Saudi-led initiative helps study potential impact of climate change on food security

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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia-based organization has partnered with leading researchers and humanitarian agencies to harness the power of data and technology in hopes of preventing climate shocks from causing hunger among communities vulnerable breeders.

Community Jameel announced in September the establishment of the Jameel Observatory for Early Action on Food Security to address the growing threat to these communities from increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters.

Its launch coincided with preparations for COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which begins Sunday in Glasgow. World leaders will meet in the Scottish city to discuss collective action on carbon emissions, fossil fuels and other efforts to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above levels pre-industrial, a target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The new venture combines the expertise of five partners, including the University of Edinburgh, the International Livestock Research Institute, Save the Children, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Community Jameel.

Rising temperatures mean droughts are more frequent, depriving livestock of reliable water sources and turning once lush pastures into desert. By recording changes at the local level, the observatory aims to help communities adapt and adapt before disaster strikes.

“Community Jameel has long focused on the issue of food security and, in particular, how climate change is putting pressure on access to healthy and abundant food,” George Richards, director, told Arab News. by Community Jameel. “But we have gradually seen an increase in needs and pressure on access to food, due to the increasing pressures of climate change. “

Community Jameel, an international non-governmental organization, was launched to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems using an evidence-based, science, data and technology-based approach. In 2014, he established an institution at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, which focuses on the development of new technologies and solutions for drinking water and food safety.

“We went back to our roots and thought about how we can support researchers and scientists who effectively use data and science to monitor, predict and give early warnings about epidemics of hunger, famine and death. other factors of malnutrition, especially where they are the result. of climate change, ”said Richards.


Ethiopian pastoralists take care of their flocks. (Provided / ILRI)

The observatory’s partnership combines cutting-edge technology and data monitoring to detect warning signs of severe weather events and systemic climate change with community-based applications and interventions.

The Jameel Observatory works with agencies that work with farmers to develop and apply digital and analytical tools that can help farmers shape their own food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

The researchers plan to use community-level data along with satellites, drones, weather data and remote sensing to understand, prepare for and mitigate the likely effects of climate shocks.

The observatory’s first project aims to fill the evidence gaps that currently prevent effective forecast-based action to protect livelihoods and nutrition in parts of East Africa.

As climate change takes center stage at COP26, emphasis has been placed on the need to be fully prepared for the vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses triggered by climate change.

With drylands making up about 40 percent of the world’s land mass, many communities are threatened by fluctuating rainfall, drought, rising temperatures and land degradation.

“In a world increasingly affected by climate change, there is an urgent need to predict the impact of droughts and severe weather on hunger and malnutrition, and to act early to prevent the loss of lives”, Joanne Grace, head of hunger and livelihoods at the humanitarian organization Save the Children, told Arab News.

“Getting it right would be monumental for children’s health for decades to come. The Jameel Observatory aims to ensure that acting early to prevent food crises becomes the norm rather than the exception. “

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, dryland ecosystems are home to about 25 percent of the world’s population, contain half of the world’s livestock and 27 percent of its forests, while storing 30 percent of the world’s livestock. percent of soil organic carbon and providing about 60 percent of the food. production.

However, climate change is leading to longer droughts and accelerated desertification in arid areas. This affects biodiversity and vegetation cover, which in turn reduces soil fertility and compromises food, nutrition and human security.

“Climate change can therefore push already fragile ecosystems and local communities beyond their adaptive capacity, leading to forced displacement, increased migration and tensions related to access and use of natural resources. “FAO said in a document released at the United Nations Food Systems Summit in New York. York in September.


A farmer harvests leafy greens in a field in the Jabel Jais mountain range in Ras Al Khaimah on January 24, 2021 (AFP / File Photo)

The Jameel Observatory is examining the relationship between climate change and health in an attempt to mitigate the threat of rising temperatures as a driver of hunger and famine. The organization has partnered with Aeon, a Riyadh-based think tank, to coordinate and bring together researchers in Saudi Arabia and abroad to examine this relationship.

“There is a lot of external research on the risks that accelerating climate change will impose, especially in places that have naturally hot and humid climates, including the Gulf,” Richards said.

“What they call the increase in ‘wet bulb temperature’, which is the combined measure of heat and humidity, could make parts of the Gulf uninhabitable in a few years. But there is very little research that is actually done by or with researchers in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. “

This is why the initiative also brought together researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, MIT, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab. and Imperial College in London to unravel the relationship between health and climate change in the GCC region. Their conclusions are expected in April 2022.

In parallel, Community Jameel will co-organize an event in the Saudi pavilion at COP26 in partnership with Aeon, during which the researchers will present some of their interim findings. In addition to the Jameel Observatory, it will also host representatives from organizations from Nairobi, the UK and the US, in collaboration with Cooking Sections, a London-based artistic duo who have been nominated for the 2021 Turner Prize.

“Their artistic practice is focused on the issue of food and sustainability,” said Richards. “So the Jameel community, cooking sections and Michelin-starred chefs come together to co-host a culinary dining experience to highlight the importance of sustainable food systems, which is at the heart of what Jameel Observatory is trying to achieve. do in terms of data mining. to make food systems more efficient and reduce the risk of famine and hunger epidemics.


Rising temperatures mean droughts are more frequent, depriving livestock of reliable water sources and turning once lush pastures into desert. (AFP / File Photo)

Richards also highlighted the opening season of Hayy Jameel, the new Art Jameel hub in Jeddah due to open on December 6, which will have a strong focus on food-related issues.

“There is something so fundamental about the way human society tends to build itself around food, that even the most basic community act centers on breaking bread or the common meal”, a- he declared.

“And, as we face greater challenges, whether it be from the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change, it is increasingly necessary for humanity to shake hands and work together to meet these challenges.

“For us, it’s really on our behalf. We are all community driven and we believe that food is at the heart of that community. So making sure that people all over the world have access to safe and plentiful food is really our core business. “

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Twitter: @CalineMalek



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