The analysis found that just 2% of international public climate finance ($2 billion) was directed at small-scale family farmers and rural communities. Photo: Feng Zhong/flickr

Only 0.3% of climate finance went to family farmers producing a third of the world’s food

About $300-350 billion climate change finance per year is needed to create more sustainable and resilient food systems, the report estimates

Small-scale family farmers produce a third (32%) of the world’s food yet only 0.3% of international climate finance was spent helping them adapt in 2021, found a new analysis. The research, from a new alliance of farmer networks representing over 35 million small-scale producers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, is being released ahead of COP28 which is set to agree on a Global Goal for Adaptation. The UAE Presidency is also urging governments to include food and agriculture in national climate plans for the first time and scale up finance for food system transformation. 

The analysis of international public finance for climate mitigation and adaptation was conducted by Climate Focus. An analysis of spending in 2021 revealed that the agri-food sector received $8.4 billion in international public climate finance—around half the $16 billion spent on energy—with climate vulnerable and food insecure countries such as Zambia and Sierra Leone getting just $20 million each. The sector receiving $8.4 billion is a fraction of the estimated $300-350 billion per year needed to create more sustainable and resilient food systems.

The analysis found that just 2% of international public climate finance ($2 billion) was directed at small-scale family farmers and rural communities. This is equivalent to around 0.3% of total international climate finance from both public and private sources.

Smallholders’ finance needs are estimated at $170 billion per year in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Only a fifth (19%) of international public climate finance spending on food and agriculture was used to support sustainable and resilient practices such as agroecology ($1.6 billion). 

Hakim Baliriane, chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale farmers forum said, “Climate change has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. Reversing this trend will not be possible if governments continue to tie the hands of millions of family farmers. Together we produce a third of the world’s food yet we receive a fraction of the climate finance we need to adapt.”

Obstacles to access climate finance

The report showed that 80% of international public climate finance spent on the agri-food sector is channelled through recipient governments and donor country NGOs. This makes it harder for family farmer organisations to access because of complex eligibility rules and application processes, and a lack of information on how and where to apply. Family farmers received just a quarter (24%) of finance spent on the agri-food sector in 2021. 

The report said that many family farmers lack the infrastructure, technology and resources to adapt to climate impacts with serious implications for global food security and rural economies. Family farms of less than two hectares produce a third of the world’s food (32%) while farms of 5 hectares or less account for more than half of the global production of 9 staple crops like rice, peanut, cassava, millet, wheat, potato, maize, barley and rye—in and grow almost three-quarters of the coffee and 90% of the cocoa. Over 2.5 billion people globally depend on family farms for their livelihoods.

Wealth of knowledge and experience with family farms

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the most effective way to safeguard food security is to shift to more nature friendly and diverse food systems. Family farmers are at the forefront of these efforts. For example, in the Pacific farmers are planting breadfruit trees alongside other crops as it is drought resistant, seldom uprooted by storms and cyclones and produces a nutritious staple food crop.

Experts agree that family farms are already engaged in building more sustainable and resilient food systems, amassing a wealth of knowledge and experience that must be tapped. By including their voices in decision-making and ensuring direct access to more climate finance, we can create a powerful alliance in the fight against climate change.

The report pointed out that access to finance is symptomatic of a much larger problem which sees organisations representing family farmers sidelined in decision-making on food and climate. At a national level, family farmers’ concerns and proposals are rarely acted upon by governments, while eligibility and financial constraints make it difficult for them to engage in international fora such as the UN Climate Summits.