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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

agriculture can be the solution for its own climate change problem

The implementation of climate smart agriculture practices will reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Even though agriculture is most vulnerable to climate change, it is also one of the major contributors to climate change. Yet, agriculture itself can be a part of the solution.

And the only way to tackle climate change while producing more food to feed the world’s growing population is climate smart agriculture.

At one of the side events of Bhutan Climate Summit held in Thimphu, an international development organization, SNV, held a session on Climate Smart Agriculture ‘Building Resilience through Organic Techniques’.

Speaking at the session, Climate smart agriculture expert, Dr. Thimmaiah, said agriculture with modern inputs like synthetic agro chemicals are one of the major causes of climate change because it contributes a significant proportion of greenhouse gases.

He said the use of these chemicals constitutes about 15% of greenhouse gases. “If you get back and see the production of these fertilizers, then it accounts to nearly 30% of green house gases. So to a large extent synthetic agro chemicals are the main reasons for the climate change in agriculture,” he said.

He said that while agriculture is most vulnerable to climate change, agriculture can also be a part of the solution.

“Farmers face challenges due to climate change, but they could also play a major role in addressing it,” he added.

He said other greenhouse gas emitters are rice cultivation where there is a flooding condition. “When you have the flooded condition it releases methane gas which contributes to around 10% of greenhouse gas,” he said.

Industrialized farming also contributes to greenhouse gas emission. Industrialized farming is when there are large number of cattle in confined places and are being fed.

“But in Bhutan we don’t have this problem since the cattle our farmers keep are the local ones and also not in large numbers,” said Dr. Thimmaiah, adding that in Bhutan cattle are not kept in confined areas but grazes freely.

Dr. Thimmaiah said there needs to be transformations in the management of soil, water, landscapes to ensure sustainable higher productivity and resilience while reducing the carbon footprint.

He said by increasing the organic content of the soil through conservation tillage, its water holding capacity increases, making yields more resilient and reducing erosion. “Agriculture can absorb carbon into the soil rather than emitting it. Soil can store three times more carbon than atmosphere and five times as much as forest,” he said.

According to some estimates, soils under eco-friendly farm practices can sequester 14% of the current annual CO2 emission.

Climate smart agriculture also gives attention to landscape approaches, for example, integrated planning of land, agriculture, forest, fisheries and water to ensure synergies are captured.

This will prepare grounds for organic production and improved market linkages, which can increase people’s ability to adapt to potential changes in climate, both for subsistence farming and for greater market orientation.

The session highlighted SNV’s support to agriculture value chains in Bhutan (supporting the national organic standards, promotion of low-cost agriculture technologies).

Dr. Thimmaiah said climate change will affect agriculture through various unusual outbreaks of pests and diseases, erratic rainfall, windstorms, droughts and flash floods.

For example, in 1996 rice blast epidemic caused around 80-90% crop loss while in 2007 50% of maize production was destroyed due to corn blight disease.

Climate smart agriculture is important for developing countries to meet the challenges of food security and climate change.

Adaptation and mitigation based on organic agriculture can build on well established practices of organic agriculture as a sustainable livelihood strategy.

Dr. Thimmaiah said climate smart agriculture can increase agriculture productivity, agro-ecosystem resilience, reduce greenhouse gas emission and facilitate carbon capture. “It will also enhance the achievement of national food security and development goals,” he added.

Climate smart agriculture is also a farming system approach that fosters sustainable agriculture environment, builds resilience in farming practices, and reduce dependency on external inputs.

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