To Feed the World in 2050, We Need to Discuss Agriculture at UN Climate Change Talks

Climate change is already having a huge effect on farming, with droughts causing damage to crops in developed and developing countries and unpredictable weather patterns disturbing thousand-year-old farming methods and traditions, threatening the livelihood of farmers around the world.
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The relationship between climate change and agriculture is still an area that needs more emphasis at a global level. Particularly due to the uniqueness of the relationship, as agriculture methods affect the climate and changing weather patterns impact food production.

Climate change is already having a huge effect on farming, with droughts causing damage to crops in developed and developing countries and unpredictable weather patterns disturbing thousand-year-old farming methods and traditions, threatening the livelihood of farmers around the world.

Therefore, we need to discuss agriculture in the UN Climate Change negotiations.

We Need to Act Now - Water Scarcity and Sustainable Solutions

Agriculture requires natural resources to produce higher yields and achieve global food and nutritional security. In the shadow of World Water Week, which took place from 1-6 September, it is important to highlight that agriculture currently requires 70 percent of the entire world's freshwater to produce the food necessary to feed a growing population.

Water scarcity is becoming an increasingly important issue all over the world; with farmers having to develop innovative irrigation methods to ensure crops survive dry seasons. In the Sahelian countries the CGIAR Research Program in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) found that smallholder farmers were able to adapt to changing weather patterns by developing an interesting and sustainable method to ensure no water was wasted.

Farmers in the Sahel region were using stone bunds, which are small walls of stones laid in fields, to direct water to crops, ensuring that rainfall does not runoff land and reaches all crops.

Employing sustainable farming methods, such as the stone bund walls, is just one example of the case studies available in a new guide launched today by Farming First, which hopes to illustrate the role of agriculture in climate change and the potential for farmers around the world to adapt and mitigate.

A Guide to UNFCC Negotiations

With just two months to go before the start of climate change discussions at COP19, due to take place 11 - 22 November, Farming First has launched a Guide to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Discussions on Agriculture.

The guide comes at a time when the relationship between agriculture and climate change has started to gain momentum in development discussions.

Events, such as this years Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice conference, hosted in collaboration between the Irish government and the Mary Robinson foundation, have underlined the impact of climate change on agriculture and food and nutritional security.

Extreme weather, such as droughts and flooding, are already having a devastating impact on food security. Last year the U.S. was victim to one of the worst widespread droughts since the 1950s, with around 80 percent of agricultural land experiencing drought in 2012. The extensive drought led to food prices increasing by six percent by July 2012, according to the United Nations' monthly Food Price Index.

In developing countries climate change is predicted to have an even bigger impact, with yields in Africa predicted to decrease by 15 percent and yields in South Asia by 18 percent by 2050.

Therefore, agriculture needs to be part of UNFCCC discussions. In particular the guide aims to highlight how the sector would benefit from a Work Program on Agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific Advice (SBSTA). SBSTA supports the work of the COP through the provision of timely information and advice on scientific technological matters.

SBSTA can act as a hub for agriculture and can handle the very unique aspects of agriculture in a way that cannot be handled elsewhere. SBSTA can also inform the various aspects of the UNFCCC so that agriculture is better incorporated into the various convention mechanisms.

A One-Stop Source of Information

Designed as an aid for those taking part in discussions the guide acts as a one-stop source of information about the role of agriculture at climate change discussions, collating videos, farmer quotes, case studies and factsheets to support six key messages Farming First believe are vital to follow the role of agriculture at future UNFCCC discussions.

We hope the guide can be used by a variety of stakeholders, from farmers on the ground to policy makers, to demonstrate why the UNFCCC should further support agriculture at climate change discussions.

Lani Eugenia, General Secretary of Puantani Indonesian Women Farmers' and Rural Women's Organisation, and one of the farmers who contributed to the Farming First guide, spoke to Farming First about the urgency to act on climate change in agriculture:

"There should be an immediate effort to address climate change, we can't just wait to see what happens. Climate change has affected our yields, drained our food stocks and is impacting the nutrition of children and people in rural areas."

To illustrate how this devastating impact of climate change can be alleviated in agriculture the guide also features a series of case studies from around the world. One such case study is from Tanzania, where small-scale subsistence farming is one of the main causes of forest los. In order to preserve land the Tanzanian government established participatory forest management (PFM) to thousands of villages living within the margins of forests and natural woodlands.

The PFM aims to improve forest quality, livelihoods in the area and food security through increased forest revenues and food and a secure supply of subsistence forest products.

So far, the government have provided a legal basis for communities to own and manage forest resources through Community based Forest Management (CBFM) and by 2008 they had 7,000 participating households and had preserved 4.0 million hectares of forests and woodlands.

The Tanzanian government has continued to develop the scheme, demonstrating to local communities how conserving the natural environment is beneficial to their livelihoods in the long run.

Looking Ahead to Sustainable Development

The PFM in Tanzania demonstrates, that the sooner we act to control the use of resources and emissions from agriculture the sooner we can begin to preserve land, sustain crop yields and grow enough nutritious food.

As the UN begins to plan the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, it is vital that the correlation between agriculture and climate change is part of sustainable development discussions.

With today marking two months before COP19 in Warsaw, we hope the Guide to UNFCCC Discussions on Agriculture will provide a useful resource for everyone wishing to understand the UNFCCC process and will provide a selection of evidence for why climate change should have a voice at climate change discussions.

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