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COP24 | Black Soils for Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Poland and the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation (IUNG)

06/12/2018

This side event aimed at raising awareness on the importance of black soils for food security and especially climate change adaptation and mitigation. Participants discussed the importance of sustainable management of black soils as a concrete action towards avoiding and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Malgorzata Buszko-Briggs, Forestry Department, FAO, moderated the event.

Karol Krajewski, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Poland, stated that farming generates a significant amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and said that the protection of black soils is related not only to climate change mitigation but to food security as well. He noted that it is essential to accumulate carbon in the soil and highlighted that Poland has only about 25% of its soils characterized as black soils. He reported that his ministry has developed a strategy for better preservation of soils in Poland, and stressed the need to align this strategy with European agricultural policies to ensure black soils are appreciated for their ability to improve water retention.

Zitouni Ould-Dada, FAO, said that the general public has limited knowledge regarding soils and stressed that soils are important to ensure food security, and the provision of medicine, clean water, and carbon sequestration. He noted that a third of global soils are degraded due to poor soil management practices in agriculture that result in reduced soil organic carbon content. He concluded saying that education and awareness raising is one of the main ways to maintain healthy soils, and thus ensure food security, and that sustainable management of soils can contribute to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainbable Development Goals.

Olcay Ünver, FAO, stressed that soils provide the means for food production for rural families and support the maintenance of ecosystem functions and services. He reported that the majority of black soils are located in the Northern Hemisphere, and noted ongoing research on ways to enhance the productivity of black soils, while protecting them from the impacts of climate change. He highlighted that the FAO’s global soil partnership is developing voluntary guidelines on sustainable soil management.

Grzegorz Siebielec, IUNG, stressed that we should not overestimate the capacity of soils to sequester carbon. He reported that organic carbon content is a basic indicator of soil quality and affects its capacity to retain water and combat soil erosion. He said that risks related to the decline of soil carbon include release of carbon dioxide, nutrient leaching, and decline of biodiversity. He noted that IUNG monitoring programmes look at trends of soil carbon and soil properties in different regions in Poland, and urged the sharing of soil databases between organizations.

Budi Wardhana, Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency, said that 80% of Indonesia’s peatlands have been degraded due to agriculture, calling for peatland restoration. He highlighted the need to provide alternative livelihood options to farmers including fisheries, poultry production and others in order to address sustainable management of peatlands.

Tekini Nakidakida, Fiji, noted that many island states do not have much soil due to the high amount of sand which poses a major challenge to agriculture-based food security. He suggested that incorporating compost would enable cultivation of legumes, and reported on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, which addresses soil health and fertility on the island.

Maya Hunt, New Zealand, reported that farmers in New Zealand are committed to protecting black soil carbon in their fields. She stressed that the measurement of the anthropogenic effect on soil organic carbon and rate of carbon change in the soil is a challenge. She concluded that the development of simple incentives and education campaigns and policies can encourage a real change on the ground.

Wiesław Oleszek, General Director, IUNG, said that IUNG has 60,000 sample points across Poland and 10,000 soil profiles that compare carbon concentration between current and previous years. He said that the Institute is collaborating with European universities, which provide new tools and software and exchange databases on soil carbon content.

In the ensuing discussion, panelists answered questions on the importance of early school education on the benefits of soil and peatlands, emphasizing that children need to interact with farmers at an early age. Panelists also noted that peatlands may store 100 times more carbon than other soils and, as a result, potentially release much more into the atmosphere.

This panel presented case studies from the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Agriculture, Food Security and Land Use of the FAO, which works to facilitate the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the agriculture sector. The TWG is a forum for countries and organizations to exchange experiences around food security and agriculture in order to overcome sector-specific barriers to agricultural adaptation. The event was moderated by Martial Bernoux, FAO.

Desire Nemashakwe, Green Impact Trust, described his organization’s work in Zimbabwe to promote Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) techniques. In particular, he highlighted the Trust’s CSA Manual, which has been mainstreamed across public schools in Zimbabwe. He also discussed the Students Agricultural Innovation and Development (SAID) programme, which aims to connect colleges and communities to create student-led CSA interventions *to* address community need. Nemashakwe underlined the challenges of technology transfer to promote climate change adaptation in agriculture, including: limited extension services; high capital costs; and the necessity for developing gender-sensitive technologies. He concluded by outlining Green Impact Trust’s priorities for Zimbabwean agriculture, which center around the development of CSA “centers of excellence” matched to each of Zimbabwe’s five agricultural zones, building capacity among farmers, and research and development into agricultural techniques.

Leslie Debornes, CUTS International, Geneva, described her organization’s PACT East African Community project, which stands at the nexus of climate change, food security, agriculture, and trade. She highlighted that through the project, CUTS has organized workshops which aim to help climate negotiators appreciate the importance of including agriculture in high-level dialogue, as well as develop shared positions to bring to the negotiations table. She said the project aims to help share knowledge and build stakeholder capacity to promote coherent strategies at the international, national, and regional levels. Debornes stressed that stakeholder engagement is critical to CUTS’ work, and that most the organizations’ activities are developed on demand, stemming from frequent networking events and regular exchanges with agricultural stakeholders. Debornes concluded that, while there exists a need to support stakeholders’ participation in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, it is equally necessary for them to be empowered to influence appropriate decisions at national and regional levels.

Frank Fass-Metz,Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ),Germany, described Germany’s role as a provider of climate financing, urging that climate change and food security are key international aid issues for the future. He underlined the importance of identifying the impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security, stressing that agriculture developments must be considered in light of future climate change impacts. In concluding, he raised the example of BMZ’s support of knowledge-sharing regarding livestock research, which is essential to furthering both mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Martin Frick, UNFCCC,stressed that, while the agriculture sector needs the support of the international climate regime, the climate regime equally needs the support of agriculture to develop effective policies. Stressing that the successful implementation of NDCs is “where the rubber hits the road,” he explained that climate negotiators were initially reluctant to include agriculture in negotiations, lest it unfairly increase the mitigation burden in the Global South. He stressed the importance of success stories of on-the-ground adaptation in order to build developing countries’ trust in a global climate regime. He also raised the broader co-benefits of agricultural adaptation to climate change including: rural development, disaster risk reduction, gender equality, greenhouse gas mitigation, and water security, which can all emerge from adequate adaptation schemes. Frick also praised the private sector’s increased responsible investment in farmers, which provide the financial security by which adaptation can occur.

In the ensuing discussion, participants considered: FAO support in African states; the role of smallholder farmers; other possible areas of intervention regarding livestock; and the interventions of the private sector. In response to a question about smallholder farmers in the Global South, participants raised the need for smallholder farmers to be organized in order to interact with different market mechanisms.

Bernoux highlighted a series of regional analyses on NDC implementation published by the TWG on Agriculture, Food Security and Land Use of the FAO, that are now publicly available.  In closing, Frick urged that in creating successful agricultural adaptations, NDCs need to be implemented in the style of the Sustainable Development Goals, “leaving no one behind.”