If you look into the news about COP17, there are two main issues in the agenda: the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and the issue of Finance. But in the corridors and outside the official negotiations, another issue has been raised during these days: agriculture.
As the Conference is being held in Africa, it is not a surprise that agriculture has raised its relevance. Pushed by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, have created a new concept to integrate agriculture and climate change: 'Climate-Smart Agriculture'.
According to FAO, this initiative is based on the recognition of “the need for urgent integrated action at scale to tackle the triple challenge of achieving food security now and into the future, adapting to climate change and contributing to climate change mitigation”. The proposal involves a set of issues that are very familiar to us at ActionAid, such as the important role that women and youth play in agriculture and sustainable development, and the recognizing that, in the “context” of agriculture, among others, one-size-fits-all solutions will not work.
It also involves technologies and practices that we, as ActionAid, are supporting and have included in our proposal of Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture, such as: intercropping, agro-forestry, early warning systems and risk management, among many others.
If there are lots of similarities among our ideas about sustainable agriculture and the Climate-Smart Agriculture proposed by FAO, there are also some very important differences. The whole proposal of Climate-Smart Agriculture was developed around the possibility of developed countries offsetting their carbon via international carbon market - REDD, REDD+ and soil carbon market. (The UN-REDD Programme is the United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries.) Climate-Smart Agriculture comes packaged with carbon offsets.
There are many doubts (and suspicions) regarding the whole issue of carbon offsetting by carbon market among NGOs. In a recent document, ActionAid presented the ‘Six reasons why soil carbon markets won’t work for smallholders’:
• There is no soil carbon market currently
• If there were a market, it would not provide revenues to farmers
• The system will be biased against smallholders
• To sustain finance from an offset market, developed countries must keep emitting
• Soil carbon markets are a distraction from addressing real adaptation needs and mobilizing real funding to support adaptation
• Soil carbon markets are a diversion from real obligations of rich countries: to reduce emissions and to provide substantial, stable, predictable, new and additional public finance
In addition to carbon markets, there are several issues that still need to be explained on this Climate-Smart Agriculture. For example, it is not clear what will be the roles of controversial “modern biotechnologies”, like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on FAO´s initiative. Although GMOs are not visible within the official documents, it does not mean that they are not part of the Climate-Smart Agriculture proposal.
On Saturday, we attended the Agriculture and Rural Development Day, an event organized around the FAO initiative on Climate-Smart Agriculture. Besides the usual participation we had an exhibition booth and we were very successful in deliver our messages. This was because, by having this space, we could distribute our material and presented the video "Support Women Farmers". Furthermore, we have managed to talk with the participants about our approach on climate and agriculture.
It is expected that later this year more negotiations and announcements on Climate-Smart Agriculture will appear here in Durban. ActionAid will be actively following this to make sure that smallholder farmers will be at the heart of the debate and will be actively involved in all process.
By Celso Marcatto and Marcelo Montenegro