Photo source: Pesticide Action Network – North America - Photo: 2022

Agroecology, The Antidote for Climate Change?

By Busani Bafana

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (IDN) — The world needs to dump the false solutions of industrial agriculture for food and nutritional security and adopt agroecology in tackling climate change, says Edward Mukiibi, president of Slow Food, a global organization promoting local food and traditional cooking.

Agroecology rejects chemical fertilizers and tackles climate change while making it possible to move from exploiting resources to regenerating them. Instead of taking away from the planet, it brings back diversity, valuing local varieties, biodiversity, and knowledge.

Promoters of agroecology say it offers an inclusive and complete path toward transformation because it links the social and environmental aspects of sustainability, addressing the entire system. It is attentive to inequalities of power and to farmers’ earnings and draws on a plurality of bodies of knowledge, including marginalized voices.

“World leaders need to acknowledge that agroecology is the only path towards resilience and to listen to the needs and solutions of small-scale farmers,” Mukiibi said in a statement at the close of COP27.

“Slow Food calls for a shift from a system based on climate-intensive global food trade to one promoting fair and short distribution networks. We need a holistic transformation of food systems that encompasses all links in the chain, from production to consumption,” said Mukiibi, lamenting that COP27 fell short of delivering an ambitious plan for the future of food.

Agriculture through crop and livestock production has a huge environmental footprint. The livestock sector alone contributes 14.5 per cent of harmful global greenhouse gasses, specifically methane produced through their digestion and waste.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agriculture employs over a billion people and generates about $2.4 trillion for the global economy.

A solution to climate change

However, agriculture can also be a solution to climate change through mitigation and the absorption of carbon emissions—agriculture and food systems featured in many sessions at COP27 held in Egypt.

Agriculture, for the first time, was integrated into United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the climate action body with governments signing off on the ‘Koronivia’ package.

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), a landmark decision under the UNFCCC, recognizes the unique potential of agriculture in tackling climate change. The joint work addresses issues of soils, nutrient use, water, livestock, methods for assessing adaptation, and the socio-economic and food security dimensions of climate change across the agricultural sectors.

Mukiibi noted that the agreed Koronivia joint work on agriculture does not include food systems and sidelined agroecology altogether as a potential solution for adaptation to climate change, despite its proven multiple benefits.

“Without an ambitious mandate for the Koronivia mechanism, the world will not be able to deliver sustainable, fair, and resilient food systems that enable people and nature to prosper within planetary boundaries,” Mukiibi said.

Slow Food condemns the false solutions that keep being put forward in international climate talks, such as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). If we want to ensure both long-term food security and the survival of the planet, such techno-fixes must be out of the picture.

Financing developing countries to address adverse effects of climate change without addressing the root causes and mitigation measures of the crisis will not help, said Mukiibi adding that “It will only give industrial agriculture giants more freedom to propel their greenwashing false solutions”.

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPBES) expressed disappointment that Koronivia negotiators did not agree to address ‘sustainable food systems’—meaning that wider issues like food waste and loss, nutrition, healthy sustainable diets, and resilient supply chains will continue to be left out of the UN climate agreement and unfunded.

How about small-scale farmers?

“Even more dismaying, across COP27, small-scale farmers have been left outside the tent, and the solutions they propose, such as diverse and resilient ‘agro-ecological’ food and farming, deleted as a potential solution for adaptation to climate change, despite compelling evidence of its benefits,” IPBES said in a statement.

Million Belay, coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and panel expert with IPES-Food, said small-scale farmers who are being hit first and worst by climate change struggled to have their voices heard at COP27, amongst the record-high agribusiness lobbyists.

“They demanded support and climate finance for diverse and resilient agroecological food systems to help adapt to the floods and droughts they are facing—but they leave with very little. World leaders must not leave Africa’s producers to their own fate,” said Belay.

The FAO has announced that it will launch a roadmap for the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector to make food systems more sustainable in line with the 1.5C target by 2050.

FAO will launch the road map intended to lower global greenhouse gas emissions from food and agriculture systems by COP28. This follows an urgent call by investors managing $18 trillion in combined assets for the FAO to produce a Global Roadmap to align with the 1.5 degrees C, nature and nutrition security goals.

The international non-governmental organization, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said it was disappointing that, with an agreement formally adopted, the mandate for the successor of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture remained narrowly focused on agricultural production. The agreement, according to WWF, did not recognise the importance of food systems transformation in preventing the most severe impacts of climate change.

Approximately 100 organizations from the food, climate and nature sectors signed a joint open letter to negotiators and ministers urging for the inclusion of food systems in the new mandate of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.

“Sadly, the new agriculture and food security agreement fail to provide an ambitious framework to limit the impacts of food systems on climate change, “Joao Campari, Global Food Practice Leader at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said, adding that limiting climate change to the 1.5 degrees Celsius will require action across the entire food system, including production, consumption and loss and waste.

“Ignoring these solutions leaves us hurtling towards irreversible damage to our planet. We are deeply disappointed that the coalition of approximately 100 organizations that we convened to urge focus on food systems approaches was not listened to.”

Campari believes hope is not lost as the establishment of a four-year joint work on agriculture and food security offered a possibility to increase ambition and take a truly holistic approach in its implementation.

Good and agricultural systems account for one-third of global greenhouse gasses, which are responsible for a warming planet. There have been calls for COP to recognise not just agriculture, but the use of broad food systems is key to climate change adaptation and mitigation. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 November 2022]

* This article has been published with the support of the MESHSA/IDRC grant for the coverage of COP27.

Photo source: Pesticide Action Network – North America

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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