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Background Paper – Role of Farmer Organisations in Climate Change Adaptation

Farmer Organisations and Climate Change Adaptation

Pacific Island people have a deep experience in coping with the effects of climate variability on  agriculture, driven largely by the region’s exposure to the vagaries of the El Niño Southern Oscillation  (ENSO). Traditional farming systems, which centre on agroecological approaches, have demonstrated  some resilience against external shocks and helped to maintain food security. Local knowledge  sustained over generations, through a range of traditional and cultural practices, has been the  foundation of this resilience and has enabled effective adaptation. Community cooperation and  collaboration have provided the social safety net.  


Today, however, the more resilient food systems of the past are less common and as a result, food  systems are more vulnerable to climate change. Further, this situation is exacerbated by pressures  from an expanding population, growing urbanisation, labour migration, land degradation, such as soil  nutrient depletion and soil loss, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, depletion of freshwater resources  through saline incursions and contamination from urban, agricultural and industrial sources, and  inadequate investment. Changing aspirations and value systems have contributed to an under-valuing  of traditional food systems and agriculture resulting in a lack of interest from youth to engage in  agriculture.  


Climate change adds another dimension to these pressures and despite all the climate models  and projections, the main message around climate change is one of extreme variability and  unpredictability. Climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect food systems in the Pacific  Island region, including the supply of food from agriculture and fisheries, the ability of countries to  import food (because of increasing costs, shortages in supply and export bans ), distribution systems,  and the ability of households to purchase and utilize food. The unprecedented rate at which the global  climate is now changing is not within the realms of experience of Pacific farmers. As such, local  knowledge may not be sufficient to bring about the level of adaptation required to effectively manage  climate change. Bridging local and external knowledge is therefore critical because it widens the  farmers’ knowledge base thereby supporting a more proactive approach to adaptation.  


Climate projections are available for most of the Pacific Islands. Key messages from the ‘Next  Generation Climate Projections for the Western Tropical Pacific’, launched in October 2021 include: 

  • Temperatures have increased, sea level has risen, and cyclones have become less frequent  but more intense. 
  • Observed rainfall trends are not significant due to large natural variability driven by the  ENSO. 
  • Further warming is projected, reaching around 0.7°C by 2030, relative to 1986-2005,  regardless of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenario. By 2050, the warming is  around 0.8°C for a low emission scenario (RCP2.6) and around 1.5°C for a high emission  scenario (RCP8.5). By 2070, it’s around 0.8°C (RCP2.6) to 2.2°C (RCP8.5). 
  • Future rainfall changes have large uncertainty. The central estimate of projected changes  is close to zero percent in countries south of latitude 10°S, with increases between latitudes  10°S and 10°N. 
  • Sea level will continue to rise. By 2030, the increase is about 0.09 to 0.18 metres, relative  to 1986-2005, regardless of the GHG emission scenario. By 2050, the increase is around  0.17-0.30 metres for a low emission scenario (RCP2.6) and around 0.20 to 0.36 metres for  a high emission scenario (RCP8.5). By 2070, it’s around 0.24 to 0.43 metres for RCP2.6  and 0.33 to 0.63 metres for RCP8.5. 
  • Heavy rainfall intensity will increase. 
  • Fewer tropical cyclones are projected, but their average intensity could change by -5 to  +10% for a 2°C global warming. 
  • The projected increase in average cyclone intensity, combined with sea level rise and  increased heavy rainfall intensity, would increase cyclone impacts. 

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