Redd + cancun agreements: what are the perspectives and hurdles for the land?
Mr. Klemens Riha, Environment and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), said adopting a holistic approach to issues that were in the past treated in a segmented manner was very important. This approach may help to establish important and effective links to issues at stake, especially in the implementation of the issues of land management and the agreements reached at Cancun.
The emphasis, he added, must lie on enhanced mitigation and adaptation, two things that are increasingly viewed from the same perspective. Mr. Riha cited examples of issues in agriculture and water that had not been specifically added to the agenda of climate change negotiations. “An artificial segmentation of issues at stake that are essentially integrated cannot solve this problem,” he said.
Dr. Dennis Garrity, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), focused on how to create an evergreen agriculture for food security with climate resilience. This radical vision, he said, makes one ponder over possible implications for future global efforts to raise food crop activity and fertile sustainable production systems, whilst creating a climate-proof land system and climate smart agriculture for human security.
Key questions of the 21st century agriculture, Dr. Garrity said, were over how land-based approaches advance climate change adaptation, on the adaptation scenarios on the national level ecosystems affected by land degradation. Adding to these questions, Dr. Garrity also asked how long-term food security could be ensured.
He suggested an approach, which would be progressive for governments. He cited the example of Kenya where the present tree cover is about 10% in the farmlands as opposed to the 3% when they started. He also echoed the slogan, “More people, smaller farms, and more trees.” Malawi has also pioneered a holistic approach to implementing agroforestry. Central Niger is another example, where over 5 million hectares of the landmass is being re-greened through efforts by farmers. The UN, World Bank, and the national governments are now taking serious notice and beginning to reorient agricultural policy frameworks. There exists, he said, a common vision for a “Great Green Wall.” Generating climate-proof systems of agriculture would improve livelihoods and the future resilience of agriculture.
Dr. Martial Bernoux, Senior Soil Scientist, Institut de Recherche pour le Dévéloppement (IRD), highlighted the impact of land use in carbon release and underlined the importance of implementing soil carbon sequestration regimes in the soil, and beyond the tropics and sub-tropical regions as well. He explained that to preserve soil carbon in the top 30 cm of soil is crucial to the mitigation of climate change. He also argued that the results-based approach guiding the climate negotiation processes should be expanded to cover practice-based systems that are known to sequester carbon. This would mean that the agro-forestry, the Zai, the half-moon and mulching systems, which involve soil carbon sequestration, could benefit from the current climate change financing mechanisms. While prevailing payments for ecosystem services compensate forests, he argued that payment for ecosystem services that retain soil carbon also require attention.
Mr. Andre Leu, Vice President, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) and Chair of the Organic Federation of Australia, focused his presentation on the importance of soil carbon. He said soil carbon and agriculture deserve greater recognition as major store-housing sources and their ability to adapt to, mitigate and reverse degradation is crucial. Organic agriculture, he said, has the potential to become one of the greatest solutions and can be adopted by all agricultural systems across. Mr. Leu claimed that organic agriculture could be used to produce higher yields in periods of drought and for greater water infiltration. It is more resilient and creates stronger root and plant systems to ensure crop survival.
Volumes of water are retained underneath the root system, which eliminates the need to invest in massive infrastructure. Such systems can maintain agricultural land or even re-cultivate degraded land. He also spoke about the systems that have witnessed massive increases in their carbon sequestration rates, during some of the worst drought periods recorded in Australia. Grasslands and arable crops, he said, have a huge potential to sequester carbon through SLM technologies.
Food security is critical for a climate-smart agriculture. Yields double where soil carbon sequestration is encouraged, Mr Leu said. “We have witnessed a 116% increase for all African projects,” he noted.
He said that the participants in Land Day 4 had the expertise to stop desertification, to feed people and to end hunger, and that they all needed to bring this expertise on a global scale.
Questions and Answers: Regarding the need to prioritize water management instead of agriculture, the panelists observed a reciprocal relationship between the two, but noted that: the availability and quality of water depend on the approach to land management; the bulk of the water is lost through evapotranspiration due to soil cover loss, not run-off; and the non-tillage and litter-focused approaches to land management automatically address the water question.
With respect to scaling up the best practices beyond the 2-8% that is generally realized through the diffusion process, emphasis was placed on education and training, working with early adopters and reforming markets so that farmers are adequately compensated.
Some participants expressed concern over including agriculture and land degradation in the emissions trading regimes, citing the risk of eliciting perverse incentives where sustainable land management is neglected as a means to induce payments. They encouraged supporting the payment for ecosystem schemes that do not provide for the transfer of emissions credits to the developed countries, but that would ensure that small-scale farmers are compensated through payments for their contribution. Moreover, some noted that at the going rate of USD5 per gigatonne of carbon sequestration, these emissions payment schemes would not benefit or induce behavioral change amongst small-scale farmers whose emissions are very low.
Summarizing the outcomes of the session, Mr. Riha said it had dealt with the role of soil in the carbon sequestration process, evidence on best practices and the need for scaling up financing.