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Now is the time to climate-and-pandemic-proof our food systems

Now is the time to climate-and-pandemic-proof our food systems

As farmers in Bangladesh and India assess the damage to their villages and crops from Cyclone Amphan, it is clear that climate disasters have not stopped for Covid-19.

ActionAid’s emergency teams report that many villages are almost entirely flooded, with homes destroyed and crops lost.

Some farmers have benefited from adaptation efforts to improve soils and crop diversity that protect their harvests from floods and winds, and early warning systems that enabled them to harvest and get to safety before the disaster hit.

But the Covid-19 pandemic is bringing to light many more vulnerabilities and inequalities in the food system. As lockdown measures hamper farmers’ ability to sell produce, even farmers whose crops have survived the cyclone may still lose their livelihoods.

Globally, cyclones, droughts and locust swarms continue to devastate food security and farmers’ livelihoods, and the combination of climate change and the pandemic threaten to seed a global hunger crisis in the year to come. We must therefore seize this moment to fix our broken food system.

For the past decades, the industrialisation of crop and livestock production has devastated the world’s ecosystems, soils and agricultural biodiversity, produced excess greenhouse gases that heat the planet, and left farming vulnerable to the weather extremes caused by climate change.

At the same time, agribusiness penalises smallholder farmers, leaves them more exposed to climate impacts, and concentrates land and wealth in fewer and fewer hands.