Vanessa White-Barrow | Impacts of climate change on food security and nutrition | On point
Climate change has become a phenomenon of global concern, especially as we have continually witnessed its destructive effects throughout history. According to the United Nations, human activities have been major drivers of climate change since the 1800s. Although some people view climate change as something that will happen in the future or as being seasonal, it is a process continued. Global ecosystems and communities are currently being affected.
Climate change on different sectors of society is quite interdependent. Drought can affect food production and human health. Floods can spread disease and damage ecosystems and infrastructure. Human health issues can increase mortality, affect food availability and limit worker productivity. The impacts of climate change are visible in all aspects of the world in which we live. As we continue to experience climate-induced disasters, it is imperative that we focus our attention on the calamitous effects it can have on the future health and well-being of global populations, through climate-related factors. food and nutrition.
Since the United Nations Climate Change Conference was last held in October-November 2021 (COP26), we have also seen a global call to action and much debate on the need for strategies to help resolve and to minimize the problem. Jamaica’s participation in the COP26 meeting in October-November 2021 highlighted the country’s goal to be part of a global network of net-zero and climate-resilient developing countries by 2050 in response to the climate change. This target was also found to correlate with the 30 X 30 target developed in 2019, which is an international target that brings together the protected areas of participating nations.
Through these goals, the Jamaican government, with the support of international project teams, would commit to ambitious strategies that protect our lands and seas. This is particularly critical as Jamaica relies heavily on its cultural and economic services provided by terrestrial and marine ecosystems. These combined goals have the potential to benefit Jamaica not only by improving the local economy, but also by restoring depleted fishing grounds and fish populations, protecting carbon stored in vegetation and soils, and increasing Food Safety.
MOST AFFECTED AGRICULTURE
While we recognize that climate change is real and happening before our eyes, it is crucial that we also understand that climate is intrinsically linked to agriculture, food and nutrition. If the change in our regional and global climate patterns continues to dramatically increase, the Caribbean is expected to experience disruptions in adherence to dietary guidelines, household food security, food choices and food security, a a point that was also highlighted by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).
A 2016 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Latin American Integration Association ( ALADI) stressed that the impacts of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean will be considerable. This is attributed to the region’s economic dependence on agriculture, the low adaptive capacity of its population, and the geographical location of some countries.
Due to global warming, we have experienced extreme and unpredictable weather conditions that lead to natural disasters, reduced yields of major crops in the region, and higher levels of carbon dioxide, which dilutes the nutritional value of crops. Therefore, projected increases in extreme weather events are likely to have negative impacts on food availability, often leading to price spikes or abuse of limited commodities. Increases in food prices are then likely to induce consumers in the Caribbean to choose lower-cost foods.
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL COST US
Research confirms that warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate from land and oceans, and that changes in the size and frequency of heavy rainfall can, in turn, affect the size and the frequency of floods. Flooding is the main transport mechanism for pathogens and chemicals on agricultural land and can increase food contamination. Consequently, with climate change-imposed floods carrying these deadly toxins onto farmland, food is no longer safe to eat, which can lead to undernutrition.
Although there is no evidence confirming that climate change is the cause, from late January to early February sections of northern Jamaica experienced torrential rains. Current Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, said Jamaica’s agricultural sector had been affected by the floods, leading to loss of crops and livestock, damage to road infrastructure and loss of land agriculture due to erosion and landslides. A total of 551 farmers lost approximately J$76,815,000, with crop damage accounting for J$74,884,600 and over J$1.9 million in livestock losses, with 55 farmers affected. Therefore, the government, in collaboration with municipal corporations and other agencies, has worked together to devise informed strategies to help farmers and residents recover.
In addition to the woes of the floods, Jamaican consumers have been grappling with soaring food prices, which can be attributed to reduced food availability due to the floods. When livestock yields and productivity decline, food prices are often expected to rise, making food access difficult and can lead to poor food choices. Imagine the most vulnerable in our society spending much of what they already don’t have on food alone.
Moreover, the state of nutrition and general health in the Caribbean is in danger! Obesity is one of the main causes of poor health in the region. Despite the lack of an obvious link, climate change is a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. Dietary guidelines to prevent/manage weight gain and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease emphasize the consumption of whole foods, i.e. fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, nuts, seeds); whole grains; lean proteins like fish; and vegetable oils in appropriate amounts depending on the needs of the individual. The guidelines also encourage hydration with clean water as often as possible and limiting the consumption of sugary drinks and processed foods.
Frequent natural disasters associated with the current geopolitical situation in Europe have indirect impacts on the health and nutrition landscape of Jamaican and Caribbean nationals and can potentially reduce the available supply of plant-based foods, fish and vegetables. potable water. The power of both to cause severe disruptions to the food supply chain, causing food shortages due to soaring fertilizer prices, and a halt to global exports of staple foods, leading to soaring commodity prices food, is of particular concern. Worse still, energy-dense foods, especially ultra-processed food products, are often cheaper than their healthier counterparts and less affected by price spikes. This then pushes our local people, especially the most vulnerable and displaced, to choose these ultra-processed products and cheaper fast foods that are often loaded with huge amounts of salt, unhealthy fats and added sugars. This can decrease the nutritional quality of food intakes, lower the nutritional status of some people and increase the risk of obesity in the Caribbean.
The cumulative effects of climate change are driving many changes to our food and nutrition landscape. Many countries are not yet prepared to deal with climate-related threats, particularly in relation to food and nutrition, and some groups are more vulnerable to these threats than others. Our response must be on several fronts. Governments and regulators must align public policies and investments that promote clean, renewable energy that drives away heavily polluting industries to ensure safe, quality and nutritious food for Jamaica. With the right policies and investments in Jamaica’s food and agriculture sector, we have the opportunity to realize our vision of healthy people in a healthy place on a healthy planet.
– Dr. Vanessa White-Barrow is Director of the School of Health and Wellness/Nutritionist at the College of Health Sciences, Jamaica University of Technology. Send your comments to [email protected]