Climate change mitigation and agriculture: designing projects and policies for smallholder farmers: Eva Wollenberg, Marja-Liisa Tapio-Biström, Maryanne Grieg-Gran
Tackling climate change requires attention to agriculture. Raising crops and livestock directly contributes an estimated 10-12% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally1 (Smith et al. 2008), or about one-third of emissions if indirect impacts on land-use change and land degradation are considered (Smith et al. 2007a: 499). Agricultural emissions are also expected to increase in the next 30 years as population, income, agricultural intensification and diet preferences for meat and dairy increase, particularly in low-and middle-income countries. In light of these trends and the need to feed a world of an estimated 9 billion people in 2050, some have called for the “redesign of the whole food system” to achieve sustainability and climate change mitigation (Foresight 2011). Fortunately, even modest shifts in agricultural practices can reduce net emissions.2 The biophysical potential for mitigation in agriculture is comparable to that of the energy and industrial sectors and exceeds that of the transport sector (Smith et al. 2007a). As agriculture is a major driver of deforestation and other land-use change, measures that halt expansion of agriculture and retain carbon-rich forests or grasslands would reduce future emissions further. Such reductions require, however, meeting the demand for agricultural products from less land. Agriculture thus holds enormous potential for mitigating climate change. Yet, how to achieve agricultural climate change mitigation in practice still raises major challenges, particularly for resource-poor and smallholder farmers in developing countries. The purpose of this book is to
review the state of knowledge of the practice of climate change mitigation in agriculture and provide guidance for its further development. Chapters from more than 100 authors, involving many of the leading actors in agricultural climate change, examine what we know and what we still need to learn about agricultural mitigation. The authors review technical options, incentives, project design, measurement and monitoring systems, supporting policy measures and impacts. Together they demonstrate the scope for mitigation in different agricultural sectors, major mitigation initiatives and approaches for pursuing mitigation. The chapters indicate the urgency of identifying institutional mechanisms, incentives and policies that work in particular places for particular people. The chapters should provide a foundation for further action by identifying the experiences, methods and principles that can inform the design of agricultural mitigation. We focus on the estimated 500-800 million resource-poor and smallholder farmers in developing countries for their important role in climate change mitigation in agriculture and the special challenges they face in pursuing their livelihoods and food security. The majority (74%) of agricultural emissions originate in low-and middle-income countries, where smallholders predominate. The emissions in these countries are expected to increase rapidly as a proportion of the global total-especially in Latin America and Africa where expanded fertilizer use, cattle raising and agriculture generally, are expected (Smith et al. 2007a). To have a major impact on global emissions it therefore will be necessary to reach smallholder farmers and not only target developed countries or large farmers and agri-business. Yet smallholder farmers have particular needs for food and economic security, a low capacity to absorb risk, and poor access to finance and information. Mitigation measures need to give attention to the characteristics of these farmers to be relevant to their needs. Technical options backed by appropriate incentives that achieve mitigation, as well as food security and improved livelihoods will be necessary. Clear benefits for farmers need to be available from mitigation, whether in the form of improved productivity, positive social impacts such as empowerment, or payments. Also, mitigation measures must support farmers’ adaptation to climate change if mitigation is to be achieved in the long term. Linking mitigation to rural development policies will be necessary to coordinate interventions and achieve the large scales necessary for impact on the climate. Policies and projects therefore need to be designed with the aspirations and constraints of smallholders in mind. Given this goal, the book addresses three challenges. First, how can institutions and incentives best support smallholder farmers to participate in and benefit from agricultural mitigation? Second, what kinds of low-cost, rapid measurement and accounting approaches are needed to assess how smallholders’ practices
affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Third, what are the impacts and trade-offs of mitigation on smallholders’ livelihoods and food security?