A paper published by the charity today highlights the increasing impact of climate change on small-scale producers in the developing world, even suggesting that agricultural productivity in some countries could fall by as much as 50% by 2080.

“Small-scale producers are a key link in many companies’ supply chains, often producing labour intensive commodities,” said Oxfam’s GB policy adviser, Jodie Thorpe. “Businesses have a crucial role to play in helping vulnerable producers manage climate risks, first and foremost as a moral responsibility but also as a critical business issue.”

In response to Marks & Spencer, Starbucks and The Body Shop all contributing to the new paper, Oxfam gives examples of major production climate change impacts on coffee, cotton and Sesame oil.

On coffee, they say a 40% rise in average rainfall in Colombia, plus other weather events, cut production from 11.5m bags in 2008 to 8.9m in 2010.

On cotton, they say that major flooding in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011 hit farmers and communities the hardest, persuading some to abandon cotton in favour of less needed but more resilient crops, such as sugar cane.

On Sesame oil, their story is upbeat, focusing on an influential farmers’ co-operative in Nicaragua which has helped its members withstand unpredictable weather patterns by extracting maximum oil from unaffected crops and by diversifying into new types of plants.

Looking forward, Oxfam names five key actions for businesses to consider. These are to build more stable relationships with suppliers, as they say inconsistent demand and switching suppliers is ‘crippling’ for small scale producers; to improve information flow so producers can better understand the climate’s impact and what to do about it; to support community development, encouraging environmentally sustainable practices and helping producers diversify into less vulnerable crops; to work through existing institutions, governments and established bodies, exploring how small scale farmers can best be supported; and to raise awareness and understanding with key decision makers of how climate change is impacting the value chain.

edie staff

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