Category: Agriculture

This New Climate – Episode 6: Sharing supply chain risk – Everyone’s a WINnER?

This New Climate – Episode 6: Sharing supply chain risk – Everyone’s a WINnER?

In the sixth episode of This New Climate, host Will Bugler takes a deep dive into the intricate network of suppliers, traders and retailers that make up the food supply network. This episode explores how the risks of climate change are being disproportionately shouldered by smallholder famers, and presents an innovative project called WINnERS, that has helped farmers in Tanzania to share the cost of climate change more evenly across the supply chain.

Episode guests: Christof Walter from Christof Walter Associates, Eric Chavez from Imperial College London, Olusola Sowemimo Founder of Ope Farms.

This New Climate is an Acclimatise production.

WINnERS is an EIT Climate-KIC supported innovation initiative.

Further information:

WINnERS project

Imperial College London

Christof Walter Associates

Climate-KIC

Ope Farms

This New Climate – Episode 5: Climate change and the 4th agricultural revolution

This New Climate – Episode 5: Climate change and the 4th agricultural revolution

In the fifth episode of This New Climate, host Will Bugler explores a suite of innovations promoted by EIT Climate-KIC through their Climate Smart Agriculture Booster that are helping farmers to adapt to climate change while shedding light on how European farmers have suffered under recent drought conditions.

Episode guests: Iris Bouwers, farmer and Vice-President of the European Council of Young Farmers, Carlos Dionisio Pérez Blanco from University of Salamanca, Jean-Marc Touzard, Research Director at INRA the French public research institute dedicated to agricultural science, and Roberto Zorer from the Edmund Mach Foundation for Research and Innovation.

This New Climate is an Acclimatise production.

The Climate Smart Agriculture Booster is an EIT Climate-KIC supported innovation initiative.

Further information:

Climate Smart Agriculture Booster

European Council of Young Farmers

University of Salamanca

INRA

Edmund Mach Foundation for Research and Innovation

Queensland floods kill half a million drought-stressed cattle

Queensland floods kill half a million drought-stressed cattle

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

After a long-lasting drought, Queensland, Australia, has been hit by extreme rain reaching up to 1.4 metres in some areas – twice the amount that falls in London in a year. What started as a sigh of relief in drought-stricken communities quickly turned into floods that destroyed homes, infrastructure and left an estimated 500,000 cattle dead.

Michael Guerin, CEO of AgForce, a peak organisation representing Queensland’s rural producers, said there was no doubt this was a disaster of unprecedented proportions that will take the industry decades to recover calling it a massive humanitarian crisis. “The speed and intensity of the unfolding tragedy makes it hard to believe that it’s just a week since farmers’ elation at receiving the first decent rains in five years turned to horror at the devastating and unprecedented flood that quickly followed,” he added.

Rachael Anderson, a farmer in western Queensland lost 2,000 cattle, about half of her livestock. The losses have put her business under severe financial stress, not sure how she will be able to make repayments to her bank in six months. She added, “we can’t get loans because we’ve got nothing to borrow against, none of us have got anything left. I’m not going to lie, it will finish some people up, but others will be rebuilding.” In the meantime, the rotting bodies of dead livestock and stagnant floodwaters are creating an unbearable stench, but they are also polluting the creek Anderson’s station was using as water supply to wash clothes and brush teeth.

The crippling livestock losses come after more than five years of debilitating drought. Now, whole rural communities are fighting to survive as farmers are left with nothing but debt. Guerin implored governments to make sure these communities get long-term support to recover from these recent shocks including bringing in specialist well-being professionals.

Scott Morrisson, Australian prime minister, confirmed the federal government would provide an immediate in-kind payment of AUS$1 million to affected shires. As of 11 February, insurers had received over 13,500 claims from Townsville, Queensland, alone; the estimated losses are about AUS$165 million.

After the record-setting blistering temperatures of January 2019, bushfires that tore through 200,000 hectares in Tasmania, these extreme floods are just another frightening signal of what climate change is doing to the continent. As Adam Morton and Ben Smee write in The Guardian, Australia is “no stranger to extreme weather – bushfire, flooding, rains and skin-peeling heat are central to its history and mythology – but the contrasts this southern summer have been particularly stark.”


Cover photo by Commonwealth of Australia (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0): An MRH-90 Taipan helicopter from 5th Aviation Regiment delivers livestock feed to communities near Julia Creek to assist graziers affected by severe flooding.
UK vegetable and fruit supplies at risk

UK vegetable and fruit supplies at risk

By Kieran Cooke

A combination of Brexit − Britain’s move to leave the European Union − and climate change is threatening UK vegetable and fruit supplies for its 66 million people.

Brexit-associated delays at ports could result in widespread shortages of a range of imported vegetables and fruit such as lettuces and tomatoes, particularly if the UK crashes out of Europe at the end of March this year with no deal in place.

Now there’s more bad news on the British food front; a just-released report says climate change and resulting abnormal weather conditions are causing significant decreases in the UK’s own vegetable and fruit harvests.

The study, produced by the Climate Coalition in association with the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK, says about 60% of food consumed in Britain is domestically produced.

The unusually warm summer in 2018 – the hottest ever in England since records began in 1910, according to the report – led to a drop in the onion harvest of 40% and a decline of between 25% and 30% in the carrot crop.

In 2017 the UK’s apple growers lost 25% of their produce due to unseasonably warm weather followed by an unusually late series of frosts.

“It’s really hard work growing fruit and vegetables, but erratic and extreme weather pushes you over the edge”

Matt Smee, co-founder of The Natural Veg Men

The study says climate change-related extreme and unpredictable weather is putting at risk future supplies of potatoes – a staple of the British diet.

“The UK could lose almost three-quarters of the area of land currently well-suited for potatoes by the 2050s under climate projections”, says the report.

Last year there was a 20% drop in potato yields in England and Wales, it says. More than 80% of potatoes consumed in the UK are home-grown.

“The climate extremes of the past few years – including the snowfall and freezing temperatures of February and March 2018 and one of the driest June months in England and Wales since 1910 – have been devastating for UK fruit and vegetable farmers”, the report says.

Matt Smee, who runs a vegetable growing and delivery service in the north-west of England, told the report’s authors that weather patterns in 2018 made his job near-impossible.

“It’s really hard work growing fruit and vegetables, but erratic and extreme weather pushes you over the edge”, says Smee. “I’d be devastated if I had to deal with this year (2018) again.”

Livelihoods at risk

Lee Abbey, head of horticulture at the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU), says farmers’ livelihoods are being hit.

“Farmers and growers are used to dealing with fluctuations in the weather but if we have two or three extreme years in a row it has the potential to put growers out of business.”

The study says that more than half of all farms in the UK report being affected by severe flooding or storms over the past decade, while water shortages in the increasingly hot summer months are a growing problem.

“With climate scientists now predicting stronger and longer-lasting heatwaves for the UK, growers are faced with increasing risks to their operations and survival”, says the study.

The report’s authors say the priority for everyone – not just the food and farming sector – is to work to reduce carbon emissions.

The study reports some positive developments; the NFU says the aim is for the UK’s farming sector to be net zero in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Increasing numbers of British farmers are investing in renewable energy.

Download the report “Recipe for Disaster“.


Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues.

This article was originally published on Climate News Network.

Cover photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn on Unsplash
UK’s beloved fruit faces trouble as climate change warms winters

UK’s beloved fruit faces trouble as climate change warms winters

By Georgina Wade

If you are a big fan of your Ribena, you may want to savour your next bottle while you still can. A new study from the James Hutton Institute finds that milder winters driven by climate change will hit blackcurrant crops, resulting in fewer and lower quality fruit.

Already in 2006, GlaxoSmithKline, the company that owned Ribena then (it is now owned by Suntory) and was buying 95% of the UK blackcurrant harvest, was concerned that production of the fruit would suffer in milder winters. Currently, the UK blackcurrant crop contributes about £10 million GBP to the UK economy annually.

Like many fruits, blackcurrants need a period of chilling before they start to grow in the spring. This helps new buds build up a tolerance to frost damage and makes sure they burst rapidly in the spring, during a time when there are plenty of pollinators such as bees around.

But researchers warn that warmer winters can cause the plants to flower later in the year, produce fewer fruit and reduce the lifespan of the plant.  Additionally, the threat of seasonal temperature changes can affect other fruit such as apples, cherries, blueberries and plums.

Each blackcurrant variety prefers different levels of chilling, meaning that some are better able to compensate for warmer winter temperatures if they are chilled for long enough. The differences stem from the genetics, as some varieties have evolved in different climatic conditions or are the result of selective breeding over time.

This is where we can draw hope for the survival UK’s beloved fruit, as explained by study collaborator Professor Hamlyn Jones from the University of Dundee. “If we can understand this, farmers can carefully select varieties based on the climate and conditions in which they are going to be planted, and breeders can develop varieties that are more resilient to both warmer winters or periods of extreme cold,” he said. In other words, if we take the time to understand what this particular crop needs in a changing climate, we can begin to adapt by developing varieties that can cope better with climate change.


Cover photo by Arcaion/Pixabay (public domain).
Replace grazing with trees to reduce climate risk says UK Committee on Climate Change

Replace grazing with trees to reduce climate risk says UK Committee on Climate Change

By Will Bugler

The UK government needs to “fundamentally reform” its approach to land management in order to address climate change, according to a new report from the UK Committee on Climate Change. The report suggests that policies that govern how land is used in the UK have been fragmented and not enough has been done to encourage farmers and land managers to use land in a way that is beneficial to the environment and reduce the risks posed by climate change. 

The report, “Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change” emphasises that climate change itself poses a threat to the land’s “ability to provide critical services including clear water, healthy soils and timber”. With a growing population, the report says, environmentally sensitive land use will be vital if the UK is to sustain sufficient levels of food production. 

Agriculture is a primary focus for the Committee, which suggests that farmers could be paid to reforest land that is currently used for grazing livestock. Grazing, especially in upland areas, has a significant impact on the land’s ability to reduce flood risk – the UK’s number one direct climate hazard. To this end the report recommends a reduction in grassland and rough grazing of between 26 and 36 percent by 2050. 

Forest cover in the UK, according to the Forestry Commission, stands at just 12%, one third of the EU average, making the UK one of the least densely forested nations in Europe. Tree cover on hill slopes is one effective measure that can help reduce flooding. Trees intercept water before it reaches the ground and also allow it to seep into the soil much more efficiently, reducing surface runoff. A study in the journal Hydrological Processes points out water has been found to sinks into the soil under the trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under the grass.

The Committee also recommend that the UK government promote a massive re-forestry effort planting 1.5 million hectares of new woodland and turn more land over to growing crops for bio-energy. The report stresses that these alternative uses of land could be economically viable for land managers and farmers, however the UK government would need to provide financial assistance to help them transition.

Access the full report by clicking here

Click on the infographic to enlarge.

UNDP: Addressing Gender in Climate Change Policies for Agriculture

UNDP: Addressing Gender in Climate Change Policies for Agriculture

By UNDP Climate

Men and women often have different roles and responsibilities in society and therefore experience climate change impacts in different ways. This video shows what Colombia, Uganda and Viet Nam are doing to develop gender-responsive national adaptation plans for the agriculture sectors. This country-driven work is carried out under a global programme known as Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag), jointly coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of the material in the maps do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO and UNDP concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers.

Cover photo by FAO/Matthias Mugisha (CC BY-NC 2.0): Ugandan farmer.
FAO: Climate change is a key driver behind recent rise in global hunger

FAO: Climate change is a key driver behind recent rise in global hunger

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) recently released its annual flagship publication The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World stating that world hunger was on the rise for the third year in a row. The number of people facing chronic food deprivation had increased to almost 821 million in 2017, from roughly 804 million in 2016. Climate variability and extremes are two of the key drivers of this trend.

Worldwide trends

In 2017, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU), or the percentage of undernourished people in the world population, reached 10.9 percent. According to the FAO, the main reasons for this deteriorating situation are instability in conflict-ridden regions, economic slowdowns in more peaceful regions, and adverse climate events. The most affected regions are Africa with a PoU of 21% and Asia with 11.4%. The worldwide trend indicates that without increased efforts by the international community, the world will fall short of the Sustainable Development Goals target to eradicate hunger by 2030.

Climate impacts food security and nutrition

Last year’s FAO report suggested conflict and violence were the main causes for food insecurity and efforts to fight hunger should go hand-in-hand with those that aim at sustaining peace. This year and thanks to new evidence, climate variability and extremes are added as a key factor influencing global hunger and a leading cause of food crises.

Since the early 1990s, the number of climate-related disasters has doubled. An average of 213 events per year have occurred between 1990 and 2016 with numbers rising dramatically after 1998.

Total number of natural disasters that occurred in low- and middle-income countries by region and during the period 1990–2016. Disasters are defined as medium- and large-scale disasters that exceed the thresholds set for registration on the EM-DAT international disaster database. See Annex 2 for the full definition of EM-DAT disasters. Source: FAO elaboration based on data from Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). 2009. EM-DAT [online] Brussels. www.emdat.be
Climate variability and climate-related extreme events are already impacting agricultural production of major crops in the tropics. A situation that will only worsen without adaptation measures.

Drought: biggest risk to agriculture

Food production is most severely affected by floods, tropical storms, and droughts. However, droughts impact it by far the most causing over 80% of the total losses and damages to agriculture.

Droughts have the potential to affect national food availability and access, impacting nutrition and increasing the national PoU.

Countries in Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia experienced drought through abnormally low accumulated rainfall and also through lower rainfall intensities and fewer days of rainfall.

Visit the digital report by clicking here and download the PDF by clicking here.


Cover photo by RobertoVi/Pixabay (public domain).
Filipino farmers advised to adapt to erratic rain

Filipino farmers advised to adapt to erratic rain

By Paul Icamina

[MANILA] Rainfall patterns are changing so much that farming schedules in the Philippines may no longer hold true, a public awareness campaign this month (August) heard.

Timely rainfall is considered vital for the growth and production of food crops. With the world’s climate changing, temperatures are influencing rainfall so that it is in excess in some areas and deficient in others, upsetting traditional farming cycles. Warming is also causing sea-level to rise and turn soils in coastal areas saline.

“We can no longer rely on traditional farming knowledge and practices”

– Anthony Payonga, Bicol University Graduate School

“The weather is no longer stable,” said Anthony Payonga, dean, Bicol University Graduate School, during the 8—10 August campaign organised by the Department of Science and Technology. “This has deep implications for Philippine agriculture.”

The changing trends were observed three years ago using rain gauges and validated by interviews and historical climate records. “Previously, the rainfall pattern was the same in areas extending 50—100 square kilometres, but now rainfall patterns are different in areas barely 3—4 kilometres away from each other.”

Payonga is lead researcher of the Bicol Agri-Water Project (BAWP), a five-year initiative to increase the knowledge and skills of farmers to adapt to climate change and improve harvests in the watersheds in Camarines Sur and Albay provinces.

“Cropping patterns must change and not just for rice but also for other crops. We can no longer rely on traditional farming knowledge and practices, but farmers continue to plant rice varieties that are susceptible to flooding during the June—July rainy season,” Payonga said.

“Farmers will now know what to do during flood and drought conditions,” says Marissa Estrella, director of the Bicol Consortium for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development, a BAWP research partner. “It brings complicated science down to the level of farmers’ understanding.”

The Bicol region is self-sufficient in rice, contributing seven per cent to national production. However, average yields declined from 3.41 metric tonnes per hectare in 2010 to 3.3 metric tonnes per hectare in 2011 due to “climatic aberrations”.

BAWP developed packages that included the production and distribution of rice varieties meant for areas prone to flooding, drought and salt intrusion, the latter when sea levels rise due to climate change. Buffer stocks now ensure access to quality seeds after extreme weather conditions.

Farmers get timely climate and weather information and provisions have been made for early warning systems, for example against pest infestations. The planting of alternative food crops such as white corn, cassava, sweet potato, banana and root crops is encouraged.

BAWP also set up climate field schools to train farmers. Bayani Abarquez, a farmer in Polangui, Albay province, who attended one of the schools, doubled harvests by using hybrid rice varieties and cropping and hazard calendars. He alternates chemical fertilisers with natural fertilisers and soil conditioners and uses fermented juices of chili, neem and madre de cacao against farm pests.


This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk. This article was originally published on SciDev.Net and is shared under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0). Read the original article.

Cover photo by IRRI/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0): Filipino rice farmers in Laguna province incorporate rice straw, a good and abundant source of organic material, back in the field.

How to fight desertification and drought at home and away

How to fight desertification and drought at home and away

By Andrew Slaughter, University of Saskatchewan

A growing human population and runaway consumption are putting unsustainable pressures on the natural resources we depend on for survival. Our misuse and abuse of land and water is changing fertile land into deserts.

The word “desertification” conjures up images of the spread of existing deserts, with tall dunes spilling into villages and farmer’s fields. But it is actually a term that describes the way land can be transformed by climate variation and human activities, including deforestation, overgrazing (which causes erosion), the cultivation of unsuitable land and other poor land-use management decisions. We see this now in southern Africa, which has already lost at least 25 per cent of its soil fertility.

But not only developing countries are at risk. Almost 1 billion tonnes of soil is lost every year because of erosion resulting from poor land management in Europe alone. Desertification is one of the biggest environmental problems facing humanity, and has already affected over 40 per cent of the world’s population — 3.2 billion people.

Given that climate change could cause more frequent droughts and that population growth puts more pressure on natural resources, land degradation is an increasing global threat to food security, a contributor to poverty and a barrier to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

It is clear that desertification is a problem of global proportions, requiring a unified strategy among all countries. If action is not taken now, desertification will accelerate, resulting in further migration and conflict.

Seeing the threat

Not all areas are equally at risk of desertification. Drylands, like those in the Karoo of South Africa and the prairies of Canada, are regions where evapotranspiration (the transfer of water from land and plants to the atmosphere) far exceeds precipitation.

Under natural conditions, drylands are characterised by slow cycles of changing climate and vegetation, moving from one stable state to another. More frequent and severe droughts and human disturbances, such as agriculture, grazing and fire, cause more abrupt shifts that can be irreversible.

The threat of land degradation is so widely recognized that the UN established the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) nearly 25 years ago, in 1994. It is a legally binding agreement between the partner nations to work together to achieve sustainable land management.

All member countries of the UNCCD recently agreed to fight desertification and restore degraded land by 2030. On June 17, Ecuador hosted the World Day to Combat Desertification, under the slogan “Land has true value – Invest in it,” and used the occasion to showcase the use of sustainable land management in developing the country’s bio-economy.

A tentative pledge

Despite its initial commitment to combat desertification, Canada withdrew from the UNCCD in 2013. The reasons were unclear, but it may have been because membership was seen as too costly, without obvious benefits for the environment. The departure left Canada as the only country not party to the agreement.

However, Canada rejoined last year, acknowledging the link between desertification and many of Canada’s development priorities. The factors driving land degradation are interconnected and include population growth and migration, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Current rates of global land degradation are in the order of 12 million hectares per year. And yet food production must increase by up to 70 per cent by 2050 to feed the projected global population of 9.1 billion people. Current land-management practices are clearly unsustainable.

The threatened area is so large that halting land degradation and scaling up solutions — from farms and villages to watersheds and continents — requires globally coordinated solutions. By rejoining the UNCCD, Canada can take its rightful place within a coordinated global effort to combat desertification — and strengthen its own efforts nationally.

Why Canada should care

Canada has already cooperated on a regional level with other countries to combat drought and minimize the impacts of reduced agricultural productivity, wildfires and water shortages.

In 2016, for example, when droughts hounded North America, burning Fort McMurray, Alta. and adding to California’s long-running water shortage, Canada cooperated with the United States and Mexico to minimize their impacts. The resulting North American Climate Services Partnership (NACSP) facilitated an early drought forecasting system and drought impact assessments.

In addition, Canada faces its own land degradation challenges. Most people associate dryland regions with a hot and dry climate. However, large parts of the Canadian Prairie provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — can be classified as drylands. They are also enormously important agricultural areas, accounting for 60 per cent of the cropland and 80 per cent of the rangeland in Canada.

The Prairies expect to see longer and more intense periods of drought interspersed with major flooding with future climate change. And although North America is one of five regions identified by the UN as facing relatively fewer challenges related to land compared to the countries most at risk, the region does face significant water stress challenges.

Way forward

The Paris Agreement recognized “safeguarding food security” as an important priority for climate change adaptation, which goes hand-in-hand with combating desertification.

The agricultural sector will play an important role in mitigating the impacts of climate change — and fighting land degradation. It can protect against drought, flooding, landslides and erosion, while maintaining natural vegetation, which helps store carbon in the soil. But agricultural production will also have to become more efficient. It will need to adapt to periods of lower water availability and take measures to preserve fertile soil. We must also look to how we manage our water resources to help agriculture adapt to climate change and stop desertification.

The University of Saskatchewan is currently developing tools that can be used by government and in research to predict and manage the water flow and water quality of Canada’s large river basins. This will allow water to be managed at the scale of entire river basins and help determine how industry, agriculture and mining can fairly share this limited resource.

The ConversationCanada has, for now, recognized the link between desertification and many of its development priorities, including agriculture, security, water and renewable energy. But we need to ensure the Canadian government remains committed to combating drought and desertification here — and in the rest of the world.


Andrew Slaughter is a visiting professor at the University of Saskatchewan. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cover photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash.