By Rakiya A.Muhammad
There are growing calls for the 27th Annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) to prioritize agroecology.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) describes the agroecology approach as the application of integrated ecological, economic and social principles to transition smallholder farming systems toward greater resilience.
“The current crises show we should focus on the one vision that is regenerative and do away with the destructive and exploitative system,” asserted Edie Mukiibi, an agronomist.
“While the industrial crop and livestock production system focus on taking away all forms of life from the planet, the agroecological approach to production aims at bringing back diversity and life to the planet.”
He spoke at an online workshop with the theme ‘Beyond Carbon: Food Systems, Climate and Greenwashing at COP27’, organized by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and A Growing Culture.
“While the industrial crop and livestock production system focus on taking away all forms of life from the planet, the agroecology approach to production aims at bringing back diversity and life to the planet.”
The smallholder farmer and President Slow Food International demanded COP27 put agroecology at the centre of discussion.
“It is not just an alternative production system; it is the production approach that will take us away from this climate mess the industrial agriculture has driven us into,” he stressed
“When we talk about agroecology, we are not only talking about cutting GHG emissions, but we are also focusing on reducing the impact of agriculture in relation to all greenhouse gases.”
Mukiibi expressed worry that “COPs are consistently a round table for industry and all those polluters to negotiate their right to pollute and negotiate new climate deals that risk the livelihoods of billions of people.”
He, however, declared: “We demand they put aside the false and greenwashing solutions and discuss real solutions that can protect the livelihoods of the indigenous people and smallholder farmers, small fisherfolk’ and also that protect the ecosystem.”
Lim Li Ching, a Senior Researcher at Third World Network (TWN), underscored the need to prioritize adaptation and resilience for the millions of farmers for whom climate change is already a clear and present danger.
“We are facing multiple and interlinked crises – also food insecurity, declining health, biodiversity crisis,” noted Ching, who coordinates the international NGO’s Biosafety and Sustainable Agriculture Programmes.
“We need to be clear about which types of agriculture are contributing to climate change.”
The researcher pointed out that industrial agriculture and its practices are fossil fuel dependent, promote land-use change, and are monoculture-focused, while small-scale, traditional and biologically diverse forms of agriculture have comparatively minimal greenhouse gas emissions.
For Shefali Sharma, Director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy European Office: “The real test is whether we’re creating a system change in agriculture’s climate footprint. ”
She noted carbon market schemes are the basis of massive land grabs. “We’ve seen with REDD+, where forests are being taken by carbon aggregators and certain projects, you have human rights violations.”
In the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, Sharma observed carbon consultants get thousands of dollars to monitor, report, and verify while the Kenyan farmers get $15 a year to implement these practices.
She asked:” Are governments going to be promoting a vision that tinkers around the edges, or one that is transformative, creating resilient food systems and restoring ecosystems?”
Ricardo Salvador, Director of the Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, cautioned: “Beware of conversations that only focus on carbon; That only focus on what we are going to do to keep the system in place and make it a ‘little less bad’;
“That rely on techno-saviorism or the same industries that created this problem and capitalize on the technologies that they own or that supposedly capture that carbon. They have no incentive to stop the behavior that generates the problem.”
Thin Lei Win, an Investigative Journalist at Lighthouse Reports, provided a take-home message.
“The bottom line is that you can come up with the most efficient lithium-ion battery or carbon capture and storage technology,” she says.
“But if we can’t resolve our broken food systems and their impacts on the environment, we are not going to survive.”