Incentives to Mitigate Climate Change

In a new policy brief published in August 2012, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)summarizes the outcomes from a FAO–CCAFS expert workshop on Smallholder Mitigation: Mitigation Options and Incentive Mechanisms held in Rome in July 2011. The brief deals not only with ways in which smallholders can reduce greenhouse gas emissions originating from their farms but also the incentives needed if they are to adopt such practices.

74% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions originate in low and middle income countries where much of the workforce is comprised of smallholder farmers. Yet there are few systems in place in many of these countries in which farmers can receive a direct payment for their mitigation activities. For many smallholder farmers their priorities may be to feed their family and increase their income and security rather than mitigating climate change, which mean mitigation activities, must serve multiple goals without jeopardising the farmers own needs if they are to be adopted. [Read more…]

50 Years After Silent Spring

On the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Guardian writer Leo Hickman, opened up discussion about the book’s impact on the world.  The comments that follow the article raise several questions:

  • While synthetic pesticides are manufactured to be more targeted and less harmful to the environment they are also used prolifically and use is growing. So in terms of the chemicals we pump into the environment are we better off now or back then, in 1962 when the book was first published?
  • This leads to a second question: given our knowledge of the harm pesticides and other chemicals can have on the environment and human health, for example the recent evidence of the link between pesticides and declines in bee numbers, and, in some cases, their limited time period of effectiveness on pests, are we even more irresponsible to be continuing to use such products in this day and age?
  • A clear message from the book is that if the human population itself is to be sustainable we must co-exist with nature in the same way that environmentalism and economics must learn to co-exist or combine. But are we any nearer to reaching this and can the two fields find the middle ground?
  • Finally, how can two goals seemingly at odds with one another – feeding the world’s chronically hungry, 98% of which are in developing countries and 80% of which are smallholder farmers often facing pest, disease and soil fertility challenges, and ensuring the planet’s sustainability – be resolved?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions, to continue the discussion and to ensure we make progress within the next 50 years.

Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture

A report based on a two day workshop held in January 2012, part funded by the UK Government’s Foresight Programme, was recently published by the Food Climate Research Network and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food. The workshop brought together key thinkers to discuss sustainable intensification and more specifically its definition as well as the challenges facing it and the role of sustainable intensification in relation to environmental sustainability, animal welfare and human wellbeing.

The report concludes with a summary of the key insights from the workshop, summarised here: [Read more…]