Although agriculture (and its related land use changes) contributes at least one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), it’s only recently that the international community has begun thinking about ways to limit the GHGs that result from producing food or how to deal with the impacts climate change will have on food security.
Agriculture is likely the human endeavor perhaps most affected by changes in temperature and rainfall patterns and extreme weather events that will result from climate change. And many modern agricultural practices, which depend heavily on fossil fuels, contribute carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Livestock production alone contributes some 18 percent of all GHGs, according to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Farmers, development agencies, the donor community, and policy-makers are all coming up with innovative solutions to ensure that climate change is not only on the international agenda in at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, but that changes are being made on the ground as well.
Our friend and colleague, Sara Scherr at EcoAgriculture Partners, for example, published a Worldwatch paper earlier this year highlighting agricultural innovations that can mitigate the GHGs from food production and improve food security, such as rotational grazing practices or the use of perennial crops. The Rodale Institute is also finding that organic and sustainable agriculture practices can both increase yields and help sequester carbon in the soil, preventing it from going into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. And international aid agencies, such as CARE , are working with farmers and communities to encourage farming practices that both feed people and curb GHGs.
We’re planning to document some of these innovations on-the-ground as we travel throughout Eastern Africa starting as research for our Nourishing the Planet project. Stay tuned for photos, blogs, and video from our first stop, Ethiopia, next week.