Public banks urged to share funding fairly, as climate batters poor farmers

ROME, Nov 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As the world’s 450 public development banks held their first summit this week, committing to put the global economy on a greener and more resilient path, data showed poor communities hit hard by climate change are receiving little financial help.

Less than 2% of climate finance goes to small-scale farmers in developing nations, despite their vulnerability to worsening extreme weather and their crucial role in feeding billions of people, said a new report on Thursday.

Funds to tackle climate change topped an average of half a trillion dollars in both 2017 and 2018, yet only $10 billion of that went to smallholder farmers each year, according to research from the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Climate Policy Initiative think-tank.

That is “a small fraction” of the hundreds of billions of dollars needed annually to help them adapt to climate change, added the report, the first detailed analysis of climate finance flows to farmers on the ground.

“It is unacceptable that the people who produce much of the world’s food - and who are at the greatest mercy of increasingly unpredictable weather - receive the least support,” Margarita Astralaga, a director at Rome-based IFAD, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The latest figures on climate finance for developing nations, released last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, showed that in 2018, 70% of the total went towards reducing emissions, with only 21% for adaptation.

In October, international researchers urged donors to end hunger and tackle climate change by nearly doubling their funding to help small farmers.

Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people grow crops on about 500 million farms of less than five hectares, providing up to 80% of food produced in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, IFAD says.

Rising temperatures, erratic weather and disasters, including more frequent droughts and floods, have destroyed crops and livestock on many such farms, said Astralaga, IFAD’s director of environment, climate, gender and social inclusion.

IFAD wants both governments and private investors to channel more money to these farmers so they can adapt to weather shifts as well as curb planet-warming emissions from their work, she said.

They could do that by adopting methods that do less harm to nature, using seeds resilient to climate extremes and accessing weather information and modern technology, she added.

The report - published to coincide with the Finance in Common summit of development banks, organised by France - cited estimates that small farmers require about $240 billion per year for expenses on their land and at home.

Agribusiness companies need additional financing to invest in technology and transport to reach remote farmers, to the tune of $132 billion per year in sub-Saharan Africa alone, it added.


Some of that help may be starting to emerge, as development banks seek to achieve a better balance in their climate finance between projects that reduce emissions and efforts to help vulnerable nations and communities adapt to a warming planet.

In a joint declaration from this week’s summit, more than 400 development banks from around the world agreed to mainstream resilience and adaptation into their strategies and operations, and step up action to fund national adaptation plans.

Ahead of the summit, 13 public banks from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as IFAD and regional credit associations, committed on Wednesday to boost their investment in food and agriculture, including to small farmers who are also struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And this week, the multi-billion-dollar Green Climate Fund, set up to help developing countries tackle climate change, approved two U.N.-led projects worth nearly $270 million to help small farmers in Guatemala and Brazil.

Communities that are most vulnerable to water stress, meanwhile, are also missing out on much-needed adaptation funding, with most going to middle-income countries, said a separate report on Thursday from international charity WaterAid.

Only about 1% of total climate-related funding in 2018 went to water services for the rural and urban poor, including safe drinking water, toilets and hand-washing facilities, it said.

And some countries most vulnerable to floods, droughts and storms received just $1 per person per year on average for water-related adaptation such as irrigation and sanitation.

“There is a huge imbalance in the flow of funds... and we want to see that corrected,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the Bangladesh-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development.

Remy Rioux, CEO of France’s development agency (AFD) and chairman of the International Development Finance Club, said he hoped the summit would foster a greener, fairer investment approach to help meet global development goals by 2030.

"The real challenge is to have something change in reality - to have institutions beginning to pay attention and to finance in common in the end," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. (Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, additional reporting by Kim Harrisberg and Megan Rowling; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit