Analysis and News

Sustainable Agriculture: its role in Climate Mitigation and enhancing Food Security

BY ARMCORE VPI's COO: Kezia Bridgewater

Agriculture is not only extremely vulnerable to climate change but is also one of its drivers.

The main direct agricultural GHG emissions are nitrous oxide and methane. These gases have a significantly higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Agriculture contributes a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions propelling climate change. Agricultural activities account for 17 percent while land use changes account for 7 to 14 percent. It is therefore part of the problem and potentially an important part of the solution.

The increases in temperatures, rainfall variation and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are adding to pressures on global agricultural and food systems. Hence mitigating these effects by adapting sustainable and climate resilient agricultural farming methods that can withstand the aforementioned will allow for a continued supply of produce year round.

In developing countries, adaptation options like changes in crop-management or ranching practices, or improvements to irrigation are more limited than in the United States and other industrialised nations. The FAO and IICA aim to facilitate and provide the necessary technical assistance needed to transition effectively.

Any climate-related disturbance to food distribution and transport, internationally or domestically, may have significant impacts not only on safety and quality but also on food access.

High temperatures and a shortage of rain in the summer of 2012 led to one of the most severe summer droughts the US has seen and posed serious impacts to the Mississippi River watershed, a major transcontinental shipping route for Midwestern agriculture. This drought resulted in significant food and economic losses due to reductions in barge traffic, the volume of goods carried, and the number of Americans employed by the tugboat industry.

A shortage of food internally or domestically leads to an increase in food prices. This was evident in Guyana as the country saw higher food prices during the earlier stages of the pandemic as shipping costs increased and shipments were delayed.

Rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, soybean and barley are the six major crops in the world grown in 40 percent cropped area, and contribute to 55 percent of non-meat calories and over 70 percent of animal feed. Consequently, any effect on these crops would adversely compromise food security.

Efforts by individual farmers to adapt to climate change while decreasing the GHG footprint of agriculture are insufficient. The share of agriculture in global emissions, the need for further global mitigation efforts, and continued projected agricultural emissions growth in many countries all combine to underline the necessity of stronger, more effective policies. Policy reforms are needed within and beyond the agricultural sector to strengthen farmer incentives to achieve sustainable productivity growth without sacrificing climate change mitigation and adaptation.


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