An international effort by governments, policy makers and industry to shift the way food is products must take place immediately in order to prepare for, and hopefully mitigate, the effects of climate change on global food supplies, warned FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
Speaking at the seventh Forum on Agriculture in Morocco, the FAO chief stated that climate change "has the potential to reconfigure the planet's food production scenario", and that the threat to food production from climate change has reintroduced 'an element of uncertainty' after decades in which hunger was caused more by a lack of access to the means to produce or purchase food, rather than insufficient supplies globally.
"Everything we do needs to take climate change into consideration," stressed the director-general. "The time is now. We cannot afford to wait."
In his address, Graziano da Silva pointed out that climate change was a challenge that both large and small-scale food producers will need to face.
Climate change is an issue that cuts across a broad range of development priorities, including ending hunger, supporting sustainable production, reducing rural poverty, improving food markets and building resilience, he stated - noting that some 500 million family farms account for around 80% of the world's holdings, yet also include many of the most vulnerable families globally.
"The world's poorest are particularly vulnerable," said Graziano da Silva. "Not only do they have fewer means to react, but they also tend to live in already marginal production areas ... where the impact of climate change in agricultural production is felt to an even greater extent."
The FAO director-general pointed to recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reflected these concerns and called for urgent action.
"By providing adequate support to family farming we can combat food insecurity by reaching out to a group that is in itself vulnerable, and by increasing food supply where we need it the most," he commented.
Getting it right ...
Graziano da Silva lauded Morocco's government for its Plan Maroc Vert (or Green Morocco Plan) for agricultural development, which he said recognised the distinct needs of both small-scale farmers and larger farms.
He also credited the country with reducing undernourishment among its population to under 5%, in keeping with specific targets set by UN Millennium Development Goal 1 to reduce hunger and poverty by the year 2015.
"We cannot underestimate the importance that agriculture and small-scale production have in creating jobs and generating income," he said - adding that such activities will be crucial in Africa, where half the population is under 25.