Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculture

In the Siraro District of Ethiopia, extreme weather patterns are
increasing. Since 2005, people have endured five droughts. Credit:
Peter Lüthi / Biovision

By Peter Lüthi
ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The unusually hot summer of 2018 showed that climate change
affects a central part of our lives: agriculture. The severe
drought in Liechtenstein led to large losses in the hay
harvest.

In countries of the Global South, the consequences of climate
change are already much more drastic. In Africa, for example,
extreme weather conditions threaten food security for millions of
people.

East Africa has encountered droughts at increasingly shorter
intervals in recent years, most recently in 2005-6, 2009, 2011,
2014-15, and 2017.

Apart from drought, the conditions for agriculture are also
becoming increasingly difficult due to the gradual rise in
temperature, salinization and changing rainy seasons.

Serious consequences include decreasing availability of food and
increasing conflicts over water–both obstacles to development
opportunities of the affected states and possible triggers for
migration.

Agriculture is also the cause

Agriculture and the food system are not only victims but also
causes of climate change. The term “food system” refers to the
entire food cycle, from production to harvesting, storage,
distribution, consumption, and disposal.

This cycle produces significant amounts of greenhouse gas
emissions. Paradoxically, modern industrial agriculture aims to
intensify operations to compensate for the loss of production
caused by climate change.

However, using ever more fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers,
and agrochemicals increases emissions of climate-damaging gases
instead of reducing them. Industrialized agriculture causes
additional problems as well, including large-scale deforestation,
immense water consumption, soil compaction and erosion, chemical
pollution of the environment, and biodiversity loss.

This exacerbates the overexploitation of natural resources and
increases climate change vulnerability.

In the project “Food security in rural Ethiopia” by
Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg, the village communities of the
Siraro district dig erosion control ditches.
This is important for preserving and enhancing natural resources.
Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Carrying on like in the past is no longer an
option

“Industrial agriculture has reached a dead end—there is no
option to continue as before,” warns
Hans Rudolf Herren
, winner of the World Food Prize and longtime
president of the Biovision Foundation.

The renowned agronomist and entomologist urges global
agriculture to embrace organic, multifunctional, healthy and
sustainable practices that take agroecological principles into
account, rather than striving for the highest possible yields.

This option is now also recognized by the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a response to the many challenges
of climate change.

Diversity increases resilience

Climate change is a complex problem involving various factors.
This calls for holistic solutions. These include agroecology
adapted to the local political, social, and natural conditions.

An important principle of agroecology is the promotion of
diversity. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more flexible it
can react to changes, recover from disturbances, and adapt to new
conditions.

Diversified agroecosystems use synergies from mixed cultivation
or agroforestry systems and rely on natural fertilizers from
compost and manure.

Agroecology combines traditional and new knowledge. This
includes locally adapted and robust plant varieties and animal
breeds. Efficiency-enhancing measures, such as irrigation systems,
are becoming increasingly important.

At the societal level, fair trade conditions and market access
for all producers are important, as is responsible governance. The
latter is necessary to coordinate and issue appropriate political
policies.

Save money for drought periods: Barite Jumba from Siraro learned
how to raise and breed chickens in Biovision and Caritas
Vorarlberg’s project. With the income from her egg business, she
buys surplus vegetables to sell at a profit on the market.
This enables her to save money for food when her own supplies run
out. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Acting at all levels

A breakthrough for agroecology principles will require dialogue
between all actors involved. Only then can the course of
agriculture change towards a joint sustainable future.

This is the aim of the Biovision Foundation’s
advocacy team
. Together with an alliance of goal-oriented
organizations and states, these agroecology advocates succeeded in
establishing the demand for sustainable agriculture as part of the
UN’s 17 sustainability goals in New York in 2015.

The Biovision Foundation supports the achievement of these goals
both for agriculture and for climate protection at three
levels:

Here at Biovision, we focus on raising public
awareness
for sustainable consumption and on establishing a
network
to implement sustainability goals.

At the international level, the
advocacy team
discusses agroecology with interested country
representatives to position agroecology principles in the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the project “Advocacy for Agroecology,” Biovision
supports countries with concrete recommendations for action and a
coordinated policy dialogue to plan climate-friendly agroecological
measures.

Through various grassroots projects in
Africa, Biovision has demonstrated various concrete examples of
successful application of these measures. LED’s support to train
and inform smallholders is of crucial importance for farmers to
have the ability to prepare themselves for the consequences of
climate change.

*This article was first published in “Blickwechsel”, the
magazine of the Liechtenstein Development
Service
LED.

The post
Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculture
appeared
first on Inter Press
Service
.

Excerpt:

Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the
Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

The post
Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculture
appeared
first on Inter Press
Service
.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculture