Innovating Climate Change Adaptation through Agroecology
27-29 May 2020 | Online
Highlights for Friday, 29 May 2020
The third and last day of the virtual consultations on Innovating Climate Change Adaptation through Agroecology featured two breakout groups on local implementation experiences.
In opening remarks, Jes Weigelt, TMG Research, recalled that climate change poses multiple risks to different elements of the food systems and negatively affects food security, but that agroecology can provide a response to these challenges. Noting some skeptics view agroecology as “backwards-oriented” and intended to “lock people into subsistence farming,” he underscored that agroecology rather is a systemic response to climate change related challenges.
The first breakout group discussed experiences with climate change adaptation and resilience in local agroecological initiatives in France and Kenya. Discussions touched on, inter alia: social and solidarity economy as a lever to promote agroecology and generate systems change; collaborations with and role of local governments in agroecology initiatives; a Kenyan government policy that could prohibit the use of manure in farming; and the need to explore how agroecology performs with regard to income levels and employment opportunities compared to conventional agriculture. On whether upscaling is the right concept for spreading agroecological projects, one participant suggested to instead focus on bridging, bonding, and linking social capital to better account for the context-specific nature of agroecology.
In the second group, facilitated in Spanish, participants discussed three examples of agroecological initiatives implemented in Latin America: from a semi-arid region in the North of Brazil, coffee production in Mexico, and banana production in Costa Rica. They had a fruitful exchange on, inter alia, the following topics: the importance of “technologically simple” and patent-free solutions, such as water tanks; improving market access to reduce migration away from rural areas; and identifying appropriate metrics to monitor the productivity of diversified forms of farming. Participants highlighted the crucial role of women, emphasizing the need to strengthen women’s access to land and to overcome patriarchal decision-making structures, and urged recognizing and valuing indigenous and campesina identities.
In closing remarks, Lauren Baker, Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GAFF), reflected on possible alliances to further promote the objectives of the consultations and noted the importance of critically considering how evidence of adaptation to climate change through agroecology is mobilized, and to what end. She commended the breakout group format of the consultations, noting the way it enabled key messages to be informed by on-the-ground evidence “was fantastic.”
Alexander Müller, Managing Director, TMG Research, warned against the concept of agroecology being “stolen and turned into something meaningless,” for example by those equating it to sustainable intensification. He expressed his hope that participants could soon gather physically, not virtually, and foster their alliance to promote agroecology as a contribution to climate change adaptation. He then raised a glass of biodynamic wine in front of his webcam, celebrating the online consultations as a first step in this direction.
The meeting closed at 19:01 Berlin time.
Highlights for Thursday, 28 May 2020
The second day of the virtual consultations on Innovating Climate Change Adaptation through Agroecology featured two breakout groups which heard presentations on local implementation experiences.
In opening remarks, Alexander Müller, Managing Director, TMG Research, highlighted the aim of the consultation is to present its results to a broader audience, specifically from the climate change adaptation community.
The first breakout group discussed examples of how agroecology and water management contribute to transformation at the landscape scale. Participants exchanged views on how experiences from the field can inform the further development of the key messages that will form the output of the consultations. Discussions inter alia highlighted the need to: better reflect that agroecology is key for future-proofing food systems and for staying within planetary boundaries; and focus on collective participatory management as a means to adapt to climate change. To level the playing field for agroecology, participants emphasized the need to internalize negative externalities and take into account the "true costs" of conventional farming.
In the second group, participants discussed three examples from local initiatives in India, Tanzania, and the Philippines. Discussions inter alia pertained to: the role of women’s collectives in strengthening social capital and fostering upscaling of agroecological practices; and the promotion of market-oriented production for improved livelihoods. Participants shared that “many farmers have grown tired of problems with conventional agriculture,” pointing to high costs of nutrients and pesticides and to a lack of control over seeds. They noted that increases in farmers’ net incomes and reduced watering needs contribute to the appeal of agroecological practices.
In closing remarks, Alexander Müller said discussions highlighted significant commonalities between initiatives implemented in different agroecological zones around the world, especially regarding the importance of strengthening social capital and adapting technologies to local needs.
Jes Weigelt, TMG Research, reflecting on group discussions, emphasized the importance of broadening alliances between the agroecology community and stakeholders working on ecosystem-based adaptation, as well as exploring climate-nutrition linkages. He underscored enabling environments as critical and local governments’ capacity constraints as a key challenge to overcome.
Highlights for Wednesday, 27 May 2020
The first day of the virtual consultations on Innovating Climate Change Adaptation through Agroecology considered climate change adaptation needs in the agricultural sector and the role of agroecology in responding to these needs.
In opening remarks, Björn Niere, German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), emphasized the need for the agriculture and food sectors to adapt to the dramatic effects of climate change and urged embracing multi-dimensional approaches, such as agroecology, to address these complex effects.
Rowena Buena, MASIPAG, shared insights into her organization’s work, highlighting it is a Filipino farmer-led network working towards the sustainable use and management of biodiversity through farmers’ control of genetic and biological resources, agricultural production, and associated knowledge. She lamented that government support for agroecological measures is much lower than for conventional agriculture.
Alexander Müller, Managing Director, TMG Research, argued that adaptation strategies have to go beyond technological solutions and foster social innovation, gender equality, and strengthened communities.
During a panel discussion, Ronnie Brathwaite, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), highlighted positive impacts of agroecology for which considerable evidence exists, notably regarding multiple income streams that benefit the stability of livelihoods. He suggested that the reluctance to adopt agroecological approaches might not be the result of a lack of evidence, but due to vested interests favoring the status quo.
Fergus Sinclair, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), emphasized the need for scale and context specific metrics – ranging from plot and landscape scale to food systems scale – to show “precisely what works, for whom, where” and what return on investment can be expected in different settings.
Martin Herren, Biovision, presented the results of a meta-analysis showing climate change mitigation co-benefits of agroecological practices and a lack of research on the social and governance dimensions of agroecology.
Jocelyn Parot, URGENCI, said his organization focuses on local solidarity-based partnerships for agroecology and described agroecology as “a set of agricultural practices, a science, and a social movement.”
In closing statements, Niere reminded participants that the dialogue’s purpose is to develop key messages on the importance of agroecology for climate change adaptation. He urged participants to develop short, simple, understandable, and evidence-based messages to make the case for agroecology among policymakers.
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