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[ABUJA] Climate change could leave an extra 25 million children malnourished by 2050 unless heavy investments in adaptive measures are made, claims a major new report.

Agricultural productivity investments of US$7 billion per year will be required to help farmers adapt and reduce the number of malnourished children to 'no climate change' levels, says the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report released today.

Combining climate change and crop models with IFPRI's economic model of world agriculture, it projects that calorie availability in 2050 will decline relative to 2000 levels throughout the developing world.

"Climate change will eliminate much of the improvement in child malnourishment levels that would occur with no climate change," Gerald Nelson, a senior research fellow at IFPRI said at a press conference to launch the report yesterday (29 September).

The report predicts that wheat and rice yields will drop by 30 and 15 per cent respectively between now and 2050. Moreover, prices are likely to rise by up to 194 per cent for wheat, 121 per cent for rice and 153 per cent for maize. Developing countries, especially those in Africa and South Asia, are expected to be hit hardest.

"Climate change places new and more challenging demands on agricultural productivity," says the report. "Crop and livestock productivity-enhancing research including biotechnology will be essential to help overcome stresses due to climate change."

A mix of new and pre-existing technologies is required to counter the effects of climate change.

The report calls for farming to focus on crops and livestock that do "reasonably well" in a variety of environments rather than those that excel in a narrow set of climatic conditions. It also emphasises the need for investment in both irrigation infrastructure and rural infrastructure — for instance, through the creation of better road networks to facilitate access to markets.

"Our results are that about 40 per cent of the total [investment] should be in Sub-Saharan Africa and much of that on rural roads," Nelson told SciDev.Net.

"Climate change makes the challenge [of meeting food demands] much harder. The good news is that policymakers around the world are now paying much more attention. But it is not only about financial resources. Policymakers everywhere need to work to provide farmers with a favourable environment, providing public goods like good road systems, better technologies and more transparent taxing and spending programmes."