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Environment First hunger crisis due to climate change concerns Amazon researchers

Children collect fish on the riverbank, during the ebb in Manaquiri, countryside of Amazonas (Ricardo Oliveira/Revista Cenarium)

Bruno Pacheco – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – The first hunger crisis in the world related to global warming occurs in Madagascar, a country in the southwest of Africa, according to an alert released on Tuesday, 2, by the World Food Program (WFP), founded by the United Nations (UN). For Amazon researchers, this crisis may not be the last caused by human activities against the environment, especially in the midst of the higher incidence of climatic events observed in the region.

“About being the last, unfortunately, it is likely not. Droughts are becoming more frequent – see, for example, that here in the Amazon we had very strong droughts in 1997, 2005, 2009; 2010, as well as 2015 and 2016. That is, a frequency of approximately five years, while in the last century the frequency was less than 1 in 10 years”, commented biologist Flávia Costa, an expert in Ecology and researcher at the National Institute for Amazon Research (Inpa).

To CENARIUM, the researcher said on Thursday, 4, that this pattern of more frequent droughts is also happening in various parts of the world, while in other regions there is a higher incidence of floods. “This phenomenon is known as intensification of the hydrological cycle, that is, greater frequency of extreme two-sided events – too dry or too wet. In both cases, there are losses for agriculture and the poorest populations are especially vulnerable, because there is almost no time to recover between one extreme event and another”, explained Flávia Costa.

Historical flood in the city of Anamã, located in the countryside of Amazonas (Ricardo Oliveira/Revista Cenarium)

Tropical Region

The environmentalist with a Master’s degree in Ecology, Carlos Durigan, director of World Class Solutionsm (WCS Brasil), affirmed that any region of the planet is subject to experiencing extreme periods that lead to the scarcity of resources and the Amazon, for him, can suffer strong ordeals for being a tropical region that already coexists with high temperatures.

“For example, it is common in extreme summers to witness strong droughts in the rivers that lead to the death of a large amount of fish, the main source of protein for the Amazon people. Thus a scenario of climate extremes can lead to an increasing scarcity of fish resources. The same can also happen with the production and supply of agricultural products, which depend on rainy periods to maintain their production stable, and drought extremes can gradually reduce the productivity of many regional crops,” he told CENARIUM.

Durigan also recalls that the extreme weather events that the Amazon has been going through may become worse and even more frequent. For him, more investment is needed in structure and planning of adaptation actions to possible new similar and even worse scenarios.

“We have experienced important evidence of extremes in recent years. In 2015, we had an extreme summer period in Central Amazonia that led to a record high in wildfires, as well as drastic reduction in the levels of some watersheds. This scenario led to an increase in health problems in the population of many cities, as well as large fish kills in some regions. Also, in the last two years, we have had periods of more intense and prolonged rains, causing logistical problems and even production problems in the areas occupied by family agriculture in the floodplain, generating strong losses and demand for attention”, Durigan pointed out.

In 2020, deforestation in the Amazon reached 11 thousand square kilometers, beating the 2008 record (Ricardo Oliveira/Cenarium)

Unprepared

A study released by the Lost and Found project, developed by Transparência Brasil and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), in partnership with the Fiquem Sabendo data agency, none of the nine states in the Legal Amazon have alert systems or permanent contingency plans for extreme events, such as floods, droughts, forest fires and heat waves.

Only four of the nine Amazon States have goals that directly cite climate change in the Pluriannual Plans (PPAs) 2020-2023, which are Amazonas, Amapá, Maranhão and Mato Grosso, according to the survey. Of these, only the PPAs of Amapá and Maranhão are the legal instruments that define specific actions on climate change; in the rest, there are laws that create perennial public policies for the area.

The research analyzed the implementation of subnational policies for the management of climate change in the Legal Amazon, based on data obtained through the Access to Information Law (LAI) and crossing them with ten desirable indicators for the control of the climate emergency situation in the region, divided into three groups: governance, mitigation and adaptation.

Flood of the Rio Negro at the Manaus Moderna fair, 2021 (Ricardo Oliveira/Revista Cenarium)

Madagascar

According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), the southern half of the island of Madagascar has been affected by a historic drought, the season of which usually lasts from May to October and the flood season begins in November. Because of the climate changes that altered this cycle, however, small farmers have suffered the first impacts and almost 30 thousand people in the region face a hunger crisis, since there is no way to harvest.

In addition, the country has more than 1.3 million people suffering from acute malnutrition. As the next harvest will not be for another six months, WFP is collaborating with humanitarian partners and the government of Madagascar to provide food aid to the population in order to tackle the emergency crisis. The UN agency is also seeking $69 million to provide the necessary assistance.