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DfID has been criticised for ignoring aid projects that support the needs of smallholder farmers

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Aid should focus on climate resilience and less intensive farming models

Tom Levitt

20th July, 2010

Subsistence farming may be seen as a low rung on the development ladder but it can play a vital role in helping low-income countries to adapt to climate change says a government-funded report

Future development aid should focus on preparing countries for climate change, including promoting subsistence farming, according to the sustainability NGO Forum for the Future.

In a new report, part funded by the Department for International Development (DfID), it says that progress in tackling poverty in developing countries will be reversed if NGO and government development policies are ‘blind to climate change’.

It says that while aid agencies are quick off the mark to provide aid in humanitarian crises, more long-term consideration of climate change needs to be built into economic development programs. 

Climate change and development should be seen as ‘complementary, not competing, issues’, said Forum for the Future CEO Peter Madden, and should include, for example, investing in renewable energy, low-carbon transport and low-input agriculture, which will help reduce reliance on expensive fertilisers to maintain crop yields.

The report recommends that development agencies rethink any support for intensive agriculture in favour of subsistence farming, which, while traditionally seen as 'near the bottom of the development ladder', may better prepare countries for the impacts of climate change.

Obsessed with industrial model

DfID was criticised by MPs earlier this year for failing to support long-term agricultural programmes and being obsessed with an ‘industrial model’ of food production that ignores the needs of smallholder farmers who make up the bulk of food production in less industrialised countries.

Develoment NGO Practical Action welcomed the call for more support for less intensive farming models.

‘By focusing on simple, small-scale solutions, families on the front line can adapt to their changing climate. From the pastoralist lands of Kenya to the floodplains of Bangladesh, we see a compelling case for more ambitious support of adaptation measures now - the survival of whole communities depends upon it,’ a spokesperson for the charity said.

International development minister Stephen O’Brien made no comment on support for subsistence farming but said DfID was working, ‘to help the world’s poorest people prepare for the potentially devastating effects of climate change and shift to clean technologies’.

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The Future Climate for Development

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