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Food Injustice in a Changing Climate: Hundreds of Millions at Risk of Hunger

New research from Food Tank, CARE International, and the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) program showcases ways forward in cultivating equality in the food system.

WASHINGTON D.C. (October 12, 2015) — Climate change threatens to put hundreds of millions people – mostly women and children – at risk of hunger unless inequalities in the food system are tackled simultaneously with climate change.

A new report from Food Tank, CARE International and the CGIAR Research program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) – Cultivating Equality: Delivering Just and Sustainable Food Systems in a Changing Climate – shows how inequality determines who eats first and who eats worst, and how this shapes people’s ability to adapt to climate change. Food Tank, CARE International and CCAFS argue that solutions around food production are not enough, and demand more dialogue and action to address inequality in food systems.

“The impacts of climate change are felt most by those least responsible for the problem and with the least capacity to adapt. Efforts to address hunger and malnutrition in the context of climate change must address inequality in food systems at all levels,” says Tonya Rawe, Senior Advisor for Policy and Research for CARE International. “As governments work to realize the targets of the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, they must ensure that the needs, interests, and rights of women and small-scale food producers are not forgotten. The first step is to make sure we get a just climate change agreement from the UN climate talks in Paris this December.”

“Sustainability and equity must be the foundation for tackling climate change, hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Women make up nearly 50 percent of farmers in developing regions of the world, and are responsible for almost 90 percent of food preparation in the household,” says Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank. “But globally, only about 15 percent of all landholders are women. Their limited access to technology, financial resources, and land not only represents an unfair distribution of resources, but also limits agricultural productivity by suppressing the abilities of half the world’s farmers.”

“The needs of smallholder farmers, including women, need to be at the foundation of climate change solutions,” says Dr. Bruce Campbell, who leads the CCAFS program. “We know that new technologies and practices for tackling climate change will be adopted more successfully when they are appropriate to women’s interests, resources and demands. We should also recognize and support women’s capacity as farmers and innovators.”

The new report examines how well climate-smart agriculture, sustainable intensification, and agroecology address inequality and enable small-scale food producers and women to lift themselves out of poverty. Food Tank, CARE, and CCAFS offer guidance and recommendations on how to achieve food and nutrition security for all in a changing climate.


Food Tank: Danielle Nierenberg (USA) at (202) 590-1037 or Danielle@FoodTank.com

CARE International: Viivi Erkkila, Climate Change Media and Communications Coordinator (UK) at +44 (0) 77924 54130 or verkkila@careclimatechange.org

CCAFS: Vanessa Meadu, Global Communications and Knowledge Manager (UK) at + 44 (0) 77721 95317 or v.meadu@cgiar.org

About CARE International

CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty and delivering lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 90 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women to equip them with the proper resources to lift their families and communities out of poverty.

About Food Tank

Food Tank is a think tank focused on feeding the world better. We research and highlight environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty and create networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.


The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security.

Key findings from the report:

To realize food and nutrition security for all in the face of climate change, CARE, CCAFS, and Food Tank make the following recommendations to actors as diverse as governments, the private sector, donors, and individuals:

  • Prioritize women’s empowerment and integrate climate change in all approaches to food and nutrition security;
  • Ensure small-scale food producers and women have a seat at the table when policies and budgets are decided;
  • Commit to ambitious action to tackle the climate crisis and keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius;
  • Commit to scaling up of finance to address hunger and climate change;
  • Respect the rights of small-scale food producers and women and commit to equitable approaches in policies and supply chains;
  • Know where your food comes from to make sustainable consumption choices.

​Women must be empowered and recognized as equal partners – valued for their contributions and knowledge – not because they deliver results, but because they are equal with men.

Given the differences between men and women’s roles and access to resources, it is vital that the impacts of and the solutions to climate change are examined through the gender lens.

Without urgent and ambitious action by policymakers, international development organizations, donors, governments, and private sector, the world is at risk of the breakdown of local food systems, migration, increased risk of food insecurity, particularly for poorer populations, conflict, and the loss of rural livelihoods due to increased water scarcity. Small-scale food producers, especially women, deserve a new strategy to support their agricultural efforts in the face of climate change.

The dialogue on solutions to hunger in a changing climate is often heavily focused on how we produce food (to address resource scarcity and climate change) and especially on how we produce more food (to tackle hunger). Equitable access to information and resources is key to making progress on these issues.

Climate-smart agriculture can hold promise for small-scale food producers and women but to be truly climate-smart, it must address drivers of vulnerability, as well as social, political, economic, and gendered power dynamics.

Agroecology can help with dramatic recovery of degraded soils, make better use of scarce water, reduce emissions and help significantly increase the ability of resource-poor farmers to increase output and income. It can be an example of what agriculture should be to face the double challenge of climate change and food insecurity.

The cumulative reality of the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in a changing climate is proof we need a new approach. To achieve food and nutrition security for all in the context of a changing climate, and to address the needs of small-scale food producers and women living in poverty, a holistic approach to hunger, climate change, poverty, gender and equality is necessary.

Ending hunger and malnutrition in the context of climate change presents unprecedented challenges for people and the planet. Small-scale food producers and women farmers should be seen as leaders in adapting to climate change and their voices should be heard at all levels of policy and decision-making.

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