanagement of soil and water, and livelihood diversification. However, adaptation will crucially depend on the availability of appropriate technologies, knowledge and institutions, and having the right supporting policies and advice in place.
The scale of projected climate changes and the challenges posed by existing climate variability to disadvantaged smallholders in low-income countries are immense. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand these challenges better, to build adaptive capacities for households, communities, local agencies, companies, sustainability standard bodies and governments, to develop appropriate strategies for sustainable and equitable rural adaptation.