Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Towards a new Green Deal: Focussing on Farmers’ solutions to climate change

On April 8th 2009, I attended a highlevel meeting of global experts on bioenergy and climate change in the medievel city of Paris, 60 rue, St. lazare, France on the invitation of International Federation of Agriculturral Producers (IFAP), a global farmers body. The core aim was to help ready a farmers’ position memoranda to put to nations as they gather in Copenhagen, November 2009, to negotiate and put pen to paper on a new green deal that will replace the contraversial Kyoto Protocal. For starters, Kyoto Protocol is an international system of environmental governance, implemented under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for the purpose of regulating levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. This protocal was signed in 1997 and formally came into effect on February 16, 2005. The protocal has been majory a failure due United States of America (USA) and Australia’s boycott and the suspicious exemption of China from compliance to the protocal. The aforementioned are great emitters of Greenhouse gases and thus heavy polluters of mother nature. With the entry of the USA in Copenhagen negotiations, $71 billion allocation in the Obama economic stimulus plan to butress green programs, this anticipated Green deal, a massive program of green investment will reduce greenhouse gas emissions even as it stimulates jobs, profits and innovation worldwide and lift millions of people out of poverty and economic distress. If crafted properly, the deal will green not only our societies but our wallets. Having said that, such a deal may suffer setbacks if its staves off farmers interests. I have argued before that, Farmers intteract on daily basis with the Environment. Their agro practices constitute a deep impact on the climate, both in mitigative and escalative terms. Yet changes in climate have had gagntuan negative impacts on especially poor farmers who urgently need help to adapt and to cope. It is therefore not in any doubt that farmers are a center of gravity in the quest for solutions to climate change.

The role of agriculture in climate change trajectory needs to be understood. According to Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the mitigation potential of agriculture is estimated to reach 5.5-6 Gt of CO2 per year by 2030, which is enormous relative to its emissions which represent 13.5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) . 89% of this potential would be accounted for by soil carbon sequestration (amount of carbon agricultural activities sink in actual terms), while 70% of the total mitigation potential could be realized in developing countries like Uganda.

This huge mitigation and adaptation potential of agriculture offers bright perspectives to increase the sustainability and resilience of the entire sector. With the mounting pressure on the agricultural sector to provide the growing world population with enough food and energy as well as environmental protection all at the same time, substantial investments in the agricultural sector are necessary as an effective way to combat climate change and poverty and to boost economic growth. High priority to increased production, productivity and high quality production in particular in developing countries is necessary. This is key to overcoming the climate change challenges while achieving the Millenim Development Goals..

Fellow citezens, climate change is everyone’s concern, and the associated costs have to be shared amongst all stakeholders and society as a whole. We have for too long stood aside as both participants and witnesses to the rape of the word with forexample, cities of concrete, fossil fuel emisions, deforestation, waste dumping, buvera etc. And the vulnerable especially farmers are facing the brunt. If farmers are not sufficiently prepared and supported to face climate change, the deterioration of their natural, financial, social and physical capital, resulting in lower farm productivity, will give rise to increased poverty, health problems, food insecurity and even social unrest. Consequently, agriculture, climate change, food security and poverty reduction are inextricably linked. This link is unique to the agricultural sector, and therefore, deserves due recognition by negotiators in Copenhagen. We also need to understand that key functions of agriculture go beyond the mere responsibility of producing food. It provides a wide range of other services ranging from feed, fiber, energy and ecosystem services . Farmers as custodians of nature are in constant interaction with the environment. They are thus well placed to use sustainable agricultural practices -such as conservation agriculture-, that also mitigate climate change, and benefit rural and urban populations. We also know that farmers have adapted to climate variability for centuries and still manage to feed the world population. Climate change exacerbates the existing difficulties that the agricultural sector and farmers have been facing for decades as a result of a neglect of this sector in national budgets (20082009 Uganda national budget budget, the allocation to agriculture sector was a paltry 3.4%). These include lack of investments in research and development, extension services, affordable credit, water and land availability, decreasing yields due to diminishing soil fertility among others.

Therefore, a positive and enabling approach is needed through the establishment of the right incentive mechanisms (supported by an international and a national carbon accounting framework that recognises the sequestration capacity of agricultural activities) to support farmers in bearing the cost of climate mitigation and adaptation. This incentive based approach to climate mitigation and adaptation as opposed to a penalty based approach- will have a positive effect on the modernization and sustainability of the agricultural sector. This will in turn impulse economic growth and rural development. In Uganda, carbon trade has been kept in veil by forestry and environment agencies. Small holder farmers with mini forests have not benefited from any carbon money yet their activities are sinking carbon and replenishing mother nature. The Federation of Farmers in Uganda in concert with farmers all over the world demand that Uganda government negotiators in Copenhagen call for;

· Official recognition of agriculture as a sector that experiences climate change effects and at the same time, as a sector with a huge potential in providing solutions to mitigating and adapting to climate change consequences

· A commitment for substantial increased investments on agriculture and the prioritisation of the sector in national strategies and budgets in order to increase the sectors resilience to climate change while impulsing economic growth.

· Support the full integration of agriculture in the post-Kyoto protocol. Agriculture being a cross-cutting issue, it should be mainstreamed under all the different components of the Bali Action Plan and beyond.

· Recognition and reflection of the specific characteristics and needs of agriculture in the post-Kyoto agreement in order to take full advantage of the sequestration potential of the agricultural sector. The current Kyoto accounting rules do not reflect the specificities.

· The establishment of an appropriate financial mechanism to reward farmers for the carbon sequestration and ecosystem services that mitigate climate change, providing them with the right financial incentive mechanisms to adopt sustainable practices

· Recognition of Farmers’ Organisations as partners and link between farmers’ communities and the international carbon market as well as international institutions

Rwakakamba Morrison
Resident consultant and Manager for Policy Research and Advocacy at the Uganda National Farmers Federation and a Member of Bioenergy and Climate change Experts working group at the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP)

1 comment:

Katungisa said...

Great Post Mate! spot on.

The Farming fraternity has been sidelined for along time in the fight against climate change and yet it is farmers who interact with the environment on a daily basis, making them an important aspect in environment management. There should be farmer focused programs to help reduce the impact of climate change and it should be done, well... yesterday!!