The future of smallholder farming in developing countries in the face of climate change: A perspective with a focus on Pakistan

P. C. Wynn, H. M. Warriach, H. Iqbal, D. M. McGill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The fragile balance in the world's carbon equilibrium through the discovery of cheap carbon-based fuels in the nineteenth century has led to mass industrialisation and an explosion in the world human population, including that of Pakistan. Farmers worldwide will need to adapt their production systems to accommodate global warming and increased climate extremes resulting from these man-made environmental changes. The focus will need to be on smallholder farmers who generate 53% of the world's food but who are least equipped to accommodate climate change. The most major limitation will be fresh water supply, no more exemplified than in Pakistan as Himalayan snowfall decreases and peak snow melt comes earlier in spring, limiting irrigation water for summer C4 crops such as corn, millet, sorghum and sugarcane. These are destined to replace the traditional C3 crops of wheat and rice, which will not be as suited to climate change conditions resulting from a projected mean 2°C rise in ambient temperature. Smallholder farmers will need to access superior-quality seed for crop cultivars for both human food and animal forage bred to withstand climatic change. Quantitative genetic selection programs for tropically adapted livestock must be implemented with a major focus on Pakistan's Nili Ravi and Kundhi buffalo, together with Sahiwal cattle servicing the milk consumption needs of Pakistan's burgeoning population of 211 million. The quality of forage available for livestock emanating largely from crop residues needs to be improved to meet the country's greenhouse-gas production targets in line with international expectation. The challenge remains for governments to sustain marketing chains that allow them to be profitable when operating in an increasingly hostile environment. The conservation of soil fertility through increased carbon sequestration will be an important imperative. It is likely that females will play a more important role in directing adaptation in these communities. Successful adjustment will be dependent on effective extension programs working with all sectors of the community including males, females and children from all walks of life in both rural and urban environments. Failure to do so will lead to rapid increases in climate refugee numbers, which the world can ill-afford.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1318-1329
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Production Science
Issue number14
Early online date19 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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