Connecting My Rice to Climate Change

Thanks to The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), one of our generous funders to COP21 that the three of us had the chance to attend the launching ceremony of Paris Declaration on Agriculture Diversification on the 7 December 2015 by UNMC special arrangement.

This declaration is spearheaded by the Malaysia-based CFFRC or Crops for the Future Research Centre. The government of Malaysia together with the University of Nottingham in Malaysia are the guarantors of CFFRC which was established in 2011 to provide research support to improve food and nutrition security, health and incomes of the poor, as well as the sustainable management of fragile ecosystems.

The ceremony started with a short presentation by Prof Sayed Azam-Ali, the CEO of CFFRC. During his opening speech, he reminded or more precisely, enlightened  (since many of us has no idea on this) the audiences on our current situation of global agriculture. The whole world is mainly dependent on 4 major crops- maize, wheat, rice and soybean to feed 7 billion people. Problems that accompanied by this monoculture does not only cover food insecurity, but also extend to social problems such as malnutrition and poverty.

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Prof Sayed Azam-Ali, CEO of CFFRC giving his opening speech

Since the world relies heavily on a few crop-producing countries, any extreme weather brought by climate change will lead to massive production shock. Food shortage in this sense will further lead to malnutrition especially among the people in the poorer countries. Many of the farmers and people working in the agriculture production will be directly and indirectly affected due to poor crops yield. This will affect their livelihood and poverty will befall them.

That is where agriculture diversification steps in. More variety means less reliance on a single major crop and this will reduce the effect of both poverty and malnutrition has any of the crops is severely impacted by climate change. Besides, this is able to promote the underutilized crops which might be more resilient to climate change.

I have always known that climate change affects agriculture much as climatic conditions are very influential on the growth of crops. Perhaps as a city kid, the problems of agriculture all felt too distant to me. Unlike my parents, I have never grown up with the view of fruit estates or golden paddy field but I believe I am not alone, majority of the younger generation in my country are the same. Food is always abundant and easily available in the city and even most of the rural villages, but that does not mean it will stay the same way forever.

Think about it- where does all my daily food come from? We use money to buy it, but when there is food shortage, what is left for us to buy? I am a rice person, as further confirmed by my 2 weeks stay in Paris where I have been craving for rice for several times.

I CANNOT IMAGINE HOW AM I GONNA LIVE WITHOUT RICE, SERIOUSLY.

NO RICE = No Nasi Lemak, no Sushi etc. Well, you get what I meant; at least from an individual level and when I am a typical foodie Malaysian.

However, it also came to my concern that encouraging the need of diversifying agriculture might also lead to more forest being deforested for such purpose in Malaysia. But the idea of urban farming mentioned by Prof Sayed in our casual conversation sounds like a brilliant idea to solve this!

I personally like how urban farming could diminish the transportation hassle from production sites to selling place. Besides, it can provide opportunities for urban people to witness and experience how is it like to farm near to home; which somehow filled in the gap that I mentioned between myself with agriculture production. Most importantly, vertical farming in urban area can also solve the problem of limited land use. Through this method, there is high chances where we can minimize deforestation and diversify our crops.

So Hurray 😀 to this wonderful idea and keeps our finger crossed for the implementation !

Written by: Emily Oi

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