Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Climate Change, Rising Food Prices, and Farmers

By Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Mario Espinosa, a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico, digs irrigation channels in his field this past Monday.

The U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, are in their second week but a headline from last week is still stuck in my head: "Global warming could double food prices" by 2050.

According to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute, prices will be affected by factors including reduced productivity due to warming and changing rainfall patterns, and population growth. The Associated Press reports:

Change apparently already is under way. Returning from northern India, agricultural scientist Andrew Jarvis said wheat farmers there were finding warming was maturing their crops too quickly. "The temperatures are high and they're getting reduced yields," Jarvis, of the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture, told reporters last month.

Right now I'm visiting farms and farmers in the southeastern Mexico state of Chiapas, not terribly far from where the climate talks are happening. Climate change is not the focus of why I and two Bread for the World colleagues are here, but it's been on my mind. If global temperatures keep rising and weather and climate patterns shift, what will happen to farmers like Mario Espinosa?

We recently met the 29-year-old vegetable farmer as he dug irrigation channels in his maize field. Espinosa married five months ago and lives with his wife, Leti, in a town about an hour's drive from Comitan. He once worked in orange groves in Florida and cucumber fields in Michigan. Now, with the help of AGROS, an organization that helps people achieve land ownership and learn agriculture skills, he feels his future is richer in Mexico.

Espinosa, 29, once worked on farms in the U.S. but now feels his future is richer in Mexico.

It could be a future dependent on the winds of climate change and what world leaders are willing to do about it. Earlier this year, Mexican President Felipe Calderon linked floods and landslides in Chiapas and the nearby state of Oaxaca to global warming. "For us, it is absolutely clear that global warming exists," he told AFP.

Unfortunately, it's also becoming clear that no substantive agreement will come out of this year's U.N. climate talks. Expectations were not high to begin with. But it looks like we'll have to wait at least one more year so that years down the road, farmers like Espinosa aren't flooded out of their homes and livelihoods.



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Funny thing how with the shrinking of the size of the primary sector in the 21st century we are now back to impending food scarcity. If that's true, farmers like him are likely to form their own political movements and force the hands of their national leaders, since climate change won't do it for them.

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