Climate change is affecting farmers and rural communities around the world- although impacts are not evenly distributed. The cumulative reality of hunger, poverty and inequality highlights a need for a new solution. We cannot think that technology will save us- we need new ways to manage and interact with the land, our produce, and our communities.
Risk in farming systems
Farmers are price takers, and as such are subject to the changing will and preferences of consumers. Farmers are expected to cover risk and rising input costs. So how can we spread the risk thought the value chain? A spokes person from Ben and Jerry’s said that we need to invest in the supply chain and build long lasting relationships between suppliers and manufactures. We need to establish more programs that value add and build resilience- such as cover cropping, reforestation, diversification of crops to name a few- and business suppliers and manufacturers are a critical component in addressing this issue.
People in the decision making level don’t always know or understand the problems on the ground. It is important that social scientists work with agriculture to understand the impact on stakeholders- validate the viewpoints of stakeholders and facilitate the dialogue between stakeholders. Decision making needs to be multi-disciplinary and involve multi-stakeholders. There needs to be dialogue between farmers and policy makers.
Role of consumers
The consumer is the person who gives the value to the product. Therefore consumer influence in the industry is important. Consumers need to be conscious of their role and the impact of their choices. There is a difference between what a consumer says they want, and what they actually purchase on, so there needs to be greater education and accessibility of goods they desire. Consumers can encourage this movement by being more aware, learning more, and asking more questions.
Farmers in developing nations
2 degrees warming may be safe for some- but not to many- particularly those in the poorest countries. In each presentation during Farmers Day minority groups and farmers from developing countries stood up and expressed their concerns. The issues for them are real and present. Most farmers in developing nations are small holders- with limited resources and technologies. There is alot of waste after harvest- food loss through poor storage and distribution streams. Mental health for many peasant farmers is reaching a crisis, as farmers watch as their land becomes degraded, families fall apart, and they lose their dignity by falling into debt.
Migration is an extreme form of adaptation- and one that we don’t want. These people are leaving lands, livelihoods and cultures. Their way of life is being dispersed- extending loss and devastation. Migration of family members is a last resort and raises so many flow-on issues when families are broken up.
How to improve agricultural resilience
There is a need for learning spaces, where there is opportunity to share knowledge, have open and honest dialogue, and tackle the challenging questions. Farmers need to be able to take greater hold of their destiny- particularly as collectives. There is a need for cooperative voices and farming champions. We shouldn’t think project level, we should think program. Small projects crowd out the bigger picture.
We need to enable farmers to develop local technologies for their unique situations. Issues of technology are key- whether these technologies are GM or a hand hoe- access and affordability need to be addressed. There is a need to enable local communities to voice what they are experiencing and support strategies they see best fit.
Partnerships in farming
Farmers can’t solve this problem on their own. There is a need to bring all the pieces of the supply chain together. We need to create models that are replicable, inclusive and multi-stakeholder. From a scientific perspective- partnerships are everything in order to understand information. Including, we need to understand the constraints of the people in the ministry levels. There is a critical role of farmer extension to translate science into practicalities. Governments need to acknowledge that agricultural science is an essential area for investment. If one actor in the value chain experiences problems- then the whole value chain fails.
Partnerships help stakeholders to leverage off skills and capabilities. Deep collaboration builds upon respective strengths of various organisations- and is more effective, efficient and impactful. Building on existing programs, develops benefits and helps for people to learn from each other. Innovative programs help to propagate science, technology and innovations.
Agriculture as a source of solutions
We need to recognise agriculture as a source of solutions for climate change. Today 800 million people are hungry – this should motivate us to link food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation. We are here in the 21st century- but we are still using the practices and mindframes of the 20th century to feed the population.
Countries need to be more self sufficient. Domestic polices are just as important as global policies.
There needs to be a relationship between people, crops and livestock is built on empathy, not exploitation. There must be respect, not solely a goal of maximizing profit.
We need realistic metrics to document and track progress and improve on successes. We need productive, resilience, low emission food systems.
Agroecology approaches are global initiatives that include the three pillars- economic, social and environmental factors. Agroecology responds to and encompasses these pillars. All solutions do not fit all policy- so they need to be open and able to combine these three pillars in a local setting. Agroecology provides guidelines for all public policies. A framework of action that guides our policies and action plans. There are key elements; a systemic approach; looking beyond a quantitative idea of production; decision autonomy so that agriculture is adapted to local contexts; a focus on natural cycles that already exist, and recycling resources that are already captured to enhance synergies and reduce waste. In essence, there must be a holistic perspective in alignment with local stakeholders.
Agroecology is not abstract, but quite a pragmatic response. However it is not being promoted at the global level. It is being locked down by loud voices. We need political will, not only to help transition, but to protect it, so it is not brought down by powerful bodies with alternative drivers. There needs to be on equal footing as the powerful corporations.
Many farmers in developing nations still operate in a patriarchal system. Gender equality is highly important- in many regions the free market system has pushed men off the farms, resulted in urban migration, and leaving women behind on the land. 43% of farmers are women, they are involved in 90% of food preparation in households, but receive only 5% of extension services. Currently, needs are not addressed and rights are not respected.
Obstacles regarding gender equality need to be removed. Future adaptation and mitigation policies need to be gender sensitive. Training women to be more climate resilient has a cascading effect- as women talk and teach their families and communities. There need the tools and finance to build resilience for both genders. Training, research, on-ground strategies that can really help.