By Keith A Wheeler
Unfortunately for the agriculture community, there was little progress in improving the prospects for addressing climate change challenges at the18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) that concluded in Doha last week.
All farmers, no matter their size, depend on the weather to the grow crops that feed the world, while providing a livelihood for their families and communities. This makes them among the most vulnerable to the changing climate. By 2050, if farmers are not assisted to meet these changes, agriculture yields will decrease with impacts projected to be the most severe in Africa and South Asia, with productivity decreasing by 15% and 18% respectively. Therefore, strategies to adapt to the significant shifts in weather patterns are greatly needed.
Furthermore, agriculture today accounts for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with another 17% attributed to land use change linked to deforestation. Concerted action must be taken to empower farmers with the knowledge, practices and technologies needed to adapt and reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming.
At COP 18, leading experts from around the globe offered case studies and solutions that focused on synergistic strategies to enable farmers to adapt and preserve yields to feed a world of nine billion, while providing the conservation benefits that can contribute to mitigation. Central to these discussions were identifying scalable solutions.
Amidst these colossal challenges there is hope. The agriculture community is in a strong position to achieve the win-win scenario of both adapting to, and addressing, the underlying causes of climate change – particularly if identifying these win-wins is a focus from the onset. We know this, because it has been done before. For those of us who remember the global food security crisis in the 1950s and 60s, when millions of people in Asia were on the brink of famine, we know that the promotion of technologies that utilise water efficiently and access to new high-yield seed varieties, not only increased productivity, but also reduced historical agricultural emissions by nearly a third.
The same is possible today. The production advances in the global food supply chain achieved over the past 40 years were based to a high degree on “climatic certainty”, which there no longer is. The challenge now lies in how to manage the increased risk of rapid weather pattern shifts and disruptions to water availability.
Technological innovations are at the forefront of meeting the world’s growing food demands, while reducing carbon emissions. High tech methods such as Precision Agriculture, for example, calculate the exact amount of fertilizer required by the soil on your farm, preventing over application and the release of unnecessary greenhouse gases, while simultaneously improving yields.
Other practices, such as integrated pest management and pest information systems, improved training for farmers at all levels and new finance and risk management tools for smallholder farmers will all go a long way to building more resilient food systems.
The thread that ties all of these innovations together is greater access for farmers to research, information and extension. A new tool, my organisation Field to Market presented at Agriculture Day in Doha, theFieldprint Calculator, offers a good example of a scalable solution that uses supply chain co-operation and smart application of information technology to put data in the hands of farmers so they can see how operational decisions impact the overall sustainability performance of their farms. The calculator is an online tool farmers can use to build scenarios about decisions that affect their current land use, energy use, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil loss compared with state and national averages. The tool has demonstrated to farmers that the decisions they make don’t have to be either/or. They do not have to sacrifice their productivity in the name of sustainability – they can achieve both goals.
Public-private partnerships with farmers as stakeholders at the table can also be fruitful. They can develop tools grounded in the best science and technology to achieve continuous improvements in productivity, environmental quality, and human well-being across the agricultural supply chain.
Some 70% of the potential for mitigating climate change is in developing countries. If tools such as the Fieldprint Calculator were able to be scaled up and taken to global audiences, farmers would be empowered to make better, more sustainable decisions that will improve their productivity, and reduce their impacts on the planet and its climate.
Although the negotiations in Doha did not advance agriculture’s standing sufficiently with regard to climate change challenges, the agriculture community is committed to continuing to create a portfolio of solutions that build climate resilient food systems. The solutions exist, and they are being put into practice, building the pathway to food security in a world of climate uncertainty.
Keith A Wheeler is chairman and CEO at ZedX Inc. Post Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/building-resilient-food-systems-climate