Farmers need to be seen as agents of change to improve agricultural resilience,” stated Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu, CEO of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), representing the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) at “Building Food and Water Security in an Era of Climate Shocks”, the Independent Food Systems Summit Dialogue convened by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) last March 24. 

Water scarcity and climate shocks’ impacts on food production. 

 Addressing the meeting, Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu highlighted how water is a central resource for agricultural production and food security.  

She underlined that climate change and water management are highly interlinked as climate change causes changes in the water cycle patterns: “Over the last decades, phenomena like heavy rains, floods, droughts have been causing many disasters. This makes water a threat itself while it is at the same time a fundamental resource for agricultural production, hygiene, consumption 

Farmers’ challenges due to the impacts of climate shocks 

Disasters destroy infrastructures and contaminate water supplies, thus degrading soils conditions, decreasing agricultural production, worsening food insecurity, and destroying sanitation facilities, thus increasing the risk of pest diseases, NASFAM’s CEO underlined on the severe consequences that disasters have on communities’ livelihoods, including farmers.  

She reminded the audience that agriculture is a central sector for many countries’ economies, including developing countries. The sector relies on natural resources, including water, and it is among the most affected by natural and climate-related disasters. The first and most visible impact is on the reduced production, which means an economic loss for the farmers and consequently to the entire value chain, affecting communities’ livelihoods, both in rural and urban areas.  

Furthermore, Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu did not miss out on pointing out how COVID-19 has exacerbated the drastic effects of climate change and existing critical water scarcity conditions: “We saw disruptions in food markets, especially with lockdowns, so farmers came up with innovative solutions to continue selling. For example, through digital platforms, farmers were able to share information and provide extension support on marketing. Rural women were also engaged and active in this.”  

Addressing water and climate-related challenges in agriculture. 

“Involving stakeholders, including farmers, in the design and implementation of national policies is crucial to find effective responses to communities’ real challenges,” NASFAM’s CEO said on how to improve good governance and cooperation for water security at all levels. 

Closing her speech, Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu stressed the importance of investing in agriculture to increase farmers’ resilience: Investing in extension services for farmers to train them on how to prevent and respond to shocks and disasters (farm risk management) is key, as well as putting in place climate risk financial mechanisms that allow farmers to recover from a disaster without losing everything and not being able to access funds and insurances.