Agro-ecology, a climate solace

EF Schumacher said that one can “call a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations; as long as you have not shown it to be uneconomic you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper”. Certain powerful countries at the climate change conference have clearly read this straight and not sensed the irony, taking it as carte blanche to let the ugly face of climate change continue because its immediate costs will be hidden amongst the most vulnerable groups in Africa and Southern Asia.

This is all very depressing. What is not, however, is hearing about the solutions already being put into practice on the ground in many countries. Ecological food provision is featuring quite high in discussions around and outside the convention centre, primarily because farmers, fishers, and herders have found it to be a successful approach for dealing with climate change and meeting food needs. Unlike the industrial food system that contributes up to thirty percent of global emissions through chemical inputs, international transport, and use of heavy machinery, and deforestation for cash cropping, agro-ecology has very low emissions and can store GHGs in plant and soil matter. At the same time, it is also more resilient to the impacts of climate change, protecting biodiversity, replenishing the natural environment, and promoting local seeds, rather than creating dependence on one or two costly varieties.

In a side event yesterday, people from South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal spoke of the specific techniques. Many were building on the traditional knowledge and varieties nearly lost in the race to commercialised farming. As Mphathe Makaulule, a farmer from the South Africa’s Limpopo region said “the coming generation will realise that money cannot be breathed or chewed”. Her community pooled its knowledge of the surrounding resources in calendars and maps that express the changes they’ve experienced over the past decades. Today was Practical Action’s turn, and our work with farmers in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe was introduced alongside some of our renewable energy projects by Ranga Pallawala and Lasten Mika respectively.

These initiatives may sound a long way from the staid international climate negotiations, and that’s precisely why La Via Campesina is calling on all farmers’ movements and organizations, rural workers, landless people to join them for an international day of mass action this Saturday. In Nepal, they’ve already managed to connect existing community actions with the international discussions as the national plan for adaptation was produced in connection with local plans. As Nepal receives global support to help it adapt to climate change, it goes to fund actions such as the conservation of Lake Rupa by farmer associations and fisher groups (see video).

So, it seems that “to exist, grow, and prosper” you don’t have to degrade or threaten future of generations, you just have to step out of the conference impasse and follow the fields.

Earning from Nature to Pay for its Upkeep from Mahesh Shrestha on Vimeo.

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