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The Chicken and the Egg: Stop Linear Farming and Embrace Circular Agriculture

Agronomist Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin wants to transform the food system from the ground up by introducing poultry-powered, planet-cooling, regenerative agriculture. Ashoka’s Simon Stumpf caught up with Haslett-Marroquin to hear more about his approach, what his Tree-Range™ system is all about, and what’s on the horizon for the smallholder farmers in his network.

Photo credit: Regeneration International

Simon Stumpf: You’re championing what you call a “non-linear” approach to farming. What do you mean by that?

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin: As farmers we don’t produce anything. Nature does. We simply manage the process, a non-linear process, by which inedible energy is transformed into edible energy — from soil to carrots, from grain to eggs and chickens. When we understand this, a whole world of possibility opens up because we are no longer constrained by linear, input-and-output based methods that waste energy and pollute our soil, waterways and air.

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Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

Organic agriculture practices are often blamed for being unsustainable and not able to feed the world. In fact, several high-profile advocates of conventional agricultural production have stated that the world would starve if we all converted to organic agriculture. They have written articles for science journals and other publications saying that organic agriculture is not sustainable and produces yields that are significantly lower than conventional agriculture.

Thus, the push for genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, animal- feed antibiotics, food irradiation and toxic synthetic chemicals is being justified, in part, by the rationale that without these products the world will not be able to feed itself.

Photo credit: Pexels

Ever since Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798 and first raised the specter of overpopulation, various experts have been predicting the end of human civilization because of mass starvation.

The theme was popularized again by Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb. According to Ehrlich’s logic, we should all be starving now that the 21st century has arrived: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines; hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

The only famines that have occurred since 1968 have been in African countries saddled with corrupt governments, political turmoil, civil wars and periodic droughts. The world had enough food for these people — it was political and logistical events that prevented them from producing adequate food or stopped aid from reaching them. Hundreds of millions of people did not starve to death.

The specter of mass starvation is being pushed again as the motive for justifying GMOs. In June 2003, President Bush stated at a biotechnology conference, “We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger.”

We must now ask ourselves: Is global hunger due to a shortage of food production?

In this first decade of the 21st century, many farmers around the world are facing a great economic crisis of low commodity prices. These low prices are due to oversupply.

Current economic theories hold that prices decrease when supply is greater than demand.

Most of our current production systems are price driven, with the need for economies of scale to reduce unit costs. The small profit margins of this economic environment favor enterprises working in terms of large volume, and as a result the family farm is declining. Many areas of the United States and Australia have fewer farmers now than 100 years ago, and the small rural centers they support are disappearing. Hundreds of thousands of farmers have had to leave their farms in Argentina due to higher production costs and lower commodity prices. The sugar industry in Australia is on the verge of collapse for the same reason. Australian dairy farmers continue to leave the industry since deregulation forced down the prices they receive. Most of the major industrial countries are subsidizing their farmers so that their agricultural sectors do not collapse.

Europe, North America, Australia and Brazil are in the process of converting a large percentage of their arable land from food production to biofuels such as ethanol in an effort to establish viable markets for their farmers. The latest push in GMO development is BioPharm, in which plants such as corn, sugarcane and tobacco are modified to produce new compounds such as hormones, vaccines, plastics, polymers and other nonfood compounds. All of these developments will mean that less food is grown on some of the world’s most productive farmland.

Grain farmers in India have protested about cheap imports that are sending them deeper into poverty. Countries such as India and China, once considered as overpopulated basket cases, export large quantities of food. In fact, India, one of the world’s most populated countries, is a net food exporter in most years.

South American rainforests are cleared for pasture that is grazed with beef destined for the hamburger chains of North America. Once the soil is depleted, new areas are cleared for pasture and old, degraded areas are abandoned to weeds. In Asia, most of the forests are cleared for timber that is exported to the developed industrial economies. One of the saddest things about this massive, wasteful destruction of biodiversity is that very little of the newly cleared land is used to feed the poor. Most of this production of timber and beef is exported to the world’s richest economies.

The reality is that the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone and has more than enough suitable agricultural land to do it. Unfortunately, due to inefficient, unfair distribution systems and poor farming methods, millions of people do not receive adequate nutrition.

Can Organic Agriculture Feed the World?

Organic agriculture needs to be able to answer two major questions:

  1. Can organic agriculture produce high yields?
  2. Can organic agriculture get the food to the people who need it?

An editorial in New Scientist for February 3, 2001, stated that low-tech, sustainable agriculture is increasing crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 percent or more. This has been achieved by replacing synthetic chemicals with natural pest control and natural fertilizers.

Professor Jules Pretty, director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, wrote, “Recent evidence from 20 countries has found more than 2 million families farming sustainably on more than 4-5 million hectares. This is no longer marginal. It cannot be ignored. What is remarkable is not so much the numbers, but that most of this has happened in the past 5-10 years. Moreover, many of the improvements are occurring in remote and resource-poor areas that had been assumed to be incapable of producing food surpluses.”

An excellent example of this type of agricultural extension has been published in the January 2003 World Vision News. Working in conjunction AusAID, World Vision linked farmers from the impoverished Makuyu community in Kenya with the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF).

They arranged workshops where KIOF members taught the principles of organic farming, including compost making, preparing safe organic pesticides, organic vegetable gardening and organic care of livestock.

Maize yields increased by four to nine times. The organically grown crops produced yields that were 60 percent higher than crops grown with expensive chemical fertilizers.

The wonderful thing is that many of these farmers now have a surplus of food to sell, whereas previously they did not even have enough to eat. They are organizing marketing co-ops to sell this surplus.

The profits are going back to the community. They have distributed dairy goats, rabbits, hives and poultry to community members and have planted 20,000 trees, including 2,000 mangos. Several of the organic farmers are training many other farmers in the district and helping them to apply organic farming techniques to their farms.

The mood of the community has changed. They are now confident and empowered with the knowledge that they can overcome the problems in their community. These types of simple, community based organic agricultural models are what is needed around the world to end rural poverty and starvation, not GMOs and expensive toxic chemicals.

The Makuyu community in Kenya is not an isolated example. Professor Pretty gives other examples from around the world of increases in yield when farmers have replaced synthetic chemicals and shifted to sustainable/organic methods:

  • 223,000 farmers in southern Brazil using green manures and cover crops of legumes and livestock integration have doubled yields of maize and wheat to 4-5 tons/hectare.
  • 45,000 farmers in Guatemala and Honduras used regenerative technologies to triple maize yields to 2-2.5 tons/ha and diversify their upland farms, which has led to local economic growth that has in turn encouraged remigration back from the cities.
  • 200,000 farmers across Kenya as part of sustainable agriculture programs have more than doubled their maize yields to about 2.5 to 3.3 tons/ha and substantially improved vegetable production through the dry seasons.
  • 100,000 small coffee farmers in Mexico have adopted fully organic production methods and increased yields by half.
  • A million wetland rice farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam have shifted to sustainable agriculture, where group-based farmer field schools have enabled farmers to learn alternatives to pesticides and increase their yields by about 10 percent.

Nicolas Parrott of Cardiff University, U.K., authored a report entitled The Real Green Revolution. He gives case studies that confirm the success of organic and agroecological farming techniques in the developing world:

  • In Madhya Pradesh, India, average cotton yields on farms participating in the Maikaal Bio-Cotton Project are 20 percent higher than on neighboring conventional farms.
  • In Madagascar, SRI (System of Rice Intensification) has increased yields from the usual 2-3 tons per hectare to yields of 6, 8 or 10 tons per hectare.
  • In Tigray, Ethiopia, a move away from intensive agrochemical usage in favor of composting has produced an increase in yields and in the range of crops it is possible to grow.
  • In the highlands of Bolivia, the use of bonemeal and phosphate rock and intercropping with nitrogen-fixing lupin species have significantly contributed to increases in potato yields.

One of the most important aspects of the teaching farmers in these regions to increase yields with sustainable/organic methods is that the food and fiber is produced close to where it is needed and in many cases by the people who need it. It is not produced halfway around the world, transported, and then sold to them.

Another important aspect is the low input costs. Growers do not need to buy expensive imported fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The increase in yields also comes with lower production costs, allowing a greater profit to these farmers.

Third, the substitution of more labor intensive activities such as cultural weeding, composting and intercropping for expensive imported chemical inputs provides more employment for local and regional communities. This employment allows landless laborers to pay for their food and other needs.

As in the example of the Makuyu community in Kenya, these benefits lead to a positive change in the wealth and the mood of the community. These communities are revitalized, proactive and empowered to improve their future.

Can Organic Agriculture Achieve High Yields in Developed Nations?

Since 1946, the advent of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, improved crop varieties and industrial paradigms are credited with producing the high yields of the “green revolution.” Because organic agriculture avoids many of these new inputs, it is assumed that it always results in lower yields.

Organic carrots.

The assumption that greater inputs of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides are required to increase food yields is not accurate. In a study published in The Living Land, Professor Pretty looked at projects in seven industrialized countries of Europe and North America. He reported, “Farmers are finding that they can cut their inputs of costly pesticides and fertilizers substantially, varying from 20 to 80 percent, and be financially better off. Yields do fall to begin with (by 10 to 15 percent, typically), but there is compelling evidence that they soon rise and go on increasing. In the USA, for example, the top quarter of sustainable agriculture farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as a much lower negative impact on the environment.”

Professor George Monbiot, in an article in the Guardian (August 24, 2000), wrote that wheat grown with manure has produced consistently higher yields for the past 150 years than wheat grown with chemical nutrients, in U.K. trials.

A study of apple production conducted by Washington State University compared the economic and environmental sustainability of conventional, organic and integrated growing systems in apple production. The organic system had equivalent yields to the other systems. The study also showed that the break-even point was nine years after planting for the organic system and 15 and 16 years, respectively, for conventional and integrated farming systems.

In an article published in the peer review scientific journal Nature, Laurie Drinkwater and colleagues from the Rodale Institute showed that organic farming had better environmental outcomes as well as similar yields of both products and profits when compared to conventional, intensive agriculture.

Gary Zimmer, one of the American pioneers of biological farming, runs an organic dairy farm with his son in Wisconsin. In 2000 one of his remineralized alfalfa (lucerne) fields produced a yield four times greater than the average for the district. He has increased the nutrient value of pasture by 300 percent and currently calves 150 cows every year without a single health problem.

Dick Thompson, a founding member of the Progressive Farmers of Iowa, engages in organic farm research in conjunction with the University of Iowa, the Rodale Institute and the Wallace Institute. He obtains some of the highest yields in his district using composts, ridge-tilling and crop rotations.

The innovative system of rotationally grazing several species of animals developed by Joel and Theresa Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia is one of the best examples of a high-yield organic system. They use 100 acres of dryland pasture to cell-graze cattle, sheep, pigs, meat chickens, laying hens, turkeys, pheasants and rabbits.

Their system is based on native pastures, without cultivation or new, “improved” pasture species. The only input has been the feed for the poultry.

This multi-species rotational grazing system builds one inch of soil a year and returns the family 15 times the income per acre than is received by neighboring farms using a set stocking of cattle.

Steve Bartolo, president of the Australian Organic Sugar Producers Association, produced similar yields of commercial sugar per hectare from his organic Q124 cane and his conventional cane in 2002. The average yield of sugar for his best organic cane “achieved higher tonnes per hectare compared to the average of all conventionally grown Q124.”

Greg Paynter, an organic farmer who works for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, conducted the organic section of grain comparison trials at Dalby Agricultural College in 2002. The organic wheat produced 3.23 tonnes to the hectare compared to the conventional wheat yield of 2.22 tonnes. This trial was conducted during one of the worst droughts on record.

Graham McNally of Kialla Farms, one of Australia’s significant organic pioneers, consistently achieves yields comparable to those of the conventional farms in his region.

Dr. Rick Welsh of the Henry A. Wallace Institute reviewed numerous academic publications comparing organic and conventional production systems in the United States. The data showed that the organic systems were more profitable. This profit was not always due to premiums, but was instead a result of lower production and input costs as well as more consistent yields. Dr. Welsh’s study also showed that organic agriculture produces better yields than conventional agriculture in adverse weather events, such as droughts or higher-than-average rainfall.

Will GMOs Feed the World?

Argentina is a good example of what happens when a country pursues the policies of market deregulation and GMO crops. It is the third-largest producer of GMO crops, with 28 percent of the world’s production. By the 1999-2000 season, more than 80 percent of the total soybean acreage, or 6.6 million hectares, had been converted to GMOs. These are some of the results according to a study published by Lehmann and Pengue in theBiotechnology and Development Monitor:

  • Declining profit margins — prices for soybeans declined 28 percent between 1993 and 1999.
  • Farmers’ profit margins fell by half between 1992 and 1999, making it difficult for many to pay off bank loans for machinery, chemical inputs and seeds.
  • A 32 percent decrease in producers — between 1992 and 1997, the number of producers dropped from 170,000 to 116,000, meaning 54,000 farmers were forced to leave the industry.
  • At least 50 percent of the acreage is now managed by corporate agriculture.
  • There is an increasing role of transnational companies in the agricultural sector.
  • Industrialization of grain and soybean production has boosted dependence on foreign agricultural inputs and increased foreign debt.
  • Removal of import tariffs led to the bankruptcy of domestic farm machinery manufacturers and a loss of employment.
  • The commercial seed sector has become increasingly controlled by subsidiaries of transnational corporations.

Since the above data was published, the Argentinean economy collapsed, causing riots and the resignations of several governments. The country is now currently in deep debt, with its economy under the control of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Its standard of living has declined, and thousands more farmers have been forced off their farms. Rural and urban poverty and hunger has increased.

According to Caritas Argentina, the social services agency of the Catholic Church in that country, over 40 percent of all Argentinean children are now undernourished: “World Health Organization standards for daily caloric intake are unmet for nearly 40 percent of Argentinean children under 18, and for up to half in the poorer northeast region of the country. Even in the comparatively wealthy capital city Buenos Aires, at least 19 children have died of malnutrition in recent months.”

If GMOs cannot feed the children in the country that is the world’s third largest producer of GMO crops, how will they feed the rest of the world?

Conclusion: Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

The data thus shows that it is possible to obtain very good yields using organic systems. This is not uniform at the moment, with many organic growers not yet producing at the levels that are achievable.

Education on the best practices in organic agriculture is a cost-effective and simple method of ensuring high levels of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable production where it is needed.

Organic agriculture is a viable solution to preventing global hunger because:

  • It can achieve high yields.
  • It can achieve these yields in the areas where it is needed most.
  • It has low inputs.
  • It is cost-effective and affordable.
  • It provides more employment so that the impoverished can purchase their own needs.
  • It does not require any expensive technical investment.

It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years to develop one genetically modified plant variety. This money would be spent far more productively on organic agricultural education, research and extension in the areas where we need to overcome hunger and poverty.

Organic agriculture is the quickest, most efficient, most cost-effective and fairest way to feed the world.

André Leu is international director of Regeneration International. He is a longtime farmer in Australia and past president of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. He is the author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides and Poisoning Our Children, published by Acres U.S.A.

Reposted with permission from Eco-Farming Daily

To Address the Climate Crisis, We Must Completely Rethink How We Produce and Consume Food

The clock on climate upheaval is ticking fast with little time to lose, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made frighteningly clear last week. “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” the October 8 report warned. Yet just one month earlier, the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) brushed over what may be the most critical “aspect of society,” making only marginal mention of the crisis’s top cause.

Photo credit: Pexels

Tucked away in a pastry-laden conference room in a downtown San Francisco office building, a “high-level roundtable” of international leaders discussed something pivotal to the fate of the planet yet sidelined by the summit: food and agriculture.

Led by New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States, Tim Groser, and top representatives from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Resources Institute and others, the roundtable posed the challenge, “How can we make agricultural climate action more attractive?”

Food and agriculture represents the single-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions—at between 19 and 29 percent including associated deforestation, more than any other sector in the global economy. Yet, “agriculture is always the last at the party,” noted Groser, former chair of the World Trade Organization agriculture negotiations process, during the roundtable. Other GCAS panels explored issues of deforestation, land use and food production systems—but these pivotal issues were largely absent from the summit’s main stage events, and were barely mentioned in the protests and teach-ins surrounding the summit.

The roundtable, hosted by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, featured a dissonant blend of urgency and lack of clarity: There was no consensus around how to rapidly reduce food’s greenhouse gas emissions, which stem chiefly from industrial agriculture’s removal of forests and other carbon sinks, alongside ballooning meat and dairy production. Livestock production alone spews 14.5 percent of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A failing food system

“The way we produce food is failing us,” said Zitouni Ould Dada, deputy director of the UN FAO’s climate and environment division, in an interview after the event. “The whole system of land use has to change. We need to produce food with the land we have.”

The roundtable raised a host of food and climate crises and challenges:

  • In a survey of 174 countries by the World Resources Institute, just nine had targets for reducing methane emissions from their food production.
  • Despite heaps of evidence showing industrial livestock is a top climate threat, global meat and dairy production and consumption continue to soar.
  • Massive food waste is a major hunger and climate problem: according to the UN FAO, a full one-third of all food is wasted or lost, and “if food wastage were a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world.”

As the FAO’s Dada explained, “We are trying to get production to shift toward efficiency because we know there is so much food wastage, from the time you sow the food to the time you have it on your plate,” including long-distance transportation, storage and processing. “Instead of producing more, we can produce more efficiently.”

The roundtable clarified a key dilemma: with nations dependent on trade, exports and economic development to maintain economic growth—and that growth invariably spurring greater meat consumption—how can countries fill their economic coffers while slashing food-related emissions?

As the world’s top exporter of goat and sheep meat, and a major beef producer, New Zealand illustrates this tension between trade and emissions reduction. The far-flung island nation faces a “very acute problem when it comes to our emissions program,” Groser acknowledged.

But, with global meat consumption rising and livestock’s climate hoof-print clear, how would top beef exporters reduce their climate harm while maintaining income for those nations and their farmers? When this reporter posed the question to the roundtable, Groser dodged the core challenge of production and consumption. “Production is not the problem,” he responded. “The problem is the how, the sustainability of production.”

While debate persists between better meat and no meat, more sustainable ranching has been on the rise, including grass-fed, smaller-scale and rotational grazing systems. Scientists and activists continue to debate the emissions reductions and carbon storage potential of these alternatives, but there is little question that producing and consuming less livestock would reduce food’s climate impact.

Unfortunately, the big picture of meat and dairy is grim. Global per capita meat consumption continues to rise (with the United States and other industrial “developed” nations leading the way)—and with it comes climate-wrecking deforestation, along with methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

When asked about using national policy such as subsidies or other incentives to propel more sustainable food production, the roundtable offered meager response. Groser said there are efforts in that direction, but he stressed the contradiction of governments trying to price carbon in the marketplace while also subsidizing carbon production.

For Groser, the dilemma exemplifies “the enormous sensitivity of agriculture” in climate reduction, particularly for nations that rely on agriculture and exports to survive. According to the EPA, agriculture comprises 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—though given farming’s relatively small chunk of the U..S economy, “it is a disproportionately GHG-intensive activity,” the USDA Economic Research Service has noted. New Zealand, meanwhile, generates half of its emissions from agriculture, Ireland 30 percent, France 20 percent, and Uruguay around 80 percent, according to Groser. “There’s no incentive structure for anyone to worry about agriculture other than France, Ireland and New Zealand.”

Like the summit itself, the roundtable focused far more on market-driven approaches than on how governments can regulate or fundamentally change the market systems that require relentless growth and profits. Gail Work, CEO of One Earth Ventures, touted lab research suggesting “we can increase the size of cows and the volume of milk while reducing pollution.” Manish Bapna, executive vice president of the World Resources Institute, emphasized using “market forces” to sway corporate supply chains to address deforestation—but, he added, “what we’ve seen is not nearly enough progress.” Any notion of the public sector spurring or supporting more rapid change was missing from the roundtable conversation.

As the latest IPCC report spells out, aggressively tackling the climate crisis would have “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems,” and “could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.” While given short shrift by the climate summit and the movement  protests surrounding it, critical efforts are afoot to shrink food’s outsized role in climate change. From institutions such as schools and hospitals reducing their meat consumption, to global farmer movements pushing agroecology farming systems that boost resiliency while reducing emissions, there are signs of hope.

The chief question is whether this progress can be radically and rapidly expanded.  For that to happen, the issue must be more heartily embraced by high-profile climate summits, world governments and the climate movement, as a central component of both the crisis and its solutions.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

As Climate Changes, Himalayan Farmers Return to Traditional Crops

Climate change is making food production harder for communities in the Indian Himalayas. Over the past few decades, there have been significant changes including higher temperatures, lower rainfall and more extreme and unpredictable weather.

Making sure communities have the food they need is key. Not just in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’ target of zero hunger, but to make sure the Himalayas can withstand the challenges created by climate change. This requires agricultural systems that sustain natural resources, biodiversity and traditional crop varieties that give options for adaptation.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and its partners, Lok Chetna Manch in Ranikhet, Uttarakhand, and the Centre for Mountain Dynamics in Kalimpong, West Bengal, have been conducting participatory action-research  with a number of traditional farming villages.

These villages lie in the central Himalayas’ Almora district, and Lepcha and Limbu villages near Kalimpong in the eastern Himalayas. The research is part of an EU-funded project, Smallholder Innovation for Resilience (SIFOR), which is designed to understand and strengthen the role of traditional biodiverse farming in food security and climate adaptation.

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An Agro-Ecological Europe: A Desirable, Credible Option to Address Food and Environmental Challenges

Alarming signals about the need for a transition of the agricultural and food system in Europe have been accumulating for several years and social expectation for such a transition is growing. How can we feed Europe – and feed it well – while preserving nature and the climate? This is the purpose of a study, which main conclusions are summarized in this paper.

Key messages

1. Current diets, which are too rich and unbalanced (three times the recommended amount of sugar, double the recommended amount of protein, not enough fruit, vegetables or fibre):

  • contribute to the increase in many conditions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases);
  • lead Europe to depend on the rest of the world for food, through its imports of 40 million tonnes of plant proteins, which represent 20 % of its utilised agricultural land and far exceed the level of its exports.

2. The TYFA scenario is based on abandoning pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, redeploying natural grasslands and extending agro-ecological infrastructures(hedges, trees, ponds and stony habitats) and the generalisation of healthy diets (fewer animal products, more fruit and vegetables).

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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.

Climate Change Could Lead to Major Crop Failures in World’s Biggest Corn Regions

Two new studies looking at corn and vegetables warn of a rising risk of food shocks and malnutrition with unchecked global warming.

Author: Georgina Gustin | Published: June 11, 2018

Climate change will increase the risk of simultaneous crop failures across the world’s biggest corn-growing regions and lead to less of the nutritionally critical vegetables that health experts say people aren’t getting enough of already, scientists warn.

Two new studies published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences look at different aspects of the global food supply but arrive at similarly worrisome conclusions that reiterate the prospects of food shocks and malnutrition with unchecked global warming. While developing tropical countries would likely be hardest hit, the destabilizing financial effects could reach all corners of the globe, the authors say.

One paper analyzed corn—or maize—the world’s most produced and traded crop, to project how climate change will affect it across the major producing regions. Much of the world’s corn goes into feeding livestock and making biofuels, and swings in production can ripple through global markets, leading to price spikes and food shortages, particularly for the 800 million people living in extreme poverty.

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Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs – 20 Interconnected Actions to Guide Decision-Makers

New FAO tool lists concrete steps ways to speed up implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda

Published: June 7, 2018

To help policy makers and other development actors accelerate progress towards global promises to end poverty and hunger, FAO has released a set of 20 inter-connected actions designed to show the impact sustainable agriculture can have on tackling the world’s greatest challenges.

Transforming food and agriculture to achieve the SDGs offers a practical guide for countries on how to strengthen food security, generate decent employment, spur rural development and economic growth, conserve natural resources and respond to climate change – all part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“For the first time, FAO has put together a set of interconnected tools that can help fix our broken food systems, and show that from the roots of sustainable food and agriculture come the fruits of transformation,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Natural Resources, said at an event during FAO’s annual governing Council meeting.

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Ever Wonder How Rainfall Affects Your Peanut Butter Sandwich Habit?

Climate change will impact agriculture and food supplies. That’s why this digital classroom is teaching food literacy.

Author: Angela Fichter | Published: June 5, 2018

Almost 800 million people are currently facing chronic hunger, and we waste one-third of all the food we produce. Americans are eating nearly a quarter more than they did in 1970, but we’re not just eating more than we used to—we’re eating way more than we need to. While our consumption is up, we’re misinformed and less connected to what we’re putting in our mouths.

Many people don’t know where their food comes from—where their vegetables or the grains in their bread are grown, or the farming methods used to harvest them, or how they arrive in the store from which they were purchased. According to a 2017 survey by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, 7 percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. This reflects a broad social trend—we generally don’t learn about farm-to-fork food systems in school. But the Center for Ecoliteracy is trying to change that.

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Industrial Agriculture Isn’t Feeding the World, Only Agroecology Can

A transition towards agroecology is needed to beat the diktats of a production model that is poisoning our Planet and our lives. The op-ed by Navdanya International.

Author: Ruchi Shroff | Published: April 27, 2018

Agroecology represents a solution to the interconnected crises of our time, not only in the agricultural sector, but also in the economic and social spheres. For over thirty years Navdanya, together with other civil society organizations from all over the world, has been promoting a regenerating and ecologic circular approach to contrast the rising environmental degradation, poverty, sanitary emergencies and malnutrition. Changing the current extractive agricultural paradigm, based on the one-way exploitation of nature’s resources and wealth, is to be considered a priority of our times.

The green revolution is no longer sustainable

A paradigm change of which, at last, the FAO has taken notice in the occasion of the Second Symposium on Agroecology held in Rome from 3 to 5 April. This is an important step in the right direction, considering that both the intervention of FAO Director General Graziano da Silva and the final document of the Symposium are denouncing the un-sustainability of the industrial agricultural model of the Green Revolution. In fact, they highlight how agroecology directly contributes to some of the most important SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), such as poverty and hunger eradication, guaranteeing the quality of education, the achievement of gender equality, increased efficiency in water use, the promotion of decent work conditions, guaranteeing sustainable consumption and production, consolidation of climate resilience, sustainable use of marine resources and stop the biodiversity loss.

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