Research as a Powerful Tool to Combat Climate Change
This post was written by Chelsea Marcho and Cate Flanley, USAID.
Feed the Future and USAID would like to thank you all for being a part of Research for Food Security in a Changing Climate Month on Agrilinks! Throughout February, we have featured research that significantly contributes to the goals of adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change, ensuring our consistent commitment to achieving the U.S. government’s Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) objectives.
Why Agriculture Research?
This February, we highlighted examples that illustrate what agriculture research is and why research is required to meet Feed the Future’s mission of ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Research improves productivity of agricultural and food systems. We know that agricultural productivity drives economic development in the countries where Feed the Future works. Research in areas like crop and animal breeding, irrigation and sustainable intensification allows smallholder farmers to get more with the same inputs. This is particularly important and pressing as climate change decreases yields and makes it more challenging for farmers in many parts of the world to thrive.
Research investments lead to a tenfold rate of return. Research and development on improved agricultural technologies and practices have direct economic benefits for farmers. In developing countries, the social rate of return to agricultural research and development averages approximately 40% per year. A 2020 report found that the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) research investments have returned benefits tenfold. The returns are evidenced by greater food availability, reduced hunger and malnutrition, and a smaller agricultural footprint.
Research enables partners to adapt to a changing climate. Climate change exacerbates the challenge of increased productivity, but investment in climate-smart agriculture innovations and practices faces this challenge head on. For example, Heat Tolerant Maize for Asia (HTMA) research produced high-yielding, stress-resilient maize hybrid seed that reached approximately 65,400 smallholder households in 2021. New varieties of seed allow farmers to be more resilient to extreme weather events, such as high temperatures and droughts.
Research not only helps farmers adapt, it can help mitigate agriculture’s contribution to climate change. The new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Current and Emerging Threats to Crops (CETC) is working to scale up agroforestry by planting trees on farm borders and converting biomass to biochar, which is then added back to the soil. These methods are well-recognized drought proofing, and the work is expected to improve soil nutrients and contribute to carbon sequestration.
Research for Food Security in a Changing Climate Month
We would like to thank the Agrilinks community for engaging with the Research for Food Security in a Changing Climate content throughout the month. A special thanks goes out to our A Vision for Crop Improvement and Food Security in a Changing Climate webinar panelists, Tony Gathungu of Seeds2B at the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, Alison Bentley of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center’s Global Wheat Program, Geoff Morris of Colorado State University, Mark Edge of Bayer, and Charlie Messina from the University of Florida.
We were thrilled to host Rattan Lal as this year’s USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security’s honorary research lecturer. His work drives home the overwhelming role that soil health contributes directly and indirectly to human health, as well as ecological and planetary health. He outlined the current challenges that soil degradation produces and highlighted ways that research can contribute to climate-smart regenerative agriculture.
We would also like to thank all of you who contributed blog posts this February. We appreciate the diversity of topics, as they reflect that climate change affects all aspects of food systems. All of the month’s content is available and we highly recommend you take some time to read how your colleagues are engaged in addressing climate change through agricultural research: New Market Research Captures the Potential of Mali’s Solar-Powered Irrigation Sector; Capitalizing on Time in the Race to Breed Inclusive, Resilient Crops; and Collaborative Research on Livestock Feed-Related Interventions Improves Productivity and Tackles Climate Change in Africa.
Lastly, a huge thank you and kudos to the Agrilinks community for providing feedback on the U.S. government’s Global Food Security Research Strategy outline. Your comments and suggestions have been well-received and are currently being integrated to strengthen the 2022-2026 Research Strategy so that it reflects a clear vision to address agricultural challenges, including around climate change.