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Smallholder Farmers (Climate Change)

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2011

1. How much and what proportion of his Department’s funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects it has provided to smallholder farmers in the last 12 months. (65536)

Smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Fifty per cent. of the United Kingdom’s £1.5 billion fast-start commitment will help developing countries to adapt to it, and a significant share will benefit smallholder farmers. In Kenya, for instance, we support research on improved early warning so that farmers can adjust their cropping strategies to increase production.

Two weeks ago 20 pastoralists were killed in central Somalia following a dispute about access to water for their livestock, and people are starving and dying now as a result of the terrible drought and famine in the horn of Africa. Will the Minister press for a specific day to be set aside for discussion of smallholder farmers and food security at the upcoming COP 17, the 17th United Nations conference on climate change?

As I am sure the hon. Lady knows, we do not control the agenda, but she has made a powerful representation—which others will hear—in suggesting that priority should be given to the plight of smallholder farmers at that important meeting. In particular, it must be ensured that the cause of disputes which can get in the way of humanitarian aid is not perpetuated.

Has the Minister had any discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the possibility of using his own Department’s expertise to advise United Kingdom farmers on climate change mitigation?

Read-across does take place when a huge commitment is made to research enabling DFID to help smallholder farmers. For instance, the Foresight report, which was commissioned by the Government, benefited from a great deal of expertise drawn from UK farmers. The result has been of mutual benefit, which is another reason for concluding that the aid programme is in our mutual interests.

Does the Minister agree that most climate-related finance should take the form of grants rather than loans? That is only fair to people in developing countries who suffer from the effects of climate change but who, in the main, did not cause it. Will the Minister tell us what proportion of our climate-related finance takes the form of loans rather than grants?

As I am sure the hon. Lady will recognise, to start from the premise that finance should take the form of either loans or grants is to start at the wrong end of the question. The first question that should be asked is “What will best achieve the desired result and give the most help to vulnerable smallholder farmers?” That said, most of the finance does take the form of grants, and, as the hon. Lady knows, 50% of it is being provided through the international climate fund to help smallholder farmers to adapt.