Farmers need to be better represented in next year’s round of climate negotiations, as they are extremely vulnerable to drought, flooding, the spread of pests, and other climate impacts, which in turn affects food and income sources for millions of people.
Encouragingly, agriculture has not been completely absent from the conversation. In Bonn last June in a more technical conference on climate change, the farmers’ constituency made some progress in having their issues--such as developing early warning systems, assessing risk and vulnerability, identifying adaptation measures, and assessing agricultural practices--formally noted. Though they were hoping for a full work program, which would allow for a more formal collection of research on farming and agriculture, and could lead to more discussion of farming at the negotiations, this is a starting point for change.
At the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014, the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture was announced, and the first meeting was held December 17-18, immediately after the Lima talks. The goals of the alliance are to “improve people’s food security and nutrition in the face of climate change” and assist governments and other groups in adjusting policies in this area.
Although delegates in negotiations did not hear the farmers’ voice, there were opportunities to hear that voice in other settings. There were events hosted by a variety of organizations and groups on more specific topics relating to climate change policy, such as the idea of Climate-Smart Agriculture, agriculture that promotes mitigation and adaptation. At the event “Achieving Food Security and agriculture sustainability under a changing climate,” four representatives from UN programs and one smallholder farmer spoke.
While these UN groups are working for climate-smart agriculture and rural farmers, Jethro Green, Chief Coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network, called for them to “come out of their silos,” and work more closely with the farmers, and utilize their extensive knowledge.
Gernot Laganda, of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is working on a program that directs funds earmarked to combat climate change to farmers in order to help build resilience through information and technology (ASAP). One such project has supported the climate change expert from the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority in leading trainings throughout the country where they play games to simulate possible responses to changing climate conditions. Laganda reminds us that while these programs are crucial, it is paramount that massive climate change is slowed through an international agreement because “no matter how diverse an area is, if there is a typhoon…it will be wiped out.”
Mildred Crawford, President of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers, speaking at the “Gender and Climate Change Action” side event in Lima, called for increased farmers’ presence in Paris. She believes that farmers are considered a problem by many negotiators because of the contributions of greenhouse gases by large scale agriculture, but smallholder farmers “need the authority to be part of the solution” and be represented in official positions at the negotiations.
According to Crawford, capacity building on climate change from grassroots levels is very important, but public policy at the highest level is what “works the machine” at all levels and is crucial for more enduring change. Also, “the non-inclusion of farmers in COP20 negotiations only further marginalizes rural women producers in agriculture.” Women are a crucial part of rural farming, and gender equity is another critical aspect of the negotiations. More farmers such as Jethro Green and Mildred Crawford must not only be present in Paris, but seated at the table of negotiations.
Farmers have strong opinions about how to reduce emissions in agriculture and adapt to climate impacts. They also have a strong stake in implementation of a climate deal, yet they are not heard at the most pivotal junctures of negotiation. They should be recognized as a voice at the negotiations, they should have an official working body to compile research, and agriculture needs to be written into the agreements made in Paris if sustainable agriculture is to be successfully addressed by the international body. If this inequity continues, the world’s food supply and the livelihoods of farmers all over the world will continue to be put needlessly at risk.