Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia

International Symposium on Climate Change
and Food Security in South Asia

Dhaka, Bangladesh
25-29 August 2008

Dhaka Symposium Declaration

Symposium Recommendations

Workshop Overview

The Ohio State University, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) and other co-sponsors are organizing this symposium and the background, specific objectives and expected outcomes are listed below.  The symposium programme brings together experts from national meteorological/ hydrological and agricultural departments, international and regional organizations/ institutions; and policy makers from national planning/financial departments to present state-of-the-art papers, real world applications and innovative techniques for coping with climate change and the symposium will give recommendations for planning and implementing an effective Agriculture Mitigation and Adaptation Framework for Climate Change in South Asia. The symposium programme


Across South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), large populations depend on semi-subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. Rainfall in the semi-arid and sub-humid regions of South Asia is highly variable and undependable and influences agricultural productivity. Farming practices in these regions have developed as a response to such climatic risks.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (lPCC) released in 2007, future projections of climate change indicate that South Asia is very likely to warm during this century.  Also, freshwater availability is projected to decrease and coastal areas will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and rivers. Sea level rise in Bangladesh is expected to impact over 13 million people with a 16% loss of national rice production. In some South Asian countries, a substantial reduction in crop yields from rainfed agriculture could occur.  Additionally, dramatic changes in the land use patterns in South Asia compound the problem of climate change.

The agricultural sector, including crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, and land and water management, is both a bearer and a contributor of global climate change. Some specific options have already been identified, tested and documented for climate change mitigation and adaptation for agriculture sector, such as sustainable land and forest management; changing varieties; more efficient water use; altering the timing or location of cropping activities; improving the effectiveness of pest, disease and weed management practices and making better use of seasonal climate forecasts to reduce production risks. If these options are widely adopted, they could have substantial potential to offset negative impacts from climate change and take advantage of positive impacts. To cope with climate change more effectively in South Asia, it is necessary to identify integrated adaptation and mitigation options for a range of agroecosystems so as to enable a favourable policy environment for the implementation of the framework.  

Specific Workshop Objectives

  • To provide a central forum to develop an improved understanding and assessment of the climate change impacts on agriculture and the associated vulnerability in South Asia;
  • To identify and discuss integrated mitigation and adaptation win-win options for the agricultural sector in different agroecosystems of South Asia;
  • To discuss and propose a regional Agriculture Mitigation and Adaptation Framework for Climate Change in South Asia.
  • To discuss and recommend policy and financial innovations to enable smooth implementation of the regional framework and it’s integration into the sustainable development planning of South Asia countries; and
  • To discuss appropriate options for strengthening information exchange on climate change impacts and cooperation on agriculture mitigation and adaptation actions among South Asia countries.

Expected Workshop Outcomes

Senior experts in the field of climate change and agro-meteorology, sustainable agricultural development and national economic/financial planning agencies will be invited to prepare state-of-the-art discussion papers to address the above objectives. The programme for the symposium will be designed to engage all participants in discussions on these discussion papers and develop appropriate recommendations for all organizations involved in sustainable agricultural development in South Asia.

The workshop should result in enhanced capacity to: identify/understand impacts, vulnerability and adaptation; select and implement adaptation actions; enhance cooperation among South Asian countries to better manage climate change risks; and enhance integration of climate change adaptation with sustainable agricultural development in South Asia.

Proceedings of the Meeting will be published by WMO, FAO and ESCAP and will be widely distributed to promote the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Framework for South Asian Agriculture.

Press Covergage:


Dhaka Declaration of Symposium

S Asian climate change network a must to combat challenges

Staff Correspondent, The Daily Star, 31 August 2008


The International Symposium on Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia in its Dhaka Declaration has recommended creating South Asian Network on Climate Change and Food Security and establishing South Asia Climate Outlook Forum to combat challenges of climatic changes in the region collectively.

The five-day symposium that concluded at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital yesterday also emphasised the need for stimulating multi-disciplinary research on the burning issue and identifying effective mitigation and adaptation options, including carbon sequestration in different ecosystems.

The programme was jointly sponsored by Ohio State University, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Food and Agriculture Organisation, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Dhaka University and the Bangladesh government. Around 250 participants from 17 countries attended the event.

Prof Rattan Lal, director of Carbon Management and Sequestration Centre of Ohio State University, presented the Dhaka Declaration.

Experts at the programme observed that climate change will increase temperature, decrease availability of fresh water, contribute to the rise in sea level, glacial melting in the Himalayas, increased frequency and intensity of extreme events, and shifting of cropping zones in South Asia affecting agriculture and food sector, economy, societies and environment.

Prof Lal said, “The serious problems of soil degradation and desertification are likely to be exacerbated by climate change through accelerated erosion, fertility depletion, salinisation and acidification and that subsistence agriculture, characterised by low productivity and extractive farming, is extremely vulnerable to such climatic change.”

In the wake of such threats, the symposium urged the development partners and the private sector to fund implementation of programmes that reflect the recommendations.

The other recommendations include initiating and strengthening cooperation among academic and research institutions, international organisations, and NGOs to provide opportunities for strengthening institutions, human resource development and capacity building.

The symposium also suggested developing innovative financial mechanisms to scale up technical and financial support for the adaptation efforts of the South Asian countries and strengthening regional institutional and policy mechanisms to promote and facilitate implementation of location-specific adaptation and mitigation practices.

The Declaration says, “Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia Network and South Asia Climate Outlook Forum both to be maintained by the WMO will share information on management of climate change and related science, data, tools and methodologies in South Asia.”

They will also generate data on solar heating as it relates to the effects of soot, aerosols and particulate material emissions on radiation balance, rainfall patterns and regional climate change.

The proposed network and the forum will develop seasonal climate predictions to assist farmers to optimally adjust their planting dates, crop varieties and management practices to reduce agricultural vulnerability to hydro-meteorological hazards, it notes.

These will promote adoption of proven sustainable technologies related to better soil, crop, livestock and fishery and water management in order to increase food productivity by enhancing efficiency of inputs such as fertiliser, water, energy and labour, it adds.

They will create mechanisms to pay farmers for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration in soils and reductions of gaseous emissions related to deforestation, degradation of agricultural soils, grasslands and water quality improvement, and reduced emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agricultural and forestry land uses.

The experts at the symposium said these two bodies would also establish regional early warning system of climatic risks and improve collection and dissemination of weather-related information by improving weather station networks to strengthen monitoring of extreme events and their impacts on food production and availability.



Climate change and Dhaka Declaration

Time to implement recommendations, 01 September 2008


What the declaration made in Dhaka, following a six-day long ‘International Symposium on Climate Change and Food Security’ jointly sponsored by several national and international agencies, has helped to highlight is the fact that it is not only an environmental issue but also one that affect our very existence. And one couldn’t agree more with the comments of the visiting Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson that climate change has the potential to be the most significant challenge to human security in the near future.

At a time when the international community is seized with problem of global poverty, it stands to be further aggravated by climate change which, according to experts, has arrived sooner than expected. Therefore, the organisers must also be complimented for emphasizing on the fact that the thrust of any future action ought to be on the most vulnerable sector that climate change will affect food and agriculture.

The most painful reality of climate change is that it is the poorer countries that stand to suffer most, while it is the rich countries, whose life style is motivated by unabashed consumerist behaviour, that are responsible for the high carbon emission. And it is the poorest in the poor countries that have the least capacity to withstand the effects of climate change.

We are happy to note the many practical recommendations made at the symposium including regional networking and shifting to non-fossil and renewable sources of energy. Perhaps the most significant of those is the one that relates to stimulating research activities that would allow formulation of tangible mitigation measures. We have spent quite a bit of our energy and time over the last few years highlighting the different facets of our lives that climate change is likely to effect. While there may be difference of opinion regarding the intensity of the phenomenon among different experts, there are no two opinions regarding the need for countries likely to be most affected to get down to evolving substantive action plans that would help them tackle the phenomenon effectively.

Here we reiterate the sentiments of the chief advisor that the richer countries must play their due role in ameliorating a condition that they are primarily responsible for. In this regard the more affluent ones must not only reduce their carbon emission, they should at the same time help the developing countries with technology that would allow their pace of economic growth without impacting global climate adversely. For the poorer countries it is the question of adaptation the great part of which can be successful only by determining how to adapt and getting the required funds to implement those measures.

The recommendations are very good but concrete action is needed to follow those up.

 Iceland president for Himalayan council to fight climate change

Staff Correspondent, The Daily Star, 31 August 2008




Visiting Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson yesterday suggested the creation of a Himalayan council for countries surrounding the Himalayas, including Bangladesh, India and China, to research and cooperate on combating the accelerating effects of climate change in the region.

Grimsson also said that the new security challenges rising out of the effects of climate change would be the central peace challenge of the 21st century.

The president of Iceland‘s comments came at the closing ceremony of the International Symposium on Climate Change in Dhaka yesterday, Grimsson warned that environmental challenges such as water shortages and soil erosion threaten to sow the seeds for future conflicts.

He said global warming is “now several decades ahead of schedule” because the melting of ice-sheets in the Arctic and Greenland region, projected to occur in the middle of this century, has already begun.

Grimsson said Iceland could serve as an inspiration for switching to clean energy resources, with 100 per cent of the country’s electricity produced by clean energy sources compared to 80 per cent produced from coal and oil half a century ago.

He urged other countries to follow suit in transforming their countries’ energy systems, lifestyles, societies and economies to adapt to climate change.

The Iceland President said Bangladesh has become a frontline state in the fight against climate change and it must engage beyond South Asia in “more extensive initiatives and including countries that depend on the Himalaya region for their water.”

He said a Himalaya Council, modelled after the Arctic Council, could be set up to prepare for what might happen in the next few decades and inspire them to initiate similar programmes of scientific cooperation as the Arctic Council.

Grimsson also called on the international community to address urgent policy decisions, translating scientific knowledge into improved and effective ways of solving practical problems.

“Cooperation is called for more urgently than ever before and the sharing of knowledge and experience across national borders is absolutely imperative,” said Grimsson.

He quoted a recent report, saying “The multilateral system is at risk if the international community fails to address the threats associated with climate change.”

“It is therefore of the utmost importance to marshal our forces, both nationally and internationally, in order to reduce global warming, since the consequences of failure could aggravate old tensions and trigger new ones all over the world spilling over into violence, wars and military threats.”

Grimsson called on international authorities and governments to combine scientific communities, governments, business sectors and civic associations to lay the foundations for successfully combating the effects of climate change.

 CA calls for urgent steps at all levels

Staff Correspondent, The Daily Star, 31 August 2008




Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed yesterday called for immediate actions at national, regional and global levels to face the impacts of climate change that poses threats to food security and livelihoods of millions.

“We must act immediately for two reasons — our mitigating actions will take time to have an impact, and the costs of doing nothing are simply too great to allow,” he said at the concluding session of a five-day international symposium on climate change and food security in South Asia at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.

Jointly sponsored by the government of Bangladesh, University of Dhaka, Ohio State University, World Meteorological Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-Escap), the symposium was attended by around 250 delegates from 17 countries.

The greatest challenge that Bangladesh faces is lifting some 50 million people out of poverty, but this already-formidable challenge is made all the more difficult for Bangladesh because global warming has started to affect food production, helping to raise food deficit over the last two decades, the chief adviser (CA) said in his address as the chief guest.

Climate change affects food production directly through changes in agro-ecological conditions and indirectly by affecting growth and distribution of income, he said. The frequency and severity of events such as cyclones, floods, hailstorms and droughts can hamper crop yields and local food supplies, he noted.

“Considering that agriculture remains the principal source of income for a vast proportion of the South Asian population, especially in Bangladesh, the negative impact of climate change on production will lead to significant negative shocks in income,” Fakhruddin said.

Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change in its given geography, he said. “As a low-lying mega-delta with three large river systems, accompanied by heavy rainfall, floods have become an annual calamity. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers and huge sediments carried by the rivers coupled with restricted drainage further worsen the situation,” he added.

There is an empirical evidence that even a one-metre rise in sea level would submerge one fifth of Bangladesh — thus an estimated 25 to 30 million people would be displaced as ‘climate refugees’. The Maldives could disappear entirely and floodplains of India, Pakistan, Myanmar and huge coastal belt areas could face permanent inundation, the chief adviser pointed out.

Referring to scientists’ warnings that ‘business as usual’ approach would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he demanded deeper cuts in such gas emissions by the developed countries.

“Developed countries must provide adequate additional resources to tackle climate change,” he said. “It is a global issue that demands a global response, and I hope that the world community, particularly historically high greenhouse gas emitters, will come forward to provide assistance in tackling the losses of climate change so that we can cope with the adverse impacts and maintain food security.”

He went on, “Countries like Bangladesh will otherwise suffer the most from a problem to which we have contributed little — this is not just a practical issue, but a fundamental moral issue.”

Fakhruddin emphasised defining the impact of climate change on key aspects of food production and rural populations at risk. He called for implementation of farm-level adaptation strategies to maximise food production, united actions by scientists, farmers, fishermen, civil society, businesses, media and policymakers and researches to develop high yielding and drought, flood and salinity-tolerant crops, capacity building of people and construction of multi-purpose shelter houses in coastal zones.

Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson also addressed the concluding session.

Other speakers at the session, chaired by Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Dr SMA Faiz, included FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific Changchui He, special assistant to the CA on environment and forests Raja Debashish Roy, Education Adviser Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, Ohio State University Professor Rattan Lal, MVK Sivakumar of World Meteorological Organisation and AHM Mustafizur Rahman, chief coordinator of the organising committee.


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