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Climate Change and Agri-Food System: Case of Maldives Explained

Why is Maldives important for a Climate Change Perspective?

  • Maldives falls in the category of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) which is also a low-lying island nation, with an elevation of (1.5 meters above sea level. These nations are already at risk due to climate change and the erratic rainfalls they face.

  • Maldives is also being impacted by climate change and is witnessing rising temperatures. They have already lost their coral reefs which acted as their seawall and protected their soil from erosion and this is compounded by their already depleted groundwater reserves, making farming in the region almost impossible.

  • The nation is also projected to be 80% inhabitable and underwater by 2050 due to climate change, Considering that its economy is heavily dependent on tourism and fisheries both of which are being impacted by climate change, they are looking for alternative methods here as well. This very real threat, to the very existence of the nation, has triggered a range of responses to mitigate this.

Efforts being undertaken by the government:

  • While there have been efforts to develop relocation sites for the Maldivian population in the very likely efforts of its submergence in the form of projects like Hulumale and a floating city, its actual viability is yet to be explored.

  • The nation has been mitigating climate change setting up renewable energy sources and reducing its carbon footprint. The government is even working on making the cities and transportation systems more resilient to the same.

  • Starting with efforts to address the issues of waste management, Climate financing can also be seen to have its role here as the World Bank is setting up projects to deal with the same and is providing funds for these initiatives.

  • The Bank is collaborating with the Government of the Maldives on the Maldives Environment Management Project, a $13.5 million IDA credit, to control environmental threats to sensitive coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

  • They have also been engaging in eco-tourism as they have started the Maldives Sustainable Tourism Initiative and the resorts aim at reducing their carbon footprint along with being involved in Marine Conservation, Wildlife tours and sustainable dining.

Issues of Food Security and Agriculture:

  • More than 90% of the islands in the Maldives have seen significant erosion, and 97% of the nation no longer has access to fresh groundwater, according to Mohammed Nasheed, a former president of the Maldives and a prominent advocate for climate change fairness.

  • Food security is impacted by the dangers of flooding, saltwater intrusion, erratic rainfall, and lost communication and transit routes.

  • Furthermore, the Maldives' high reliance on food imports is explained by the indigenous production of only a small number of subsistence crops. Crop losses will affect women's livelihood and further marginalise them.

  • They also face a looming food crisis as their diet is heavily dependent on seafood and their fisheries have largely been hit because of climate change. While they have been adopting programmes like the Green Smart Islands Project, its actual impact and change remain unknown, leaving the nation vulnerable.

  • The Green Smart Islands Projects focus on developing at least 4 green and smart island cities in Maldives powered by organic farming and renewable energy sources. It also focuses a lot on creating awareness about organic farming and reducing the use of pesticides by 35% by the year 2024.

  • This is also coupled with efforts to develop aquaculture, vertical farming and climate-resilient crops as alternatives to the traditional methods.

Gradualism or Rapid Change:

  • The country can be seen to follow both the trends of Gradualism and Rapid change in terms of Sustainable Development and switch to renewable energy, respectively and has actively been engaging in collaboration with the local community as well as the International community to mitigate the effects of climate change.

  • However, its actual needs and whether a blend of the two approaches will work in its favour remains unknown. Still, it does give us a model of Climate Financing, Eco-Tourism and a changing Agri-Food system in the face of Climate Change and makes us wonder about the survival of the nation.

Possible Solutions:

  • Even though the government's idea of creating Green Smart Islands is a potential solution to tackle the issues their agri-food system faces. At the same time, they have been lagging in creating awareness in the farmers and fishermen community who are the ones responsible for creating the necessary changes. So, since the government is receiving the funds already they should use the same more efficiently to create awareness.

  • Also, the global community as a whole needs to come together as this is a massive human rights issue because the lives of the Maldivian population are at stake here. In such a scenario the government needs to engage actively in a dialogue with other nations, especially its immediate South Asian neighbours and sign bilateral or multilateral agreements to take the Maldivian population in as refugees.

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