Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg will feature climate change solutions from our readers in her keynote speech at the 2018 General Assembly of the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO). The conference will focus on how farmers are coping with climate change around the globe.
Food Tank asked our readers last month what innovations they find most exciting for dealing with climate change on the farm. In response, we heard diverse examples of the challenges farmers are facing and how they are adapting to and mitigating them.
One theme in readers’ responses is the importance of soil health and the potential for soil to store—or sequester—carbon. For instance, Murali, a scientist from India, tells us about composting and vermicomposting plant matter left over from cultivating coconut, areca nut, and cocoa (as coastal crops, “they are prone to face the impact of climate change significantly”). This approach, Murali says, “helps in returning the carbon to soil and improves water-holding capacity, microbiological activity, and nutrient mobilization of the soils.” Tegan, a rancher and farmer from Australia, adds, “I have been following a group of my fellow farmers and agri-scientists who are developing a biotech based on a fungus that has been shown to rapidly sequester carbon into soils long-term.” This technology, Tegan says, “will be a ‘double whammy’ for farmers, as not only is it drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and removing it from the carbon cycle, but it also improves soil fertility while it works.” Recent research indicates certain types of melanized endophytic fungi could potentially deposit carbon into small clusters of soil, thereby shielding it from being broken down by oxygen or microbes.
Other suggestions include practices like hoop houses and cover-cropping. Some readers suggest following the principles of approaches like agroecology, agroforestry, permaculture, and regenerative agriculture. Some also talk about how to manage resources like grazing pastures and water; water management strategies include collecting rainwater, using solar energy to power dripline irrigation systems, and planting trees along waterways. In some cases, farmers, scientists, and others are finding solutions together. For example, Vivian from Kenya tells us about climate-smart villages in East Africa, where community members are working with CGIAR centers—such as the International Livestock Research Institute, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and the International Potato Center—to develop and test ways to weather the challenges of climate change.
Others spoke about how changes in weather patterns have affected their farm operations. Pete and Lori from the United States tell us how “more intense rains and the resulting root losses in maturing vegetables has resulted in aborted fruit on the plants and reduced production.” They have increased their use of strategies including covering their crops with fabric, using Passive Solar Greenhouses, and protecting the plants using windbreaks. “A decade ago, we could plan for production with a seasonal regularity that changed little,” they say. “The last five years have enforced a flexible production model that varies from the seasonal regularity we knew.”
Making agriculture environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable is no easy task, as Jean from the Democratic Republic of Congo explains: “we are trying all cited solutions to combat climate change, including agroecology, agroforestry, and promoting the benefits of perennial grain crops. This work is done in participation with farmers using traditional and modern practices. But the bottleneck of matters is how to provide enough food that can solve malnutrition and allow a population to generate income.”
Farmers, scientists, and communities around the world are certainly facing numerous and diverse challenges. But as we’ve learned from our readers, agriculture can be a solution for climate change.
Danielle will be speaking on May 30th during a session titled, “Towards a Farmers Driven Climate Change Agenda.”