Tag Archive for: Le Foll

Stéphane Le Foll: The Obelix of Agriculture?

On April 28, my colleague from Regeneration International (RI), Precious Phiri, and I found ourselves for the first time in our lives in Meknes, Morocco, trying to navigate in a world of broken French, lots of Arabic and jet lag that I couldn’t seem to shrug off.

We had come to Meknes to be part of the 4 per 1000 presentation organized by the governments of France and Morocco during the SIAM (Salon International de l’Agriculture du Maroc), hoping to find answers to the many questions we had around the next steps for the 4 per 1000 French initiative: Soils for Food Security and the Climate.

RI and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA)  have been actively involved in the promotion of the French initiative that seeks to build up the soils’ organic matter at a rate of four parts per 1000 every year as a way to make the soil what it once was: a carbon reservoir. The initiative’s proposed solution sounded fabulous and the fact that the government of France was supporting it was unprecedented. But we still had many questions on how the initiative was going to be implemented, its governance, financing and administration.

We expected that the meeting, called “What governance and roadmap for the 4 per 1000”? was going to become our Oracle of Delphos. High expectations indeed. In the end, we may not have found all the answers we wanted, but the meeting cleared up any doubts we had. Even better, and unexpected, we left the meeting highly inspired and ready for action.

A ministerial meeting, a pseudo-diplomatic debate that inspires and moves to action? At first it sounded like science fiction. But I soon learned if one of the speakers at such a meeting is French Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll, anything is possible. Listening to him present, he reminded me of super human strength-possessing Obelix, the sidekick to the cartoon hero Asterix.

A country’s initiative pushed by a minister’s charisma

It’s not a stretch to say that Le Foll’s charisma and personality have been the driving forces behind this initiative. Le Foll shocked the world when he said that agriculture could provide a solution to climate change. He again took everyone by surprise when he explained, in a very simple statement, that the key was in something as simple and straightforward as the good old scientific process, taught in every elementary school science class, of photosynthesis.

Le Foll’s charisma was on full display at the meeting in Meknes. After a long conference with Ministers of Agriculture and representatives of about 30 countries, Le Foll wrapped up the meeting with a powerful message, a call to action that leaves no room for a timid response:

“If we ask ourselves where oil and carbon originally came from, the answer is from the soil. We pulled them out of there during the industrial revolution and via consumption. So by putting carbon back in the soil, we are closing a cycle. Every time we think of fighting climate change, we must always remember the fundamental role of agriculture in reversing climate change. After all, you cannot separate carbon storage from food security.”

Le Foll was intentionally forceful at calling out major countries that were present at the meeting but are not yet signed on to the 4 per 1000 initiative, in particular Brazil and India. (India’s Minister of Agriculture was the only official present who advocated for organic agriculture, and one of the few speakers at the meeting who didn’t into the trap of advocating for the use of more fertilizers to increase yields for a growing population).

Le Foll explained the structure that will be put in place for the governance of the 4 per 1000 initiative. He said that the initiative has to be dynamic and easy to implement, but at the same time it must be backed up by a very detailed, meticulous body of research. In other words, there has to be a balance between action and research that allows for the initiative to be fluid, without losing its consistency.

To accomplish this, the initiative will establish three bodies: 1) a consultation body; 2) a scientific body (14 scientists from different parts of the world have been chosen, with a very clear gender balance); and 3) consortium that will serve as executive body (to avoid conflicts of interest the members of said consortium will belong to the non-profit world). RI recommended one of our steering committee members, André Leu, who is also president of IFOAM Organics International, to serve on the consortium—a move that was met with a favorable response from the directors of the French initiative.

These bodies will be set up during 2016. The goal is to have them up and running before the COP22 climate meeting in Marrakesh, in November. The 4 per 1000 initiative will be part of the final formal document for implementation of the Paris agreement.

Le Foll had it right when he said that putting carbon into soil is closing a cycle, that it is going back to the original order of things. That statement contains in a nutshell the basic idea behind regenerative agriculture, a simple concept, that just like 4 per 1000 has nothing but positive multiplying effects.

With Le Foll’s drive and everyone’s participation, we hope the 4 per 1000 initiative is finally adopted, endorsed and fully funded starting November. We may need thousands of Obelix to make this task possible, but we do know now that we have Asterix on our side.

Ercilia Sahores is Latin America Political Director for Regeneration International.

An African COP

Last week I attended, on behalf of Regeneration International,  a meeting to map out the next steps for France’s 4 per 1000 climate initiative.  The meeting, called “What Governance and Roadmap for the 4 per 1000?” took place during the Salon International de l’Agriculture du Maroc (SIAM), in Meknes, Morocco.

A host of ministerial delegates attended, from Morocco, India, Brazil, Palestine, Senegal and many more African countries, as did representatives of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and financial bodies like the Green Fund, African Development Bank and the Islamic development bank.

The meeting confirmed that the French and other governments are unwavering in their support of the 4 per 1000 initiative, launched at the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Summit, and incorporated into the final agreement. It also set the tone for the COP22, to be held in Marrakech in November, 2016.

The meeting also confirmed that Morocco and Africa are ready to host the COP22, which was recently dubbed as a COP of Action and a COP of Africa by the charismatic leader Stéphane Le Foll, French Minister of Agriculture.

Africa has an integral role to play in the 4 per 1000 initiative. Partly because so little funding has been channeled to agriculture in Africa, and partly because 60 percent of the world’s arable land is in Africa. The upcoming COP will ensure that actions to tackle climate change and improve food security are brought to the table and implemented in Africa.

With this in mind, the President of the COP22, and Minister of Agriculture of the Kingdom of Morocco, Hon. Aziz Akhannouch, led the conversation around a new approach—the Triple A (AAA) or Adaptation de I’ agriculture Africaine (Adaptation of African Agriculture). This conversation became the most prominent in the convention as it will be the focus of the COP22.

Triple A will secure funding to support African agricultural initiatives that are meant to back up the 4 per1000 initiative globally. Minister Aziz explained that 70 percent of Africa’s population is rural and depends on agriculture as a source of livelihoods. At the same time, Africa’s greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint is less than that of most western countries, yet Africa stands to be the most affected by climate change.

Today’s food insecurity problem in Africa will need to be addressed by closing the productivity gap. Agricultural yield is dropping and it is projected that by 2050, the African population will increase by 15-20 percent—making it absolutely critical that we address Africa’s food security crisis.

In his last moving words, Minister Le Foll said “you cannot separate carbon storage from food security” and well-directed agricultural practices will achieve these two ambitions.

The role of agriculture in reversing climate change cannot be underplayed, yet this most hopeful of all climate solutions remains under-acknowledged and under-funded. The 4 per1000 and Triple A initiatives are both crucial for the movement. They are meant to encourage solutions that work for Africa. They will be implemented in both English and French speaking African countries

$100 billion is channeled every year to fund developing world productivity needs. Africa receives less than 50 percent of international funding overall. For climate change initiatives, Africa gets less than 5 percent of available funding. This year the Triple A seeks to lobby for $30 billion to be used as a pool fund for Agriculture.

The next action phase for helping Africa combat climate change and food insecurity will include strategies to tackle critical issues like water. The need for new alliances with skilled countries like Brazil, China and India will be sought to help African countries with technological support in areas like irrigation practices to enhance productivity.

The world is currently looking at Morocco to lead and guide the COP22 process. The ministers at the convention pledged their support to back up stages of Triple A and 4 per 1000 collaboration. As Le Foll rightly pointed out: “Triple A’s integration with 4 per 1000 is important to fight climate change.”

It will take Africans to do what works in Africa and to bring their much needed contribution to both agriculture and reversal of climate change globally.

And so, we look forward, with hope, to Marrakech and the COP22.

Precious Phiri is founding director of EarthWisdom Consulting Co. and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.