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Global Alliance for Organic Districts: Scaling Up Organic Agriculture

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of resilient local food systems that promote healthy people, environmental stewardship and a strong local economy. Lobbying governments around the world to adopt and support organic regenerative farming practices is paramount to establishing and maintaining local food systems and access to healthy food. 

During these trying times, Regeneration International (RI) has remained steadfast in its efforts to spread the word about organic regenerative agriculture to local governments, municipalities, cities and regions worldwide.

Our latest endeavor includes participating in the virtual launch of the first Global Alliance for Organic Districts (GAOD), an alliance announced on World Food Day 2020 between Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) and the International Network of Eco Regions (I.N.N.E.R.). 

The goal is for the initiative to create synergy between groups working to promote organic regenerative agriculture across the globe. It’s supported by several founding member organizations including RI, IFOAM Organics International, IFOAM Organics Asia and the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines (LOAMCP).

RI’s role in the alliance is to promote and highlight soil health as the most effective tool to curb climate change while providing local communities with nutrient-dense food. 

GAOD and its partners also joined and have voiced their support for the 4Per1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, a project launched in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. 

The initiative provides an international framework on how to demonstrate the role of agriculture and healthy soil in addressing food security and climate change. 

The project recently launched a strategic plan to use carbon-rich soil to stop climate change and end world hunger by 2050, and by 2030 the project aims to: 

“. . . provide a supportive framework and action plan to conceptualize, implement, promote and follow up actions, on soil health and soil carbon, through an enhanced collaboration between stakeholders of the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

During the virtual online summit, GAOD’s co-president Salvatore Basile expressed his gratitude  and acknowledged the importance of the 4Per1000 Initiative to provide a framework on agricultural climate mitigation for local policymakers worldwide. He said: 

“From this day, we will promote the potential of organic regenerative agriculture to mitigate climate and build resilient local economies to mitigate the growing environmental threats global communities are facing.”

In a video message aired at the online event, Paul Luu, an agronomist specialized in tropical agronomy and executive secretary of the 4Per1000 Initiative, thanked GAOD, ALGOA and I.N.N.E.R. for becoming members of the project.

“This is an important and strong signal to local authorities to encourage and promote carbon sequestration in soils through appropriate agriculture and forestry practices. Agroecology will remain a mere concept if no farmer or forester implement appropriate practices in their fields or forests and if local authorities do not work to create an enabling environment for such practices.” 

Through the work happening on-the-ground at Via Organica, the Mexico-based sister organization of the Organic Consumers Association, RI will provide GAOD’s 4Per1000 task force groups with insights for implementing localized agriculture designed to mitigate climate change. 

The project at Via Organica, based in San Miguel de Allende, provides training to local communities on how to reforest landscapes with the planting of mesquite (which has nitrogen-fixing capacities) and agave, which has tremendous power to grow in extreme dryland conditions while sequestering huge amounts of carbon with its increased biomass. 

The agave then gets converted into a low-cost animal feed for local sheepherders who practice holistic grazing methods. 

A recently published [LINK] video featuring RI’s Latin America Director Ercilia Sahores and Francisco Peyret, the environment director for the city San Miguel de Allende, showcases the innovative agave-mesquite model. 

“We want to implement the goals of the ‘4Per1000’ Initiative, and this means taking action. This year, we are planting 2,000 hectares [of agave and mesquite] and we have 20,000 hectares that we want to convert into productive and regenerate areas,” said Pevret.

The agave planting project and the work being done at Via Organica has inspired officials in the  Guanajuato government to launch their own pilot project. 

In the featured video, Sahores said: 

“Change happens at the local level, and that is from where we need to act and gather our forces. GAOD and the RI network can have a greater influence on public policies, bringing to evidence that the health of food and climate are one.”

 RI’s participation in the ALGOA/GAOD summit contributed to a working group that includes participants from every continent on the globe to discuss the main challenges for scaling up regenerative agriculture.

The working group identifies what the challenges are, how they can be overcome and what GAOD can do to assist in that mission. 

We found that many of these needs are universal, including access to land, fair compensation for farmers to maintain and regenerate ecosystems, consumer awareness, and training on regenerative agriculture practices.

Stay tuned for more updates on the global regeneration front. 

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. 

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Regeneration International, liga filipina de municipios ciudades y provincias orgánicas firman el pacto “Regeneración Filipinas”

BISLIG, PHILIPPINES – Los habitantes de Filipinas saben de primera mano de qué se trata la crisis climática mundial. En 2013, el súper tifón Haiyan, el segundo ciclón tropical más fuerte que golpeó el hemisferio oriental, azotó a la nación insular con vientos de 315 km/hora, dejando 6.300 muertos.

Fue un evento devastador. Pero la nación de islas está luchando.

Inspirados por el alto nivel de autonomía local del país, 200 municipios en Filipinas han dado un extraordinario paso para firmar un acuerdo entre ellos y con Regeneration International (RI) para crear nuevas políticas que reconozcan la salud del suelo como una herramienta poderosa para abordar la crisis climática y recompensar a los agricultores por reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y capturarlos en su suelo.

Con una meta de implementación a 2022, el acuerdo pretende cubrir 1.2 millones de hectáreas de tierra, casi 3 millones de acres. Como representante de RI, he tenido la suerte de participar en este esfuerzo sin precedentes casi desde el principio.

Los planes para este proyecto culminaron el 14 de junio, en la 11ª Asamblea General de la Liga Filipina de Municipios, Ciudades y Provincias Orgánicas (LOAMCP), donde hice una presentación sobre mitigación del clima de la agricultura y firmé un Memorando de Entendimiento entre LOAMCP y RI, denominado Memorándum “Regeneración Filipinas (RP)”.

Esta historia realmente comenzó en 2017: estando en Londres recibí una llamada de un contacto comercial en Filipinas que estaba trabajando con LOAMCP (en ese momento era LOAMC). Él dijo: “Oliver, creo que tengo algo de interés periodístico para ti”. Luego me pasó a un contacto que me preguntó si podía ayudar a en la cobertura de prensa sobre un evento que estaba ocurriendo durante la feria AGRILINK 2017, una de las mayores ferias agrícolas de Asia.

Asumí que esta persona me iba a asignar a la sección de alimentación industrial de pollos, así que sin mucha esperanza le pregunté: “Bien, genial, ¿a quién representas y cuál es el evento?”

“Mi nombre es Patrick Belisario de la Asociación de Productores y Comercio Orgánico de Filipinas”, dijo. “Trabajamos con un grupo de 200 alcaldes que van a firmar un acuerdo para implementar nuevas leyes en sus distritos electorales que prohibirían el uso de agroquímicos tóxicos y organismos genéticamente modificados (OGM)”.

Me detuve un segundo y dije: “¿En serio? ¿Cómo funcionaría eso?

Luego explicó que los gobiernos locales en Filipinas podían escribir sus propias leyes sin pasar por el gobierno central (un poco como en los Estados Unidos, pero muy diferente de otros países asiáticos).

Y así fue, resultó ser una información interesante y exclusiva.

Tres meses después volé al evento para cubrir la ceremonia de firma, que tuvo lugar en la casa de uno de los senadores más influyentes de Filipinas, la senadora Cynthia Villar.

Fue allí donde me reuní con el Excmo. Rommel C. Arnado, alcalde de la ciudad de Kauswagan Lanao Del Norte en la isla de Mindanao y presidente de la Liga de Municipios y Ciudades Orgánicas (que desde entonces se ha expandido a las Provincias). Durante una entrevista con el alcalde Arnado, fue evidente que la decisión política no era una farsa. El uso de agroquímicos tóxicos y OMG no está permitido, me dijo, y tenemos sanciones vigentes que podrían conducir a la prisión de aquellos que violen las leyes.

La comunidad del alcalde Arnado sufrió durante décadas el flagelo de conflictos armados, lo que lo llevó a implementar un programa de resolución de conflictos e inserción, “From Arms To Farms” (De las Manos a las Granjas), que llevó a los combatientes rebeldes cristianos e islámicos a entregar una parte de su arsenal a cambio de educación sobre alimentación y agricultura orgánica al alcance de todos.

Desde entonces, el alcalde Arnado se ha convertido en un líder mundial en el movimiento orgánico y no vacila en poner en práctica una acción radical para el mayor beneficio de la salud y la riqueza de sus ciudadanos.

Nuestra cobertura del evento fue un éxito: produjimos un video de tres minutos que llegó a más de 1 millón de personas en todo el mundo.

En 2019, regresé a Filipinas para visitar el programa Arms To Farms y producir  “Trails of Regeneration”, una serie continua de RI producida en colaboración con Kiss the Ground.

Durante mi viaje, me reuní con el Director Ejecutivo, agrónomo y agricultor de LAOMCP, Victoriano Tagupa, a quien conocí en 2018 a través de la Federación Internacional de Movimientos de Agricultura Orgánica (IFOAM) Asia en una cumbre de los gobiernos locales asiáticos para la agricultura orgánica.

Victoriano, apodado Vic 1.0, ya que hay otros dos Vics en su familia, es un verdadero defensor del suelo. En su granja en la isla filipina de Mindanao, Tagupa combina la biodinámica y la agricultura natural dentro de un sistema totalmente integrado que utiliza semillas autóctonas, cultivos de cobertura y manejo holístico del ganado. En una entrevista, Tagupa dijo que LOAMCP tenía un plan para convertir 1.2 millones de hectáreas de tierra en producción completamente orgánica para 2022. Tagupa discutió la importancia que esto tendría en la mitigación y la adaptación al cambio climático, y sobre las posibles necesidades y oportunidades para implementar nuevas políticas para capacitar y recompensar a los agricultores.

Un mes después, Tagupa y yo nos volvimos a encontrar, pero esta vez fue en Japón, junto con Andre Leu, director internacional de RI, para “La agricultura es la solución al cambio climático”, un evento organizado por el Ministerio de Agricultura, Silvicultura y Pesca de Japón y la Iniciativa 4 por 1000. Antes del evento, Tagupa, Leu y yo trabajamos juntos en una presentación conjunta para promover los sistemas de intensificación del arroz.

En ese evento, identificamos rápidamente cómo LOAMCP podría ser fundamental para contribuir a las nuevas políticas sobre la mitigación del clima de la agricultura y podría ayudar a inspirar a la comunidad internacional a través de la Iniciativa 4 por 1000.

Las cosas progresaron aún más cuando LOAMCP invitó a RI a hacer una presentación en la próxima Asamblea General de LOAMCP, y Tagupa y yo sugerimos que firmáramos un MDE (memorando de entendimiento) que contendría todos los elementos que habíamos estado debatiendo. Entonces, tomé mi computadora portátil y redacté el Memorando “Regeneración de Filipinas”, que luego se envió a la junta directiva de RI, donde recibió una rápida aprobación.

Luego volé a Bislig City para la Asamblea General de LOAMCP y me reuní con los oficiales de LOAMCP antes del día del evento para presentarles el Memorando “Regeneration Philippines” recién acuñado. El contenido del memorando fue adoptado por toda la asamblea. Muchos miembros de LOAMCP apoyaron que LOAMCP fuera más allá de proteger a la comunidad de los agroquímicos peligrosos y enfrentarse directamente a los peligros del cambio climático.

En la Asamblea General pude señalar los problemas urgentes que enfrentamos con la crisis climática, su amenaza para la civilización humana y la necesidad de actuar rápidamente. Luego mostré cómo al usar la agricultura regenerativa para volver a activar el microbioma del suelo, podemos convertir las granjas convencionales en sumideros de carbono. También hablé de la gran esperanza que los agricultores representan para mitigar el cambio climático a través de la salud del suelo. Además presenté la Iniciativa 4 por 1000 —su propósito, sus antecedentes y la participación de RI—, seguida por el video 4p1000 “Farmers for Climate” (Agricultores para el Clima), y un reporte de nuestro reciente viaje LOAMCP RI a Japón con 4p1000.

Hablé del gran potencial que LOAMCP podría tener para ayudar a dar forma a las nuevas políticas sobre la mitigación del clima de la agricultura mediante el uso del marco 4p1000, y luego los oficiales de LOAMCP y yo presentamos el MDE. Leí en voz alta y pregunté a la audiencia si alguien tenía alguna objeción, comentario o sugerencia. Al no haber objeciones de la audiencia, lanzamos la ceremonia de firma con el presidente de LOAMCP, el alcalde Rommel Arnado.

LOAMCP se ha convertido en una organización poderosa en Filipinas, y este año se ha expandido de las ciudades y municipios de la isla a sus provincias. LOAMCP es una organización importante que reúne a legisladores para proteger la salud humana y el medio ambiente de la avaricia corporativa en el sector agrícola.

Hay una ley de agricultura orgánica en Filipinas que requiere que el 5 por ciento de todas las tierras de cultivo del país sean orgánicas, y muchos en LOAMCP están luchando para llevar esa cifra al 100 por ciento. En un movimiento muy alentador, el Departamento del Interior para Gobiernos Locales (DILG) ha pedido oficialmente a cada municipio de Filipinas que se convierta en miembro de LOAMCP.

Este desarrollo es particularmente interesante, ya que se produjo solo unas semanas después de que el gobierno filipino anunciara subsidios de 614 millones de dólares americanos para fertilizantes sintéticos y pesticidas originarios de Qatar, y el alcalde Librado Navarro de Bislig City abrió su discurso ante la 11ª Asamblea General de LOAMP al declarar que bajo su mandato, Bislig nunca aceptará estos subsidios. Los comentarios de Navarro fueron bien recibidos con un alboroto de vítores y aplausos de la Asamblea General.

Más buenas noticias: RI y LOAMCP están colaborando para crear “Regeneration Philippines”, una rama dentro de LOAMCP diseñada para ayudar a dirigir los esfuerzos de LOAMCP hacia los conceptos y la implementación del desarrollo agrícola regenerativo. La próxima reunión general de LOAMCP será en noviembre de 2019 en Cebú, Filipinas. RI planea en esa reunión lanzar oficialmente Regeneration Philippines y establecer una oficina de Regeneration Philippines junto con las de LOAMCP e IFOAM Asia.

Con la crisis climática sobre Filipinas, el país está tomando medidas audaces para enfrentar la crisis. Parece que estos esfuerzos lograrán forjar un consenso nacional sobre la agricultura regenerativa como un factor clave en la mitigación del clima.

Oliver Gardiner representa a Regeneration International en Europa y Asia. Para mantenerse al día con las noticias y los eventos, suscríbase aquí para recibir el boletín de Regeneration International.

El Ministerio de Agricultura de Japón reconoce el papel de la agricultura regenerativa en la solución climática

Una conferencia innovadora sobre agricultura y cambio climático tuvo lugar del 13 al 15 de mayo en Japón, y Regeneration International estuvo allí.

Si bien el contenido y la interacción de la conferencia “La agricultura es la solución al cambio climático” en Otsu, Japón, fue dinámico e importante, quizás la conclusión más importante de la conferencia fue quién organizó el evento en primer lugar.

La conferencia fue copatrocinada por el Ministerio de Agricultura, Silvicultura y Pesca de Japón en lo que podría interpretarse como un reconocimiento tácito por parte de la tercera economía más grande del mundo que la agricultura debe desempeñar un papel clave en la mitigación del cambio climático.

La conferencia también fue patrocinada por la Iniciativa 4 por 1000, y fue apoyada por el Panel Intergubernamental sobre Cambio Climático (IPCC), la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (UNFAO), el Banco Mundial, el Consejo Empresarial Mundial para el Desarrollo Sostenible (WBCSD), Rothamsted Research y los gobiernos de Francia y Alemania, entre otros, y tuvo lugar solo un día después de que el IPCC concluyera su 49a sesión en Kioto, a solo 13 kilómetros de Otsu.

Los oradores clave de 4 por 1000 y las principales organizaciones y gobiernos que apoyan esta iniciativa confirmaron la importancia de construir la salud del suelo para combatir el cambio climático. Fue la primera conferencia internacional en Asia sobre el cambio de la agricultura al adoptar sistemas de gestión que aumentan la materia orgánica del suelo como una solución de reducción y adaptación a la crisis climática.

El arroz es el cultivo básico más importante en Asia, y el director internacional de RI, Andre Leu, hizo una presentación magistral sobre Sistemas de Intensificación del Arroz (SRI).

El SRI puede duplicar los rendimientos de arroz y reducir enormemente las emisiones de metano, gracias a su menor uso de agua, y cuando se combina con cultivos de cobertura, el SRI puede dar como resultado un secuestro significativo de carbono en el suelo. El SRI es una solución poderosa para los productores de arroz de todo el mundo que enfrentan crecientes amenazas de sequía, tifones y marejadas ciclónicas costeras.

Varios socios de RI, como la Asociación Biodinámica de India y la Liga de Municipios y Ciudades Orgánicas de Filipinas, también participaron en la conferencia y dieron presentaciones sobre las mejores prácticas para mitigar el aumento de carbono natural en los suelos de las tierras agrícolas.

Durante una entrevista con Regeneration International, Paul Luu, Secretario Ejecutivo de 4 por 1000, dijo que los responsables políticos y los agricultores están poniendo cada vez más énfasis en la agroecología. Luu habló sobre la fuerte necesidad de que se realicen más investigaciones sobre agroecología, agricultura biodinámica y agricultura regenerativa, para que sea útil para asesorar a los agricultores convencionales en transición de acuerdo con sus requisitos.

A pesar de que no se menciona el cambio climático en la reunión de ministros de agricultura del G7 celebrada unos días antes en la cercana Tokio (debido a la abstención del gobierno de los Estados Unidos), el gobierno japonés está trabajando con la Iniciativa 4 por 1000 para incluir el marco de 4 por 1000 en el trabajo conjunto de Koronivia sobre agricultura (KJWAc). KJWA es una decisión tomada en la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Clima (COP23) en noviembre de 2017, para reconocer oficialmente la importancia de los sectores agrícolas en la adaptación y mitigación del cambio climático.

La implementación de KJWA cuenta con el apoyo de la UNFAO en asociación con otros actores a nivel nacional e internacional. En virtud de esta decisión, la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (UNFAO) apoya a los países que brindan apoyo técnico para adaptarse y mitigar el cambio climático, trabajando en estrecha colaboración con la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (CMNUCC) y otros socios.

Regeneration International mostrará el progreso realizado por la Iniciativa 4 por 1000 para alentar a los países a unirse a una Revolución de la Salud del Suelo en la agricultura (denominada la Revolución Marrón) en su próxima Asamblea General en Chile en diciembre de 2019, que se realizará junto con la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático COP25 en Santiago de Chile del 2 al 13 de diciembre.

Oliver Gardiner es el reportero itinerante de la Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos y Regeneration International.

Japan’s Ministry of Ag Acknowledges Role of Regenerative Farming in Climate Solution

A breakthrough conference on agriculture and climate change took place May 13-15 in Japan, and Regeneration International was there.

While the content and interaction of the “Agriculture Is the Solution to Climate Change” conference in Otsu, Japan, was dynamic and important, perhaps the most important takeaway from the conference was who organized the event in the first place.

The conference was co-sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in what could be interpreted as a tacit recognition by the world’s third largest economy that agriculture must play a key role in climate-change mitigation.  

The conference was also sponsored by the 4 per 1000 Initiative, and was supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), the World Bank, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Rothamsted Research, and the governments of France and Germany, among others – and it took place just one day after IPCC wrapped up its 49th session in Kyoto, just 13 kilometers from Otsu.

Key speakers from 4 per 1000 and the major supporting organizations and governments all upheld the importance of building soil heath to fight climate change. It was the first-ever international conference in Asia about changing agriculture by adopting management systems that increase soil organic matter as a drawdown and adaptation solution to the climate crisis.

Rice is the most important staple crop in Asia, and RI’s international director Andre Leu gave a keynote presentation on Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI).

SRI can double rice yields, and massively reduce methane emissions, thanks to its lower water usage – and when combined with cover crops, SRI can result in significant soil sequestration of carbon. SRI is a powerful solution for rice farmers all around the world faced with increasing threats of drought, typhoon and coastal storm surge.

A number of RI partners, such as the Biodynamic Association of India and the League of Organic Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines, also took part in the conference, and gave presentations on best practices for mitigating the natural carbon increase in farmland soils.

During an interview with Regeneration International, Paul Luu, Executive Secretary of 4 per 1000, said policymakers and farmers are putting more and more emphasis on agroecology.  Luu spoke about the strong need for more research to be carried out on agroecology, biodynamic farming and regenerative agriculture – for it to be useful in advising transitioning conventional farmers in accordance to their requirements.

Despite there being no mention of climate change in the G7 meeting of agriculture ministers held a few days earlier in nearby Tokyo (because of abstention by the United States government), the Japanese government is working with 4 per 1000 Initiative to include 4 per 1000’s framework in the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). KJWA is a decision reached at the UN Climate Conference (COP23) in November 2017, to officially acknowledge the significance of the agriculture sectors in adapting to and mitigating climate change.

The implementation of KJWA is supported by the UNFAO in partnership with other actors at national and international levels. Under this decision the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) supports countries providing technical support to adapt to and mitigate climate change, working in close collaboration with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other partners.

Regeneration International will showcase the progress made by the 4 per 1000 Initiative to encourage countries to come on board with a Soil Health Revolution in agriculture (dubbed the Brown Revolution) at its next General Assembly in Chile in December 2019, to be held in conjunction with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 25 summit in Santiago de Chile December 2-13.

Oliver Gardiner is the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International’s roving reporter.To keep up with news and events, sign up here for the Regeneration International newsletter.

A Climate Change Solution No One’s Talking About: Better Land Use

It was a nightmarish Iowa blizzard in 1998 that made Seth Watkins rethink the way he farmed.

Before then, he’d operated his family business—he raises livestock alongside hay and corn crops for feed—pretty much as his parents had, utilizing practices like monocropping and unseasonal calving cycles, methods designed to cheat nature. The blizzard, which imperiled the lives of many newly born calves that year, made him realize there must be a better way to steward the land and the animals on it — methods more attuned to the natural scheme of things.

Photo credit: Pixabay

In the 20 years since, Watkins has shepherded in a number of major changes—such as prairie strips, cover crops and rotational grazing—that prevent soil erosion, curb toxic nitrate and phosphorus runoff into nearby waterways, stimulate the biodiversity of the local ecosystems, and improve soil moisture and nutrient content, all the while increasing profits, he said.

These regenerative farming practices also achieve one other key outcome — they improve the soil’s ability to sequester carbon. This is something that brings practical impacts at the local economic level. But soil carbon sequestration also has the potential to tackle one of the single greatest threats to humanity: anthropogenic climate change.

“Carbon is life,” said Watkins. “Carbon really does belong in the soil where it sustains us.”

The science is in: From increased wildfire damage and the threats from rising sea levels, to ocean acidification and the impacts on human migration patterns, the effects of global warming are already being keenly felt. To prevent these developments from turning potentially catastrophic, we must stop the planet from warming 1.5°C above pre-industrial figures, say the world’s climate experts. To do this, global carbon emissions must decrease by about 49 percent from 2017 levels by 2030. Carbon output must be squashed to zero by around 2050. As an indication of how difficult this is going to be, greenhouse gas emissions rose last year in the United States.

Much of the conversation surrounding what to do has our heads turned skyward—reduced emissions from power plants, for example. Many companies are also vying to produce the first to-scale, commercially viable negative emissions technology—one that sucks and stores away more CO2 than it uses.

But a growing number of experts say we need to look downward, arguing that the carbon sequestering capacity of the soil under our feet has the potential to help tackle and reverse, perhaps significantly, human-caused global warming. That’s because soil holds about three times more carbon than the atmosphere. But the way humans have cultivated and managed the planet over millennia—think industrial farming practices and drainage of wetlands—has led to the loss of huge quantities of carbon from the soil. Different estimates pin this number at anywhere from 130 gigatons—one gigaton is a billion metric tons—to 320 gigatons of carbon lost.

So, with a fundamental shift in the way we cultivate the world’s soils to revitalize their carbon content, it is “possible that we could make a major dent” in atmospheric CO2 levels, said Marcia DeLonge, senior scientist in the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. DeLonge is far from alone in her thinking.

A recent National Academy of Sciences report discusses how “uptake and storage” of carbon by agricultural soils could be ready for “large-scale deployment.” But the report also warns of the limited rates of carbon uptake by “existing agricultural practices.” And while much research still needs to be done to understand the degree to which soil can sequester more carbon, the myriad “co-benefits” from better land use practices—like improved farm productivity and reduced environmental impacts—means it’s time to give “serious attention” to the issue, DeLonge said.

“Soil can hold a lot of carbon. It can hold a lot more [than it is]. Just how much more is a matter of more research,” she added. “But we can’t be dilly-dallying anymore. We need to be assessing the landscape for opportunities, and then start to take some action.”

Carbon belongs in the soil

Carbon is an essential ingredient of healthy soil, helping it maintain its structure, and water and nutrient content. So, how does it get there? Conventional wisdom has been that carbon is transferred to the soil through decomposing plant and animal debris. But cutting-edge research in soil science is revealing a much more complex set of circumstances at play. One example of this is an evolving understanding of the “liquid carbon” pathway, which describes the way in which liquid carbon—in the form of dissolved sugars formed during photosynthesis—is passed through roots into the soil to support the complex microbial life there.

“We know that organic matter in the soil is super important in terms of promoting crop growth via several mechanisms,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, a professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University. Indeed, carbon levels are an important function of soil’s water-absorbing potential, for example. According to the NRDC, a 1 percent increase in soil organic matter enables each acre to hold onto an additional 20,000 gallons of rainfall (though that finding is dependent on a number of variables, like soil texture).

“You have the fostering of a whole food-web of life in the soil that can help make nutrients available to the crop,” Schulte Moore added. “[While] a third way by which soil organic matter helps promote crop growth is by promoting structure that facilitates root growth.”

Given the symbiotic relationship between soils and the vegetation they sustain, soil carbon loss happens all sorts of ways, deforestation being a prime example. We’re already losing about 18.7 million acres of forests per year. One international studyfinds that, under Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, the deforestation rate of the Amazon could triple. At least 33 percent of global wetlands had been lost as of 2009, a recent paper suggests. A certain portion of the world’s grasslands has also been lost to desertification, which is when lands are stripped of their productivity due to things like drought and inappropriate farming methods (though there remain divided opinions as to the exact amount of grassland lost through human practices).

In the U.S., industrial farming practices like monocropping and routine tillage have led to the massive erosion of topsoil, where most of the carbon is stored. “Those practices are things that can be easily avoided,” said Roger Aines, chief scientist of the energy program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “When we’re dealing with sensitive soils, like in these wetlands and peat soils, you shouldn’t plow them or dig them up. When you’re dealing with soils that could blow away, you should keep a cover crop.”

That said, there is movement away from industrial agriculture toward regenerative farming methods, as evinced by the “4 per 1000” initiative launched by the French in the wake of the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. The overarching thrust of this initiative? That an increase by 0.4 percent a year in soil carbon content would “halt the increase in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere related to human activities.” Same here in the U.S., where a farm in Northern California, for example, eschews plowing and weeding and all chemical or organic sprays in favor of a compost-intensive model. It apparently produces 10 times the average per-acre income of comparable California farms.

Holistic grazing—a method of farming that ties livestock production to the cycles of nature, all the while minimizing bare ground and maximizing plant mass—is an “extremely valuable tool” in the fight against climate change, said Karl Thidemann, co-founder and co-director of Soil4Climate, a non-profit advocating for different land use practices. “I’ve been to many grazers who have begun using this practice,” said Thidemann. “All of them have told me how important it has been to their financial situation, and to the environment and to the ecology of these areas.”

Charles Eisenstein is a teacher and writer focusing on themes of civilization and the human cultural evolution. In his most recent book, “Climate: A New Story,” he discusses syntropic agriculture, which has revitalized devastated areas of land in Brazil, turning them into thriving agroforests, all within the space of 30 years. “Part of my work involves challenging the basic direction of human civilization,” he said. “And I think the change that the current ecological crisis is leading us into goes that deep.” The problem, added Eisenstein, will be in enacting these sorts of changes in time to make a difference.

Indeed, Seth Watkins discussed how, in Iowa, there’s a prominent vein of thinking, grounded in the Bible, which encourages farmers there to manage intensively every inch of their land. “Something I’ve asked myself is, ‘how do we start having these conversations in church basements?’” said Watkins. “I don’t know what happens when we die for sure, but what I’ve studied about it is that we’re supposed to try to do the best we can with what we have. We’ve got to be good stewards of the land.”

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams

4p1000 Initiative: Using Agriculture to Fight Climate Change

The 4p1000 Initiative is the ONLY climate agreement that puts AGRICULTURE at the center of how we deal with climate change.

Watch the video to see how farmers on every continent are using healthy soil to create healthy people and a healthy environment.

 

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International Symposium in Johannesburg Will Highlight the Role of Soil as the Solution to Food Security and Climate Stability

It all started over lunch during the COP 23 Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany, in November 2017. An idea shared over lunch led to a few back-and-forth emails—and here we are: announcing the “4 per1000 Africa Symposium on Soil for Food Security and Climate.” The Symposium will be held October 24-26 (2018), in Johannesburg, South Africa.

During its third meeting, held in Bonn, the Consortium (governing body) of the French government’s “4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative met to discuss next steps, or as they referred to it, their “Roadmap 2018.” (Never heard of the 4 per 1000 Initiative? Learn more here.) Consortium members highlighted the need to organize regional networks that could draw attention to the global policy initiative, and pressure policymakers to incorporate the initiative’s climate solution into their overall strategy for meeting the goals established by the Paris Climate Agreement.

That’s when I, representing Regeneration International (RI), suggested that we find allies to host an African “4 per 1000” symposium—and now that suggestion has become a reality. We are about to spread the news, to a wide audience in South Africa, about the great potential of regenerative agriculture and land management to heal South Africa’s soils, increase food security in the region, and restore climate stability.

It’s been important for RI to find a platform to bring together players in soil health, food security and climate health. However we also realize the importance and power of partnerships. That’s why we’re thrilled and honored to be organizing this symposium in partnership with the South Africa-based NEPAD Agency, through its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and France’s The 4/1000 Initiative. The timing is perfect for partnering with the NEPAD Agency’s programs—the partnership anchors RI within the CAADP framework which African governments, under the African Union, have signed onto to promote and mainstream the concept of agro-ecological organic regenerative agriculture.

This symposium is much needed at this time, when South Africa, and all of the global south, faces a series of crises. Landscapes are deteriorating every day due to poor management decisions. Year after year, we see a continuous downward spiraling in food security, wildlife habitat, healthy societies and livelihoods.

Small-scale food producers are especially vulnerable to climate disruption, including droughts and flooding. In the restoration of soil carbon, we see tremendous opportunity to build resilience and to not only mitigate, but eventually reverse global warming. What a better way to regenerate both the environment and societies in a continent where agriculture still holds a high place of importance?

The soil is a true ally on the climate crisis front, and Africa has potential to play a big role in this solution journey. Transitioning to regenerative agriculture and land management can help countries fulfill their pledges to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) while nourishing the earth and their populations.

The “4 per1000 Africa Symposium on Soil for Food Security and Climate” will be the first event in South Africa dedicated to communicating the message and strategy behind the “4 per 1000” Initiative. The symposium will bring international stakeholders together with international experts and practitioners to engage in an open debate and to share experiences and lessons on the relationship between soil and climate and the benefits of soil health in supporting all forms of life.

Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about the work and initiatives that are taking place in Africa, including CADDP and African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), to name a few. We hope the symposium will help build strong support for the “4 per 1000” Initiative and the concept of regenerative agriculture in general.

The symposium is funded in part by RI, NEPAD, the 4 per 1000 Initiative, the German and French governments and registration fees.

Precious Phiri is a member of the Regeneration International (RI) steering committee and also serves as RI’s Africa coordinator. She is the director of IGugu Trust and founding director of EarthWisdom Consulting Co. To keep up with RI news, sign up here for our newsletter.

Video: ‘Celebrating Soil on World Soil Day’

Published: December 4, 2017 

Two years have passed since the 4 per 1000 Initiative was first launched in Paris on December 1, 2015. Learn more about the global plan to naturally increase carbon in soils via this brief overview on the progress of the 4p1000 Initiative.

WATCH MORE VIDEOS FROM RI HERE

Regeneration International: Report and Lessons from COP23

Regeneration International (RI) sent a small delegation to the COP23 Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany. Our delegation consisted of: a German-French, an English-French, a Zimbabwean and an Argentine. What sounds like the beginning of a joke—a German, an Englishman, a Zimbabwean and an Argentine walk into a bar—turned out to be a great combination of different skill sets, languages, cultures, experiences . . . and lots of porridge for breakfast.

The RI team set off for the COP23 Climate Summit with a clear mission and some concrete goals:

  1. To film and document experiences of best practitioners and official delegations pushing for a regenerative agenda and for initiatives looking to better the soil, health and livelihood of communities.
  2. To organize side events focused on the role of women in fighting climate change.
  3. To follow closely the official negotiations related to agriculture.
  4. To participate in the 4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative day to learn more about the initiative and how we can help facilitate democratic, inclusive participation in its constituency.
  5. To organize an informal gathering, outside the COP23 venue, for farmers, producers, activists, policymakers and media.
  6. To document positive outcomes that could signal progress from previous COPs, but also to identify red flags, setbacks and potential threats.

We’re pleased to report that we obtained some good results:

  1. Filming and documenting. RI interviewed Barbara Hachipuka Banda, from Shumei, who teaches small scale women-farmers about “natural agriculture,” covered a story on how millions of farmers are using trees to regenerate vast swaths of land across Africa, talked to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Ethiopia about Ecosystem Restoration, and discussed the fundamental issue of the supersized climate footprint of Big meat and Dairy.
  2. Organization of side events. RI co-organized, with WECAN, side events where grassroots and indigenous women leaders shared their experiences, actions and defense of forests and biodiversity, their advocacy for regeneration and agroecological implementation, their resistance against fossil fuels and their defense, in every place and time, of rights of nature.

  1. Strong participation in 4 p 1000 meetings. RI attended the 4 per 1000 Initiative’s second Meeting of the Forum in Bonn on November 16, 2017. (We also attended the first meeting, held in November last year at the COP22 summit in Marrakesh, and a funding meeting in Meknes, Morocco, in April 2016. Our reports are here and here.

The mission of the 4 per 1000 Initiative, according to its website, is “to help member countries and organizations to develop projects, actions and programs based on scientific knowledge that lead to the protection and increase of stocks of soil organic carbon (SOC) at an ideal rate of 4/100 (0.4%) per year.”

This most recent meeting included a high-level segment in the morning, with agricultural ministers from several countries, including: the new French Minister (in a clear gesture from the new French government of the continuation of French support to the initiative); Spain, one of the biggest financial allies in support of the initiative; and Hungary and Tunisia. FAO Director Eduardo Mansur, UNCCD lead scientist Barron Orr, and several others also spoke at the meeting.

Highlights from the 4 per 1000 meeting include:

  • Familiarization with the research priorities of the 4 per 1000 Scientific and Technical Committee, which include a focus on soil organic carbon sequestration and its role in reducing global climate change, how to estimate SOC storage potential, the development of management practices, and how to monitor, report and verify results.
  • The committee has also developed a set of reference criteria and indicators to assess regenerative projects identified by members of the consortium, which could eventually qualify for funding so that they can be improved and expanded.
  • Unveiling of the new 4 per 1000 website which includes more information on the role and structure of the consortium of governance of the initiative, the forum of partners, the scientific and technical committee, and ways to participate. 
  1. Co-Organization of “Speed up the Cool Down” event. On November 15, Biovision, IFOAM Organics International, Shumei International, Terra Genesis International and RI organized a Speed up the Cool Down event. Over 50 people, including farmers, climate justice activists, indigenous and women’s rights advocates, agroecologists, and the growing regenerative agriculture movement came together at IFOAM Organics International Headquarters to learn and collaborate on ways to reverse climate change.

The event allowed RI to provide a positive communication space for a growing network of regenerators who are putting carbon back into the ground and doing it in a sustainable and natural way using organic regenerative farming and land-use practices.

   

Positive outcomes, potential threats

 As with past climate summits, COP23 revealed what’s going right with the climate movement, and what’s not—the proverbial case of the good, the bad (or in this case, neutral) and the ugly.

We identified a few positive (“the good”) outcomes, including:

  1. Adoption of the Koroniva Joint Work on Agriculture. After COP 17 brought agriculture into the negotiations, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advance (SBSTA), a technical body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was asked to give recommendations on agriculture during in-session workshop and meetings.

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture will work with the SBSTA and the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body of Implementation (the SBI) to address issues related to agriculture, so that the issue of agriculture as a climate solution moves beyond the scientific and technical aspects to implementation.

The focus of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture includes:

  • Modalities for implementing the outcomes of the in-session workshops organized over the past years.
  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience.
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management.
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.
  • Improved livestock management systems.
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in agriculture.

RI will join countries, stakeholders and other observer organizations in submitting recommendations before the next session of subsidiary bodies in April-May 2018.

  1. Creation of the Tanaloa Dialogue. This is a space created in Bonn to give room to inclusive and participatory processes that allow governments, civil society, private sector and researchers to share stories and showcase best practices on how to raise the bar for nationally determined contributions (NCDs). This could turn out to be a positive development, depending on how it’s implemented and whether the private sector attempts to co-op it.
  2. Adoption of a gender platform. This platform, which includes a gender action plan and a local communities and indigenous peoples platform, was operationalized with the goal to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices, and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to address climate change.
  3. Syria joined the Paris Climate Accord. That makes the U.S. the only country in the world to opt out of the global climate agreement.

In addition to the above “good” outcomes, we observed a few that were a bit more on the “neutral” side, including:

  1. U.S. mayors, cities and states pledge to support the Climate Agreement. In a public rebuke of Trump’s withdrawal, they made the hashtag #wearestill a viral sensation at COP23. Their pavilion, one of the largest ones at the summit (in keeping with U.S. tradition), hosted continuous talks and events. The downside? Major sponsors included Mars, Inc. and Walmart—not exactly pillars of the climate movement.
  2. China takes the lead. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. was considered a leader in the global climate movement. Now that the U.S. has withdrawn, China is at the helm of that ship.

And then, there’s the “ugly,” which we put in the “science fiction” portion of the COP23 program. Largely promoted by the U.S. lobby, military-like, risky climate “solutions,” such as geoengineering, popped up at almost every side event during the two-week summit.

So concerning is the geoengineering talk, that we devoted an entire article to it. Read our report on the impact these “solutions” could have on the planet and their potential for gaining traction, given their financial attractiveness to investors.

Ercilia Sahores is political director for the Organic Consumers Association – Mexico, and a representative of Regeneration International.

24 U.S. Farmer Organizations #Still-In on the Paris Agreement

Author: Michael Peñuelas | Published: November 2017

The international community will gather in the second week of November to evaluate the progress that the 196 signatory countries to the Paris Climate Agreement have made since 2015. This will be the first global meeting of the signatories since President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the United States (U.S.), the world’s second most significant emitter, from the agreement.

For American farmers and ranchers, climate change is an economic issue. A stable agricultural industry depends on a stable, predictable climate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that climate change will increase the variability of pest pressures, disease prevalence, temperature swings, and precipitation patterns across the U.S., as well as the regularity of extreme events including storms, floods, dry spells, sustained drought, and heat waves.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to coordinate efforts to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Global temperatures are already up at least 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.53 degrees Fahrenheit) when averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The agreement supports countries in sharing resources to combat the sources of climate change and adapt to its effects. It provides support to developing countries who are responsible for the smallest share of planet-warming emissions.

In light of the Trump Administration’s position on the Paris Agreement, thousands of businesses and organizations from across U.S. civil society have signed the “We Are Still In” declaration, committing to pursue the goals of the Agreement. More than 1,700 businesses and investors signed, alongside 327 colleges and universities. Simultaneously, the mayors of 381 cities signed the #ClimateMayors pledge and the governors of 12 states plus Puerto Rico joined the United States Climate Alliance. Both groups support the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Major agriculture-related corporations either urged President Trump not to withdraw or criticized the action, including CargillDowDuPont, and Monsanto, as did major food companies, including Campbell’sCoca-ColaDannonGeneral MillsKelloggMarsMondelez (formerly Kraft Foods), and Unilever, among many others.

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