Analysis: How Can Asia’s Smallholder Farmers Endure Both Climate Change and COVID-19?
By Sonia Sambhi
With changing weather patterns and temperatures, farmers at the frontlines of global food production are increasingly at risk. What are their biggest challenges, and are technological innovations enough to support them?
In Asia, over 450 million smallholder farmers support the bulk of food supplies. Despite their small land size, they produce up to 80 per cent of the food consumed in the region.
But these farmers currently face a double crisis: climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“One of the impacts of the pandemic is that it has sharpened our focus on the priority areas that have long been of importance to agriculture in Asia. The key to protecting our food supplies lies in protecting our farmers,” said Chris Argent, head of business sustainability, Asia Pacific, at international agribusiness Syngenta.
Speaking at a webinar entitled Agriculture’s Brave New World: Empowering Asia’s farmers in an era of Climate Change, he said that on top of erratic rainfall patterns and increasing temperatures, the pandemic has deepened existing challenges that smallholder farmers face in accessing finance.
“Banks are taking a more cautious approach to loans during the pandemic. In India, lending to the agricultural sector has contracted by 1.8 per cent during the pandemic, forcing farmers to turn towards informal private money lenders who can often exploit the situation by charging interest rates as high as 60 per cent,” he added.
Photo courtesy of kabita Darlami.