Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why climate talks need to focus on agriculture

9 July 2015. SciDev. Other sectors often dominate discussions, but climate-smart farming offers potent solutions, says Frank Rijsberman.

Negotiators at the Paris climate talks in December (COP 21) will focus on reaching a truly universal and legally binding agreement to drive the world’s transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. This is being talked about as humanity’s last chance to avoid truly disastrous effects for our planet — the floods in the Philippines and persistent drought in Thailand are just two current examples of the types of events that climate change makes more likely.

In parallel, the scientific community’s focus will be on using and creating practical solutions to complex climate challenges. This week, scientists are gathering in France for a conference hosted by UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to debate evidence-based solutions.

Agricultural scientists are getting organised to increase their involvement in such climate meetings, which the energy and transport sectors often dominate. There are already good examples of agriculture turning climate smart.
  • In Uganda, for example, prolonged drought and erratic rains threaten yields of coffee, the country’s most important cash crop. And pests and diseases such as leaf miners, mealy bugs and leaf rust appear to be more common. CGIAR’s scientists are addressing this concern by turning to bananas — a crop that many of the same farmers often depend on for both food and income throughout the year. Grown alongside coffee, the banana tree can offer shade and reduces the coffee crop’s sensitivity to drought, hail and climate-related pests and diseases.
  • In the past, governments, including those of Burundi and Rwanda, banned banana intercropping in favour of monocropping, in the mistaken belief that intercropping would reduce yields and incomes. And until recently, neither the public nor private sector researched this practice. CGIAR’s researchers and partners are now working with authorities to recommend policy changes to at least allow intercropping, and with farmers to examine other ways to cope with higher temperatures.
  • the French government, research institutes and CGIAR are also launching an initiative to scale up climate-smart agriculture with a focus on capturing carbon in the soil.
  • Tools already exist to help contribute to this ambitious goal. They include : (1) intercropping with nitrogen-fixing plants ; (2) no-till agriculture that causes minimum soil disturbance, therefore preserving carbon stocks, and (3) planting more cover crops, like the banana trees that shelter coffee crops, can also contribute biomass that nourishes soil.
The Mitigation Advantage. Maximizing the co-benefits of investing in smallholder adaptation initiatives
© 2015 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
26 pages

8 July 2015. Paris, France. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) have released the 'Mitigation Advantage Report' at Our Common Future Under Climate Change Science Conference held by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris
“What this report shows is that smallholder farmers are a key part of the solution to the climate change challenge,” says IFAD’s Vice President Michel Mordasini. “With the right investments, smallholders can feed a growing planet while at the same time restoring degraded ecosystems and reducing agriculture's carbon footprint.”

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