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Newsletter no 20 - In the Spotlight 2

Wednesday 3 December 2014, by Manu

Agroecology as a solution to Climate Change

The climate change issue has been in our minds for a long time now. Research studies, conferences and debates galore, the environment sector comes alive altogether at a different level when it is time for a convention or protocols to take place. Before and after the events- reports are tabled, resistances and disagreements are recorded and reports of emission reduction targets start pouring in. It is very critical to have countries join international treaties to come together and cooperatively consider what one can do to limit the emissions to manage the global temperature and its effects on the planet that we inhabit. It is critical because by strengthening a global commitment, we need to reverse the inevitable effects of the changing climate. And it is not only feasible, it is also economically viable and profitable as well.

Climate change is a complex problem, which, although environmental in nature, touches and has consequences for all spheres of existence of our people. It impacts on and is impacted by global issues, including food, trade, poverty, economic development, population growth, sustainable development and resource management. Stabilizing the climate is a definitely a huge challenge that requires planning and steps in the right directions. However, the bigger questions lie in understanding not just the ‘how much’ but also the ‘how to’- how to reduce these emissions, how to produce enough healthy food and how to have clean energy?

Solutions for mitigating climate change come from all arenas in the form of creating new technologies, renewable clean energies and even changing management practices. Agroecology is one such practice that deals with the ‘how to’ of mitigation as well as adaptation to climate change. The uncertainty of raising temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns, droughts and the emergence of unfamiliar pests and diseases, demands a form of agriculture that is resilient, and a system of food production that supports local knowledge transfer and on farm experimentation through building adaptive capacity of farmers. Majority of climate change mitigation activities are foundations of organic practices. Organic production systems serve as the best widespread examples of low emissions agriculture. Organic systems are more resilient than industrial systems in terms of withstanding environmental shocks and stresses including droughts and flooding.

Conventional agriculture releases high carbon emissions due to the over use of fossil fuels and destroys biodiversity. For agriculture, the idea is for a shift towards agroecological models of production that allow drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels, present great mitigation potential through soil, wildlife and plant rejuvenation, and have the flexibility as well as diversity required to allow adaptation to changing conditions. In practice, agriculture can contribute to cooling the planet in three ways: by reducing the use of fossil fuel (through reducing and/or completely removing chemical and synthetic fertilizers and pesticide production) and of fossil fuel powered transport and machinery; by positively effecting biodiversity and by slowing the release of biotic carbon.
Agroecology can significantly impact climate change positively as it builds:
Agro-ecosystem resilience that would look at consistency and sustainability of yield even and especially so, with the changing climate;
Livelihood resilience that would help in achieving diversification of livelihood options through poultry, cattle, fish breeding etc...
This also helps in separating agricultural practice from instability and changes in other markets, while holding assets on the farm and also reduced or completely stops dependency on external inputs.

Smallholder agroecology is not only an effective solution to complex agricultural challenges, but also an affordable way to increase yields without external inputs outside the farm. Further, it offers low inputs, low emissions and local control over production decisions, offering Food Sovereignty alternative to the unsustainable agro-monocultures currently being pushed to address the food crisis. Several characteristics that are found in local or indigenous breeds will become increasingly important as climate change alters the environment and affects the produce. Local seeds and crops have a much better chance of survival in their local environment with the changing climate conditions. Their protection, along with the local knowledge is critical to their management and breeding, is extremely crucial to feed us in the future.