The Need to Close the Gap Between Smallholder Farmers and Climate-Smart Agriculture

Panelists today from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Fertilizer Canada, and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), among others, explored the role of farmers in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. As was expected based on the affiliations of a majority of panel members, the discussion focused mainly on the role fertilizers play in achieving global food security and in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In terms of global food security, the panelists agreed that organic farming alone cannot sustain the world’s growing population, which is expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. They dismissed any substantive discussion on the viability of organic farming, and instead pushed for the use of manufactured fertilizers as the answer to food security, adaptation, and mitigation questions—much to the dismay of several audience members. They propose, using Fertilizer Canada’s international 4R partnership as an example, to bring climate-smart agriculture to smallholder farmers in areas such as Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Fertilizer Canada’s 4R program promotes nutrient stewardship programs and fertilizer best management practices that are implemented through the 4Rs: by applying the right source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place. To develop site-specific nutrient plans, Fertilizer Canada’s 4R program involves NGOs, governments, food companies, scientists, and farmers. In response to 4R’s plan, one audience member politely commented that too many layers exist between the farmers [in Africa] and the organizations developing these fertilizer plans, making the plans difficult to implement on the ground. If a combination of organic farming and farming with manufactured fertilizers is the solution to increasing food security in the wake of a growing population, the gap needs to close between smallholder farmers and access to climate-smart agriculture.


Using the Paris Agreement to Incorporate Indigenous Peoples Knowledge into Climate Change Policies

Panelists presenting today on indigenous peoples knowledge outlined land use and resource management practices adopted by indigenous peoples that are viable and sustainaenvironment_climate_bolivia.jpeg_1718483346ble approaches to climate change adaptation. To date, climate change approaches have focused largely on utilizing modern technologies and developing new technologies to the detriment of indigenous peoples. Panelists began by describing specific indigenous adaptation approaches, but slowly shifted the discussion toward human rights.

One panelist’s presentation stood out in particular. Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, a panelist from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP), presented on holistic land use and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Kittisak told the story of the Pgakeuyaw people in Thailand. Made up of 20 households, 35 families, 107 people, and 5 clans, the Pgakeuyaw believes in a deep connection between humans and nature, and that without the forests, there is no life. The Pgakeuyaw have developed a complex system for managing their land that involves classifying land use into categories such as settlement area, cemetery area, wet-paddy field area, and mix farm land, to name a few. The way the Pgakeuyaw manages resources reflects their intricate knowledge of the different ecosystems within their village territory; the way they manage their land and avoid land pressure and degradation demonstrates their sustainable and holistic approach to land-use practices.

Until recently, the needs and practices of indigenous groups like the Pgakeuyaw were pushed aside to make room for new and fresh climate change policies. Edward Porokwa, a panelist from the Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organization (PINGO’s) Forum, boldly pointed out that actions taken to address climate change affect indigenous peoples just as much as the adverse effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement represents a step in the right direction in encouraging Parties to consider the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as indigenous knowledge bases, although indigenous peoples feel the Agreement does not go far enough.6a00d8341d43c253ef00e54f1c02678833-500wi

The Paris Agreement explicitly calls for the consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples in the preamble, and the taking into account of the knowledge of indigenous peoples in adaptation actions in Article 7.5. Areas of the Paris Agreement beyond those two provisions present opportunities for the rights and knowledge of indigenous peoples to be considered by Parties. These include Article 5.2’s mention of non-carbon benefits and Article 8.4’s inclusion of the need to account for non-economic losses and the resilience of communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems.

To ensure the rights of indigenous peoples are protected, Tunga Bhadra Rai, a panelist from the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), stressed that when implementing the Paris Agreement, Parties must tap into indigenous knowledge bases for adaptation approaches, include non-carbon benefits as mitigation approaches, and focus discussions on capacity building and non-economic loss and damage.

Despite the lack of attention to indigenous peoples in previous climate change negotiations, COP 22’s emphasis on community-based approaches presents a real opportunity for these voices to be heard. 


The Role of On-Farm Rainwater Harvesting in Agriculture as an Adaptation to Climate Change

The countries most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change require creative, affordable, and sustainable solutions to adaptation. Especially in the agriculture sector, these countries rely on local knowledge to develop and implement adaptation solutions. Today, a representative from World Vision Kenya (WVK) presented four technologies that drought-prone Kenya utilizes to harvest rainwater for use on farms as an adaptation to climate change.zai pits

  1. Subsoilers: Devices that help to break down hardpan soil and improve water infiltration into the soil.
  2. Zai pits: Pits that are generally 2×2 feet and are well fertilized with deeply loosened soil, which enables intensive planting and results in high yields from a small unit of land.
  3. Sunken beds: Well fertilized beds with deeply loosened soil that are especially suitable for vegetable gardening. Kenya instructs that they be no more than 1 meter wide to avoid people from trampling inside the beds.sunken beds
  4. Farm reservoir: Devices that trap road runoff for use on crops.

The representative from WVK acknowledged that these technologies all have their drawbacks—some can be tedious, costly, or time-consuming. Another challenge is a lack of national coordination and inadequate legislation to encourage use of these technologies. Despite their downsides, these are promising technologies that reduce runoff and soil erosion and could increase crop yield. In Africa, where food production is already stressed and the population is predicted to grow over 50% by 2050, agricultural growth and stability is essential. These four technologies currently in use in Kenya build on local knowledge to prevent further degradation of soil and water resources.

Marathon Oral Arguments Whisper Victory for the Clean Power Plan

SmokeOn September 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard nearly seven hours of oral arguments that, on their face, bode well for the Clean Power Plan (Plan) and for the United States’ contribution to the Paris Agreement. EPA published its ambitious emissions guidelines for the Plan on October 23, 2015—and on the very same day, states raced to challenge the rule. The Plan aims to cut CO2 emissions from power plants by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this goal, states are free to choose the best route to meet their assigned emission level. States can implement either an emission standards plan that applies to all affected sources, or a state measures plan that utilizes a mix of approaches (e.g. renewable energy standards, increased residential efficiency, emission trading). EPA touts the Plan as one that will reduce cost to consumers and promote development of renewable energy. Despite this, 27 states oppose the rule.

Although it is difficult to predict a victor based on oral arguments, the scales seem to be tipping in the Plan’s favor. Both sides boasted a team of attorneys advocating for or against the Plan. The Court, sitting en banc (apart from Judge Garland who recused himself), heard from counsel for state petitioners, non-state petitioners, EPA, state respondents, the power industry, and environmental groups. State challengers attacked the rule from all angles, alleging statutory, constitutional, and procedural issues to show that the plan exceeds EPA’s authority. The bulk of the day, however, was dedicated to the “generation-shifting” argument; in short, EPA interfered with states’ authority by forcing states to transition to energy-efficient economies. Luckily, the Court jumped on this argument, questioning whether the Plan is truly “transformative” given that coal is already being replaced by low-carbon resources—an observation that the power company intervenors agree with. The Court also reminded petitioners that EPA has always had the authority to set pollution performance standards. In fact, the only thing “transformative” is the Plan’s regulation of CO2, which prior case law deemed permissible. The most noteworthy question of the day came from Judge Tatel, who asked, “Isn’t reading generation shifting into the statute necessary to keep the CAA up-to-date and ensure the statute evolves to adapt GHGs, as Congress intended?” Throughout the day, questions and observations like Judge Tatel’s demonstrated an encouraging understanding of the Plan’s purpose in the context of today.

Meanwhile, parties to the UNFCCC ratified the Paris Agreement at a lightning pace over the preceding weeks, and the agreement met the threshold for entry into force on Wednesday. The United States’ pledge to the landmark agreement involves cutting overall GHG emissions by 26%–28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Because the Clean Power Plan is destined to play a major role in meeting those goals, invalidating the Plan would set the U.S. off on the wrong foot in the new and promising era of the Paris Agreement. With the agreement set to enter into force on November 4, hopefully the U.S. does not have to return to the drawing board.