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Regenerative Solutions to Climate Change Gain Momentum at COP 23

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Global Sequestration Potential of Increased Organic Carbon in Cropland Soils

Authors: Deborah A. Bossio, Rolf Sommer, Louis V. Verchot & Robert J. Zomer, Published: November 14, 2017 

Historical and ongoing increase of agricultural production worldwide has profoundly impacted global carbon, water and nutrient cycles1,2,3,4. Both land-use change to agriculture and agricultural production have and continue to contribute significantly to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for as much as 24% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions5. Almost 50% of all potentially vegetated land surface globally has been converted to croplands, pastures and rangelands1,2,3,4. This land-use change and soil cultivation have contributed 136 ± 55 petagrams of carbon (Pg C) to the atmosphere from change in biomass carbon since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, with depletion of soil organic carbon (SOC) accounting for a further contribution of 78 ± 12 Pg C. This estimated 214 ± 67 Pg C from the land-use sector compares to the estimated 270 ± 30 Pg of C contributed by fossil fuel combustion6 as a historical carbon source. More recently soil organic matter also has gotten increasing attention as a potentially large and uncertain source of carbon to the atmosphere in the future in response to predicted global temperature rises7,8.

Soils, however, can act as both sources and sinks of carbon, depending upon management, biomass input levels, micro-climatic conditions, and bioclimatic change. Substantially more carbon is stored in the world’s soils than is present in the atmosphere. The global soil carbon (C) pool to one-meter depth, estimated at 2500 Pg C, of which about 1500 Pg C is soil organic carbon (SOC), is about 3.2 times the size of the atmospheric pool and 4 times that of the biotic pool6,9,10. An extensive body of research has shown that land management practices can increase soil carbon stocks on agricultural lands with practices including addition of organic manures, cover cropping, mulching, conservation tillage, fertility management, agroforestry, and rotational grazing11,12. There is general agreement that the technical potential for sequestration of carbon in soil is significant, and some consensus on the magnitude of that potential13. On this basis, the 4p1000 initiative on Soil for Food Security and Climate14, officially launched by the French Ministry of Agriculture at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change: Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP 21) in Paris, aims to sequester approximately 3.5Gt C annually in soils. Croplands will be extremely important in this effort, as these lands are already being actively managed, and so amenable to implementation of improved practices12. Furthermore, because almost all cropped soils have lost a large percentage of their pre-cultivation SOC6,15, they potentially represent a large sink to re-absorb carbon through the introduction and adoption of improved or proper management aimed towards increased SOC. However, carbon is rarely stored in soils in its elemental form, but rather in the form of organic matter which contains significant amounts of other nutrients, above all nitrogen. Nutrients, biomass productivity, the type of vegetation and water availability, among other constraints therefore can be major limiting factors inhibiting increases in soil carbon sequestration16. Further imperative to sequester carbon in soils arises from the multiple co-benefits that are obtained from sequestration of carbon in soils that have been depleted of their organic matter17. Soil fertility, health, and functioning are immediate consequences of the amount of soil organic matter (and hence carbon) a soil contains; this is even more important for highly weathered soils, as is the case for the majority of soils in the humid lowland tropics. Increasing carbon in soils also means improving its physical properties and related ecosystems services, such as better water infiltration, water holding capacity, as well as potentially increasing agricultural productivity and ecological resilience11,12.

In this analysis, we illustrate where carbon might be sequestered, and how much, if, through improved practices and management, we could increase SOC on agricultural land by a generally accepted (as attainable) moderate to optimistic amount, based on the medium and high sequestration scenarios of Sommer and Bossio (2014). These scenarios from Sommer and Bossio (2014) resulted in an 0.27 and 0.54% increase in SOC in the top 30 cm of soils after 20 years, for the medium and high scenarios, respectively, that is, a 0.012 to 0.027% annual increase. The low scenario in Sommer and Bossio (2014) was not used because it refers to sequestration rates estimated primarily for unimproved pasture land. An implicit basic assumption is that in general, 50 to 70% of soil carbon stocks have been lost in cultivated soils6,15,17, such that the SOC status of almost all cultivated soils can be increased. It is expected that these cropped soils will be able to sequester carbon for at least 20 years before reaching saturation points and new SOC equilibriums13,18, while meta-analysis of field studies14 suggests that in some instances significant sequestration can continue for 30 or even up to 40 years before reaching new equilibriums. We used the recently released ISRIC SoilGrids250m19 global database of soil information, to identify and derive basic soil characteristics, i.e. SOC and soil bulk density, and the FAO GLC-Share Land Cover database20 to identify and calculate areal extent of the cropland landcover class. The analysis gives a spatially articulated estimate of the distribution and increase of SOC if equal sequestration is reached, within the medium and high scenarios, on all available cropland soils through improved practices. The results of this paper provide an estimate of what the potential amount of sequestered carbon would be in terms of tons of carbon per hectare, spatially articulated at 250 m resolution, and in terms of Pg C regionally and globally, allowing for a quantified discussion of the importance of this carbon pool within on-going global discussions regarding mitigation potential within the agricultural sector.

Results

Global Soil Organic Carbon Stocks on Croplands

Estimates of global soil carbon stocks, trends and sequestration potential11,16, particularly within the context of a warming climate7,8,21,22, are now central to important discussions ongoing within various international fora, notably the discussions on including agricultural land within mitigation strategies and protocols at the UNFCCC, and are the basis for the 4p1000 Initiative14. The spatial distribution of SOC on croplands (Fig. 1), and its contribution to total carbon stock, varies with latitude, and differs substantially from that of carbon stored in above and below ground biomass23,24. Most of the world’s SOC is stored at northern latitudes, particularly in the permafrost and moist boreal regions. In contrast, large areas of cropland in India, across the Sahel, northern China, and Australia are found on low carbon density soils. An overview of 27 studies25 reports that 1500 Pg C can be regarded as a rough estimate of the global SOC pool (to one meter depth; across all the world’s soils, more than 130 million km2), however with substantial variability among both spatially- and non-spatially-explicit estimates and a range of from 500 to 3000 Pg C.

About 372,000 km2 of cropland (Supplementary Figure S1), comprised of carbon dense soils (> 400 t C/ha and/or with a bulk density <1.0 g/cm3) and which are considered likely to lose SOC under any form of cropping management, and sandy soils unlikely to sequester carbon due to high sand content (> 85%), were excluded from the analysis as “unavailable” (Table 1). In particular, it is highlighted that high SOC soils, while accounting for only 2% of total cropland area, account for almost 6% (8.48 Pg C) of total global cropland SOC stocks, and require a set of management options aimed toward conservation and maintenance of carbon stocks25. These areas are primarily peatlands in South East Asia, Russia, some in North America, South America, Europe, Australia/Pacific, and Andosols in South America. Cultivation of peat soils has been shown to contribute significantly to global emissions from agriculture26. Tropical and temperate peatlands account for a disproportionate share of terrestrial carbon stocks considering their more limited area globally27, with peatland drainage, concentrated in Europe and Indonesia, reported to account for nearly a third of all cropland emissions28.

Table 1: Soil organic carbon (SOC) for all available cropland soils globally (i.e. those not excluded from the analysis as high SOC or sandy soils), showing both the global totals and the global averages per hectare, at current status (T0), and after 20 years for both the medium and high sequestration scenarios, and their annual increment.

Globally, cropland stores more than 140 Pg C in the top 30 cm of soil, almost 10% of the total global SOC pool. About 94% of this carbon (131.81 Pg C) is stored on the 15.9 million km2 (98% of global cropland) identified as potentially available for enhanced carbon sequestration through improved soil management and farming practices11. Global distribution of SOC is strongly influenced by temperature and precipitation15,29. SOC is generally lower in the tropics where it is hotter and/or drier, and higher in the cooler, wetter, more northerly, and to a somewhat lesser extent, southerly, latitudes (Fig. 1). Lal (2002) cites several studies showing an exponential decrease in SOC with increase in temperature. This is reflected by low SOC values found across much of the equatorial belt (e.g. less than 100 t C/ha), with the highest carbon density soils (400 t C/ha or more) found in the northern croplands and farmed peat soils of the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia (see Supplementary Table S1).

The regions of North America, Eurasia (Russia) and Europe currently store the greatest amount of carbon on cropland, each with more than 21 Pg C, and all together accounting for over 50% of all SOC stocks on cropland globally (Table 1). By contrast, Central America, North Africa, and the Australian/Pacific region have very low amounts of stored SOC, together comprising 6.48 Pg C or just over 4.6% of the global total. Western Asia, South Asia, Southeast East Asia and East Asia each have moderate amount ranging from 4.38 Pg C to 9.14 Pg C, but together accounting for just less than 2% of global total. South America, even having a fairly large amount of farmland, has a moderate 9.42 Pg C. Almost 12 Pg C, more than 8.5% of the global total, is found in Africa, with the highest concentrations found in the Eastern and Central regions. Nationally, Russia with its vast northern tracts of carbon dense agricultural land has the largest total amount of SOC stored on cropland more than 21.9 Pg C (almost 17% of the global total), followed by the United States (18.9 Pg C), China (8.4 Pg C), India (6.4 Pg C), and Brazil (5.0 Pg C) (Supplementary Table S2).

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New Study: Up to 7 Billion Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Can Be Removed From the Atmosphere Each Year Through Better Soil Management on Farmland

Author: Georgina Smith | Published: November 14, 2017 

By better managing farmland soil, the amount of carbon stored in the top 30 centimeters of the soil could increase an extra 0.9 to 1.85 gigatons each year, say authors of a new study published today in Scientific Reports.

This is equivalent to carbon globally emitted by the transport sector (1.87 gigatons of Carbon); and equivalent to 3 – 7 billion tonnes of CO2 which could be removed from the atmosphere. For comparison, the US emits 5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year (Edgar database, 2015).

The maps in the new study show how much carbon could be stored per hectare each year, which will be vital for designing global mitigation strategies, for achieving targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Since the industrial revolution, 50-70 percent of carbon stored in the soil has been lost to the atmosphere, contributing to harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the form of carbon dioxide. Since farmland is already intensively managed, improving the way it is managed is a practical step to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, say authors.

Dr. Robert Zomer, from the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead-author of the study, said: “Our finding show that turning soils into carbon sinks can sequester significant amounts of carbon in cropland soils. Our research shows soils can be part of the solution to combat climate change – and by doing so we can improve soil health.

The findings illustrate that most of the world’s carbon is stored in cooler, wetter, parts of the world in the northern hemisphere; and less in the tropics where it is hotter or drier. North America, Russia and Europe currently store for over half of the world’s carbon in croplands.

The United States showed the highest total annual potential to store carbon in the soil, followed by India, China, Russian and Australia, if management is improved. The improved practices, among others, include, using compost or (green) manure, mulching, zero tillage, cover cropping, and other regenerative and natural climate solutions, such as agroforestry.

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We All Rely on Soil — but We Treat It Like Dirt

Author: Sara Newmark | Published: November 6, 2017 

You’ve likely seen the bumper-sticker and t-shirt slogan, “No farms, no food.” In truth, it only tells part of the story. A more accurate bumper-sticker slogan would be less catchy. It would reflect the interdependence of all of us with the soil, water, climate and farmers we depend upon for the nourishment for life.

The business community, especially those directly profiting from farmer’s labors and selling food products, has a responsibility to support our farmers, who provide us the nourishment for life, in a way that creates shared value. And because our food system depends upon the health of our environment and will be greatly impacted by the effects of climate change, the business community has a responsibility to protect the environment on which it relies.

Frankly, we’re not sharing well now. The current structure of business disproportionately favors packaged-food companies and disfavors those who engage in the surprisingly risky business of growing healthy food. Many, if not most, packaged-food companies are far removed from the men and women who grow food for them. This distance makes it easier to undervalue their work and it makes it harder for consumers to know whether farmers are well-compensated and following best practices. And it makes it nearly impossible for all of us who eat to recognize the relationship between farming and climate change.

I recently joined Foodstate (makers of MegaFood and Innate Response) as their new Vice President of Social Impact. While I was drawn to the company’s deserved reputation for high-quality vitamins and whole-food supplements, what really attracted me was Foodstate’s commitment to nourishing people by sourcing directly from small, independent family farms.

Part of my new work is to help people see the connection between farmers and health and to do it in a way to make sure we all prosper. Foodstate has a mission to cure nutritional poverty. A key part of that is helping solve the root cause of nutrient deficiency. A recent study published in ACRES magazine found 27 vegetables had an average 47 percent decline of their calcium levels from 1940 to 1991. While this decline is linked to many potential causes, declining soil health is among the top likely suspects.

No Healthy Soil, No Food

Around the planet, we have lost between 30 and 70 percent of all topsoil. At the same time, several hundred billion tons of soil CO2 have been transferred from topsoils to the atmosphere or the oceans because of the global destruction of soil organic matter. In other words, 25 to 40 percent of the current excess of CO2 in the atmosphere resulted from the destruction of soils and their organic matter.

As a consequence, the United Nations estimates that the world has 60 global harvests left. That’s 60 more times the world, if it stays on it current trajectory, will be able to grow and harvest food.

How did we get to this point? We killed and tilled. The model of conventional agriculture — using high levels of synthetic nitrogen, herbicides, GMOs, monoculture plantings and deep, regular tilling — has devastated soils and damaged ecosystems worldwide. Instead of drawing down carbon via photosynthesis, as ecologically sound methods of food production have always done, this highly industrialized and destructive growing method actually pumps carbon into the atmosphere, where it drives climate change.

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Climate Catastrophe: Big Meat and Dairy Emit More Greenhouse Gases than Europe’s Top Emitter

Published: November 8, 2017 

Shefali Sharma with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) talks Big Meat and Dairy and its supersized climate footprint.

COP23 Overview: Climate Conference Tip-Toes Around Regenerative Agriculture as Solution to Global Warming

On November 6, the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicked off in Bonn, Germany, the nation’s former capital. Germany is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to pollution. It’s also the largest polluter in all of Europe. But Germany is not alone in the polluting business—and countries are not the only big polluters.

The world’s top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, according to a report published by GRAIN, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Let us briefly go back to COP23, where Big Meat and Dairy are also participating. Several statements have been made so far at the meeting and there have been a few surprises. Unfortunately, it seems that COP23 will not be particularly innovative, especially when it comes to agricultural policies.

COP23 started under the following premises:

  1. There is no time to waste and the Paris Agreement must be implemented as soon as possible.
  2. The climate disasters we experienced in 2017 (devastating hurricanes and floods, long droughts and extreme temperatures) are not isolated, random events. Rather, they’re directly connected to climate change and unless we do something about it, they’ll become more and more frequent.
  3. With or without the U.S. being part of the negotiations, those countries that have signed up must commit to reaching the goal of making sure warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally, 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  4. Rich countries must compensate poor countries, which are the most vulnerable to climate change, even when they have been the least responsible for it. The financial commitment agreed upon in Paris is now being reviewed to see if it is sufficient and adequate. It’s also crucial to determine how the funding that would have come from the U.S. will be covered once it officially leaves the agreement in 2020.

COP23 Surprises

  1. Syria, the only country that had not signed the Paris Climate Agreement after Nicaragua joined in late October, has finally agreed to be part of it. As a result, the U.S. has become increasingly more isolated as it’s now the only nation on Earth that does not recognize the agreement.
  2. The general mood (COP’s halls are usually the best place to get an idea of what people are really thinking about—beyond protocol) is that the U.S. government’s decision to leave the agreement has only created a stronger sense of solidarity among nations, which can now implement and lead the charge to reverse climate change. Many nations are competing to be the recipient of international recognition, as well as the distribution of copious amounts of funding, which in turn will pave the way for the creation of a number of agencies, departments and many other intermediate bodies.

COP23 As Usual:

  1. The negotiation of agreements behind closed doors while civil society organizations and NGOs host side events. This is a way to prove that during COPs, there is civil society participation, but without ever really having to compromise.
  2. Giving more relevance to controversial solutions to which much capital has already been invested and promised, such as geoengineering and nuclear energy. It’s not a coincidence that despite saying the U.S. will not be part of the negotiations, the Trump administration sent a team to COP23 to advocate for more fossil fuel use.
  3. Pushing existing projects that have proven effective for fighting climate change, but don’t seem to have the same financial incentive.
  4. Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen so far, the negotiations seem to ignore regenerative agriculture as being the solution to climate change. While predictable, this is actually a greater setback than other COPs, which have at least mentioned agriculture, desertification and soil restoration as being key factors in reversing climate change.

Why agriculture?

As previously mentioned, last year the world’s top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases than all of Germany. Industrialized agriculture, which doesn’t account for the 500 plus million small farmers and 200 million herders that exist in the world, is a type of production that pollutes the atmosphere, our soils and waterways.

Industrialized agriculture has huge negative impacts on human health too. While producing and selling poison, Big Agriculture ruins not just local economies, but also the means of life and survival of thousands of farmers who rely on a healthy environment for their production.

At Regeneration International, we know that industrial agriculture is a critical part of the problem. But we also know that agriculture, done the right way or rather the regenerative way, is a fundamental part of the solution.

The conversations at COP23 would be entirely different if Big Meat and Dairy giants like Cargill, Tyson or JBS were held accountable for the health and environmental destruction they have caused—a significant portion of which has been funded by government subsidies.

COP23 negotiations could actually focus on real solutions if polluting corporations acknowledged their contribution to climate change, and transitioned away from chemical- and factory farm-based agriculture to a system focused on soil health, animal welfare, nutritious food and farmworker rights.

Instead, the negotiations have thus far focused on whether or not the Paris Agreement is achievable, a lack of funding and Trump’s latest insult. A genuine effort to hold polluting corporations accountable would shift the mood at COP23 from the same corporate rhetoric we so often hear to one centered on human health, environment and climate-related solutions.

Food Manufacturers, Farmers and Consumers Can Change Climate for Good

It is time for the natural products industry to engage consumers in climate action and regenerative agriculture. The exciting thing is that the market is ready for us to lead, our recent research shows.

Author: Eric Pierce | Published: November 8, 2017

No longer is consumption a passive acquisition of stuff. Increasingly consumers consider buying something as an act that impacts others, one that requires ethical decision making.

They are willing to pay more for responsible business practices.

They are willing to pay more for responsibly produced food.

They are willing to support brands that practice environmental responsibility.

If the baby boomer generation represents the dominant perspective of yesterday and the millennial generation represents where the market is headed, we begin to see a trend line appearing across generations that suggests that consumers increasingly weigh higher order values as they make purchasing decisions.

A recent study conducted by the New Hope Network among 1,000 consumers carefully drawn to be representative of the U.S. population reveals this pattern.

Social and environmental issues resonate and are of growing importance to consumers. We found that consumers are increasingly willing to pay more to support brands that demonstrate environmentally and socially responsible business practices. While activists among the boomer and Gen X generations may have created the momentum behind social and environmental issues, today it is the millennial consumer who is likely to drive these issues into commerce.

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New Research Shows Why Forests Are Absolutely Essential to Meeting Paris Climate Agreement Goals

Author: Mike Gaworecki | Published: November 9, 2017 

  • It’s widely acknowledged that keeping what’s left of the world’s forests standing is crucial to combating climate change. But a suite of new research published last week shows that forests have an even larger role to play in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement than was previously thought.
  • In order to meet those goals, the global economy will have to be swiftly decarbonized. According to a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), by taking aggressive action to protect and rehabilitate tropical forests, we could buy ourselves more time to make this transition.
  • Deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions, but removing that source of emissions is only half the value of forests to global climate action. Other research shows that planting trees and rehabilitating degraded forests is just as critical to climate efforts as stopping deforestation, because of how reforestation efforts can enhance forests’ role as a carbon sink.

By now, it’s widely acknowledged that keeping what’s left of the world’s forests standing is crucial to combating climate change. But a suite of new research published last week shows that forests have an even larger role to play in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement than was previously thought.

The research was released on the eve of the annual United Nations climate conference (the twenty-third conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP23), which kicked off in Bonn, Germany on November 6.

The UN’s program for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD, was included in the Paris Agreement as a standalone article, signaling its importance to broader efforts by the international community to halt global warming. The Agreement was signed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015 and set a goal of “keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

In order to meet those targets, the global economy will have to be swiftly decarbonized and the use of fossil fuels sharply curtailed, while the use of clean, renewable energy will need to be scaled up just as rapidly. According to a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), by taking aggressive action to protect and rehabilitate tropical forests, we could buy ourselves more time to make this transition.

“[E]nding tropical forest loss, improving tropical forest management, and restoring 500 million hectares of tropical forests could reduce sufficient emissions to provide 10-15 years of additional time to dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels,” the report states. “The potential is even larger if the role of the entire land use sector is considered.”

Deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions. But removing that source of emissions is only half the value of forests to global climate action. Restoring degraded forests has come to be recognized as perhaps just as critical to climate efforts as stopping deforestation, because of how reforestation efforts can enhance forests’ role as a carbon sink.

While forests currently remove an estimated 30 percent of manmade carbon emissions from the atmosphere, they could be sequestering far more. If we allow young secondary forests to regrow and improve forest management in addition to stopping deforestation, WHRC notes, “the cumulative size of the forest sink could increase by 100 billion metric tons of carbon by the year 2100 — significantly larger than it is today.” That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of emissions we create in a decade through our use of fossil fuels.

“We cannot meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 °C without utilizing the potential of forests and agricultural soils to store more carbon,” said Philip Duffy, WHRC’s president and executive director. “This requires avoiding future emissions as well as using these resources to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The relatively small net CO2 emissions from land use—about 10 percent of total human emissions—is the difference between much larger emissions and removals. This masks the great potential of forests and soils to contribute to climate mitigation.”

There are actually three distinct activities, besides stopping deforestation, that can boost forests’ role in halting global warming: afforestation, or planting trees on land that was not previously forest; reforestation, in which forests are replanted on land that had been forest in the past; and forest restoration, which involves planting new trees to improve the health of a degraded forest.

Another report, also released last week, by Forest Climate Analytics, looks at large-scale afforestation, reforestation, and restoration efforts in China, India, and South Korea. Through their tree planting efforts, these three countries removed more than 12 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the past two decades, according to the report, providing “evidence for the scale of carbon removals that are achievable through active interventions centered on tree planting and maintenance.”

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Video: Using Trees to Fight Climate Change and Improve Croplands

Author: Regeneration International | Published: November 10, 2017   

UNCCD Drylands Ambassador Dennis Garrity talks regeneration and the use of trees to boost yields and fight climate change at CO23 in Bonn, Germany.

Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-Edged Sword Against Climate Change and Hunger

Author: Friday Phiri | Published: November 7, 2017

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

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