10 May 2017

Agricultural activities with Climate and Sustainable Development Benefits. Technical Expert Meeting

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The Use of Land, as well as, the achievement of global food security are two main elements that we cannot neglect to take into consideration when we speak about clime change. Agriculture is responsible for 14 to 20% of GHG emissions, globally, hence the agricultural sector can substantially contribute to mitigating climate change. In this view, NDCs cannot fail in including agriculture in their national policies and programmes. Countries are already recognizing that agriculture is critically important for mitigating climate change, but a lot has to be done.

The panel of today is composed of UNFCCC, FAO, CCFAS, Representatives of Kenya, Japan New Zealand and Botswana Governments, the European Union and a Farmers’ Constituency representative who presented two cases of farmers increasing production by mitigating climate change. One of the cases relates to WFO member, Kenya National Farmers Federation, KENAFF, and how Kenyan farmers raised the quality of their lives by transforming biogas.

New Zealand representative, Ms Victoria Hatton, underlined how policy, practice, research and development and on-farm implementation initiatives are critically needed to address the problem of GHG emissions in agriculture.

 

An estimated 85% of the population in Kenya relies on traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal, dung and agricultural residues for cooking and heating. Forest resources in the country are diminishing fast, thus reducing access to the rural population’s only energy source. Farmers are also facing other challenges as a result of climate change including changing rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, declining agricultural production, soil erosion and increase in diseases.

technology implemented and necessary investments

The Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) has been promoting the uptake and use of domestic biogas by rural households in Kenya since 2009. This programme was designed to encourage biogas technology among Kenyan small-scale farmers with animal manure being used as feedstock for small size biogas digesters. These digesters provide farmers with sufficient energy for cooking and lighting, totally substituting for the use of firewood and kerosene. Bio slurry, the effluent from the digester is then used in various ways on the farms to enhance agricultural production, direct use as liquid fertilizer and allowing for diversification with farmers venturing into fish farming. The farmers are required to invest an initial equivalent of $ 600 to install a biogas digester.

impact/outcome for farmers

the use of bio slurry has had a very positive impact with most farmers reporting up to 60% increase in agricultural productivity and enhanced produce quality; and there is clear evidence of significant improvement in soil structure, condition and fertility. The adoption of this technology has also significantly improved the welfare of poor rural women through the reduction of time spent in fuel wood collection and by reducing their exposure to toxic fumes from cooking over open fires, thus improving their health.

 

New Zealand has invested huge amount of money in these initiatives and this has brought New Zealand farmers to reduce GHG emission intensity by 34% from 2009, while raising productivity of the agricultural sector. The strategic partnership with the GRA was significantly important to this end. Victoria also brought to the audience’s attention the strategic partnership with WFO and the study tour held in New Zealand last December and the direct participation of farmers to enhance their knowledge and capacity to mitigate climate change while raising productivity.

Major points of discussion were as follows:

Adaptation, mitigation, food security are linked in a way that they cannot be considered separately. Therefore, what is that can really have a positive impact in the three components? The answer was innovation. Self-phones for example are critical to facilitate weather forecast, gather information on agricultural product price variability. And how do we foster innovation in the farming sector? Through partnerships.  

Innovation and digital agriculture is the future, we know, but it is also important to scale up local knowledge of farmers. Digital access to information for farmers can also improve farmers’ access to green climate funds.

Agriculture is victim of climate of climate, so improving the mitigation part is fine, but we should not forget about farmers’ vulnerability and adaptation capacity. Everybody can be part of the solution, even the smallest scale farmers, even if they are vulnerable, still they can contribute to the mitigation part.

Farmer can be part of the solution, regardless their size, and Governments should allow this by including the agricultural sector in their NDCs. There is no one fit to all solution, the problem of climate change is very complex as the farming sector is.

During the discussion, representatives from the WFO took to the floor. WFO climate change working group facilitator, Ms Ceris Jones underlined the importance of modern IT tools as one element in smart climate solutions for agriculture. Mr Tobias Gräs from the DAFC, also a member of the WFO working group on climate change, stated that ‘Agriculture is part of the solution, and as it was shown already, it is possible to increase production growth reducing CO2 emission intensity. This has to do with research and development, manure management and food-feed conversion. These solutions are found on farms regardless their seize. We should not pitch the big against the small or vice versa.’

The comments by Jones and Gräs were replicated by the representatives of New Zealand and Uruguay, as well as, by FAO.

It is true that ag accounts for 14% of emission, but if we add the deforestation and the energy use is much more. Improving resource efficiency and productivity are key elements to address climate change. Agricultural is biological process so we cannot work on one side only, we need a combination of practices, which are context-specific and different according to the local environment. For a farmer, the driver is not mitigation, is productivity and sustainability for future generations.

What makes all this work? Policies with farmers at the center of processes, of initiatives, of partnership, especially with private sector. Increasing resilience and adaptation in any case has mitigating  effects too!

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