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Climate change and food security: a Sri Lankan perspective

18 April 2017

There is growing concern in Sri Lanka over the impact of climate change, variability and extreme weather events on food production, food security and livelihoods.

A paper based on research into the link between food security and climate change in Sri Lanka undertaken by Prof. Mohamed Esham during an Endeavour Fellowship with ISF in 2015 has just been published in the journal of Environment, Development and Sustainability.

The link between climate change and food security has been mostly explored in relation to impacts on crop production or food availability aspects of food security, with little focus on other key dimensions, namely food access and food utilization.

The review by Prof. Esham and his colleagues, based on available literature, adopted a food system approach to gain a wider perspective on food security issues in Sri Lanka. It points to several climate-induced issues posing challenges for food security. These issues include declining agriculture productivity, food loss along supply chains, low livelihood resilience of the rural poor and prevalence of high levels of undernourishment and child malnutrition.

With the exception of productivity of a few crop species, the review demonstrates the dearth of research into climate change impacts on Sri Lanka’s food system. The authors suggest that achieving food security requires action that goes beyond building climate resilience in food production to a holistic approach that encompasses all aspects of the food system (production , transport, marketing, consumption and waste recycling) while addressing nutritional concerns arising from impacts of climate change.

The authors suggest further research is required to understand how changes in climate may affect other components of the food system including productivity of a wider range of food crops, livestock and fisheries, and shed light on the causal pathways of climate-induced nutritional insecurity.

Whilst at ISF during his 2015 Endeavour Fellowship, Prof. Esham became familiar with Dr Dana Cordell’s research on phosphorus futures and A/Prof. Brent Jacobs’ work using integrated vulnerability assessment frameworks. This led to the establishment of the phosphorus and climate smart agriculture (PACSA) project in Sri Lanka, which is investigating the capacity of farmers, policy-makers, the agrochemical industry and other stakeholders in Sri Lanka to adapt to phosphorus scarcity and climate change via the development and testing of a novel rapid integrated vulnerability assessment framework.

Esham M, Jacobs B, Rosairo HSR, Siddighi BB, 2017 “Climate change and food security: a Sri Lankan perspective” Environment, Development and Sustainability.