Movement toward Ag Adaptation, Mitigation Goes Global

Important work has long been underway to address the challenge of agricultural productivity in a time of growing global population and changing climate. Initiatives, including the recent work of a 25x’25 work group, are addressing the need for adaptation to the extreme weather that comes with climate change. And the development of practices that mitigate the causes of a changing climate has been an ongoing process.

But much of that work has been done by researchers, producers and sustainability authorities with little knowledge of similar efforts in other parts of the world. That has prompted calls for cross-border dialogue, platforms and actions to address the challenges that climate change poses for agriculture around the globe.

In order to address these challenges, delivering more action at a global scale and achieving a greater impact, a new voluntary alliance on climate smart agriculture is being developed under the auspices of the United Nations. The alliance would bring together relevant stakeholders who are presently working independently of each other on productivity, adaptation and mitigation.

The alliance had its formal origins at a global conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, held earlier this month on agriculture, food security and climate change. On the program at the conference were 25x’25 Project Coordinator Ernie Shea and Steering Committee member Fred Yoder, who offered conferees U.S. producer/partner perspectives, priorities and solutions to a changing climate that are derived from the land.

At the conference, world food and sustainability leaders agreed to the development of an Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA Alliance), which will get a formal launch during a one-day climate summit next September at UN headquarters in New York. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited to the event heads of state and government, along with leaders from finance, business, local government and civil society for what he is calling a “resolutions summit, not a negotiating session.”

The premise of the CSA Alliance is fairly straightforward, based on findings that changes in climate will substantially affect agriculture and land use globally through higher temperatures, increased drought, more variable rainfall and extreme weather events. Agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to a changing climate, and while it is a contributor to conditions that alter weather patterns, it is also part of the solution, such as farming practices (low-till and cover crops, for example) that help sequester carbon and mitigate changes to the climate.

The alliance will focus on three points of action: sustainably increasing agricultural production, adapting and building resilience to a changing climate, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Promoting an integrated, action-oriented approach to simultaneously pursue these three pillars, the alliance can offer the tools that enhance food security, improve livelihoods, increase landholder equity and sustainably manage natural resources.

Who’s invited to participate in this globally transformational move to smarter, more productive and more sustainable agriculture? Governments; farm organizations; businesses; regional and international organizations; research, extension and education groups and institutions; non-governmental and civil society groups; and foundations are all being asked to play a role in the alliance.

Significant outreach activities are anticipated to build the alliance, including those at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin next month when another 25x’25 Steering Committee member, A.G. Kawamura, will present a keynote address on adaptation.

The challenge is huge. The world’s population has more than doubled, to just more than 7 billion people, in the past 50 years. Currently, more than 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. The FAO estimates the world’s population will grow by another 2.5 billion people, to more than 9 billion people, in another 35 years – an explosion that suggests an even greater catastrophic scenario of hunger and blight if climate conditions continue to hinder sustainable agricultural production.

The CSA Alliance will play a critical role in developing land management and farming practices that not only can feed a growing population, but can help farmers meet the challenge to crop production posed by an increasingly hostile growing environment. By developing and offering the tools to adapt to and mitigate climate change, the alliance is promoting an agriculture sector that can meet the food challenges of the future. 25x’25 urges all stakeholders to take an active interest and engage in the alliance’s activities to boost food security around the world.

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