The Unprecedented impacts of Climate Change on Food and Nutrition Security

Written by Onditi Msololo,

The escalating weather extremes exacerbated by Climate Change have already triggered unprecedented social havoc and food insecurity particularly in pastoralist and peasant communities in some areas of Tanzania.

At the same time, the pronounced effects of climate change have been experienced by food and cash crop growers who are mainly small-scale farmers, fisher folks and livestock keepers. Production in those sectors is at the core of the impacts based on key climate extremes i.e. floods, drought and high temperatures (ESRF, 2013). Based on crop production, climate extremes have been repeatedly affecting yield plans because the situation results into poor planning and timing by the farmers.

In the Northern highlands (Arusha region in particular), the changes and diversification of crops have been evident. For instance, some farming practices in this region is basing on replacing coffee and tea by sunflower and Irish potatoes, while in some areas, traditional crops such as maize, beans, banana, millet, mangoes, oranges, has disappeared due to drought, reduced soil fertility and increase in new diseases and pests. This situation has taken the same course on different variety of fruits and vegetables simply because farmers prioritizes early maturing crops. This has been built in the sense that farmers need to harvest enough for their domestic uses and capturing the local and international market demand for income generation without considering the needs of food varieties by the community.

On the other hand, increased temperature and reduced pasture due to droughts have been an important aspect in the discussion of climate variability and change impacts on livestock keeping in Tanzania, in all of its forms (pure pastoralists, agro-pastoralist, and intensive livestock keeping). In most cases, most of the animals kept by the local communities in rural areas are cattle, chicken, pig, goat, and ship for income after sell of the animals and its products, as well as nutrition factors (for milk, meat, eggs etc.). In general, the difficulties pronounced in livestock keeping and production in the country are pasture and water and more expenses for medication, as there is a number of emerging animal disease. According to pastoral communities in Arusha region, weather and climate related changes are the main cause of the diseases especially shortages of rain which results into dried land and increased dust which also triggers spread of bacteria, and migrating insects. Again, in some cases the abnormal or heavy rains that causes floods contributes to spreading of virus and bacteria that affects animals.

Many people across the coastal rural regions in Tanzania depends on fishing activities for livelihood. Fisheries and aquaculture have been directly or indirectly relied to for food security, livelihoods and poverty reduction in the coastal areas, despite the grave danger from climate change. Ocean temperatures is at the rise; many fish species are being driven into deeper waters or toward the planet’s poles in which the fishing technology applied by most of the fishing community in Tanzania cannot result into significant yield.

In respect of all the reasons explained above, food system processes, such as food processing, distribution, acquisition, preparation and consumption is also affected. In Tanzania, there are regions in which crops are grown enough to feed other regions. Most of food that is consumed in the country are produced in those regions (Northern highlands and Western parts of the country). In the context of climate change, transportation of food from these regions to other parts of the country has been a challenge due to poor infrastructures (road network) in relation to the frequency and intensity of severe weather condition. This situation is also coupled with poor technology that jeopardizes the flow of food in the market chain especially the produced, processed and packed food staff across the country. The situation becomes worse when these processes are scrutinized to comply to the low emission scenario in response to climate change. This is hard to the current and future climate change impacted vulnerable and special groups of people (children, women, disabled and the elderly) in the country.

Meanwhile, the communities that depend on crop farming and utilization, fishing, and pastoralism are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, women and children are uniquely vulnerable especially on nutritional bases. This is based in the realities that the impacts of climate change are not uniformly affecting people in Tanzania as it is happening in other developing countries. This situation is coupled with social and cultural practices that determines their participation in decision making processes and ownership of resources (Nelson et al., 2002; CSW, 2008). Women are also underrepresented in decision-making, and most critically, discussions and decisions about adaptation and mitigation to climate variability and change. Yet, women possess special skills and experiences relevant to climate variability and change impacts.

With this context, climate change is among the aspects that is receiving insufficient weight in spite of having significant impacts on food and nutrition security. Recognizing and addressing the impacts of climate change by factoring more efforts on vulnerable groups such as women and children is important in all spheres to ensure a food and nutrition secured community. It is from those premises that we need to bring ourselves together, share experience, exchange knowledge and execute appropriate interventions that brings women at the core of addressing malnutrition in Tanzania. This can be done and likely to result into enabled acquisition of vital input and profound knowledge based on women’s key role in the community. This will further significantly contribute on building a resilient community and reducing undernourishment cases in the context of climate change in the country.

Comments (2)

  • Linda .M. KavisheJanuary 28, 2018 at 3:34 pm Reply

    Hello Mr. Onditi,
    Thank you for a wonderful blog article , i would further go on to appreciate your incorporation of gender issues in your article. Taking into consideration of our country’s economy at the moment, I would like to put forward a little addition by recognizing the high pricing of food in the markets in which climate change at some percentage is also contributing.
    But also, taking point of food storage in the warehouses, we having stocks of stored food destroyed due to variable weather patterns and extreme climate related events.

    • adminJanuary 31, 2018 at 7:04 am Reply

      It is quite true Linda, that women are differently affected by the impacts of climate in different aspects, contexts, and locations. The price of food is clear that it affects the accessibility, hence hindering fulfillment of food preferences and nutritional requirements. On destroyed food in non-climate compatible warehouses is a challenge that needs special attention, based on the efforts to reduce post-harvest losses. This is simply considering Climate change in infrastructure development on food and other essential needs.

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