TWN and Tebtebba statements on agriculture at climate change meetings

TWN Bonn News Update No.14
6 April 2009
Published by Third World Network

Third World Network intervention at the Workshop on Agriculture at the 5th Session of the AWG-LCA, Bonn, 4 April 2009

Agriculture seriously affects climate change and is in turn seriously affected by it.  The large mitigation potential can change agriculture from being the second largest emitter of GHGs to a much smaller emitter or even a net sink.  The overall mitigation potential is 6 billion tonnes a year, which is close to all of agriculture’s direct emissions.  The greatest potential mitigation contribution is from soil carbon sequestration (5.38 billion tones annually), followed by reduction of methane emissions (500 million tones) and nitrous oxide emissions (120 million tones).

Conventional and intensive agriculture characterized by mechanization and use of agro-chemicals (mineral fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides) and reliance on high external inputs (chemicals, irrigation, fossil fuels) have led to high environmental and social costs that may undermine future capacity to maintain required levels of food production.

In April 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) launched its report in Johannesburg, which was approved by 57 governments. The IAASTD was an inter-governmental process, co-sponsored by FAO, UNDP, UNEP, GEF, World Bank, with over 400 authors involved in drafting the report.  It conducted a three-year evidence-based assessment on agricultural science and technology and on the future of agriculture.  It made a critique of conventional industrial farming and called for a fundamental change in farming practices so as to better address increasing food prices, hunger, inequities and environmental crises.  The report reflects a growing consensus among scientists and many governments that the old paradigm of industrial energy-intensive and toxic agriculture is an outdated concept, while small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods provide the way forward.

Sustainable agriculture, that includes organic agriculture, is an effective approach to mitigation and adaptation efforts. For that to happen, some important measures must be taken urgently.

(1)   Clearly, sustainable agro-ecological agriculture should be supported and developing countries wanting to undertake or implement such activities should be enabled and supported by financing. This should be a priority, as this also supports local communities and farmers. To that end, the UNFCCC must be made friendly to small organic farmers and indigenous peoples.

(2)   Capacity building activities in promoting sustainable agriculture should be supported. Arrangements should be made for the sharing of experiences and the transfer of good practices in agriculture that can constitute mitigation and adaptation efforts.

(3)   Given the many advantages of organic farming and sustainable agriculture, in terms of climate change as well as social equity and farmers’ livelihoods, there should be a much more significant share of research, personnel, investment, financing and overall support from governments and international agencies that should be channeled towards sustainable agriculture.  Promotion of sustainable agriculture can lead to a superior model of agriculture from the environmental and climate change perspective. As high-chemical and water-intensive agriculture is phased out, and more natural farming methods should be phased in, with research and training programmes, promoting better production performances in sustainable agriculture.

(4)   In addition, international agencies and developed country governments should halt the promotion of unsustainable chemical intensive agriculture policies and programmes in developing countries that undermine climate change efforts.

TEBTEBBA Intervention at the Workshop on Agriculture at the 5th Session of the AWG-LCA, Bonn4 April 2009

Many indigenous peoples in all parts of the world are still very much engaged in traditional livelihoods in agriculture and agroforestry. These include rotational agriculture or swidden agriculture, high mountain agriculture, hunting and gathering, and pastoralism. These are very sustainable livelihoods which continue to provide food and cash for millions of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples from AsiaAfrica and Latin America just finished their regional summits on climate change and agriculture has been extensively discussed because it is in this sector where indigenous peoples have contributed to mitigation and have also shown their capacities to adapt. Indigenous agricultural and agro-forestry practices are some of the best examples of agro-ecological agriculture.

Rotational agriculture, for example, is an indigenous agricultural practice embedded with complex and sophisticated systems of resource management and knowledge of land use and cultivation, soil types and fertility and adaptation to climatic variations.  Indigenous pastoralists like the Maasai of Africa, the Sami reindeer herders of the Arctic and the llama and alpaca herders in the Andes, also have sophisticated traditional knowledge which allows them to graze their herds in the most fragile ecosystems. All these are low-carbon livelihoods but these are very much under threat because of climate change impacts and also because of the potential effects of solutions to climate change. The pastoralists in Africa raised their concern, that with the increasing support for REDD, their grazing lands are under threat of being afforested which will mean the end of pastoralism and the cultures around this.

In this light, we support fully the statement of the Third World Network which called for sustainable ecological agriculture to be recognized as a key mitigation measure for climate change and as a key element for sustainable and low carbon development. We further recommend the following:

-Further studies on the contributions to mitigation, indigenous peoples agriculture and agroforestry practices should be undertaken and these potentials should be included in monitoring of mitigation measures.

-Finance and technology transfer which potentially undermine indigenous agricultural systems should be stopped.

Because of the fact that indigenous peoples' concerns in climate change cut across various issues, including agriculture, forestry, technology transfer, adaptation, mitigation, finance and long term shared vision, we propose the following;

-That an Expert Workshop on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change be held to look into how indigenous peoples can effectively contribute to mitigation measures, which includes the mitigation potentials of  indigenous agriculture and agroforestry practices, and how they can be supported to adapt to climate change. This can be held before the AWG-LCA session in Bangkok in September 2009. We hope some Parties can support this so that a fruitful dialogue between indigenous peoples and governments can take place.