Lino Mamani Huarka - "guardián de la papa", farmer of the “Parque de la Papa”, Písac, Perú.
In December 2014 Lima hosted the 20th UN Conferences of the Parties, and one of the side events was the Global Landscapes Forum, which took place on the 6th and 7th of December. What was this about? Basically the GLF offered a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and meet people from all around the world involved in environmental, sustainability, and social justice issues, a space full of interesting and diverse perspectives about climate change and landscape approaches. But for me, it was also a perfect moment to know more about one of the star topics of the GLF together with the UN Program for Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+): Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA). Anyone interested in the impact of agriculture and deforestation on climate change should to be aware of the discourses behind these global programs, which have major impacts in political, economic, social and environmental terms through the activities and plans that they develop.
However, I didn’t expect that learning about these programs would raise more doubts than clarifications in me. The three pillars of CSA were exposed at the GLF sessions as: more food, adaptation and mitigation activities. It left me worried and concerned about the accuracy of this approach in the understanding of the real problem of world’s food security. Aren’t researchers and policy-makers aware of the fact that it is not about producing more food through industrial agriculture but about improving distribution and access and production in sustainable ways? Who is funding these studies? Is their statement honest and naïve or are these programs deliberately creating labels and mechanisms of adaptation to perpetuate unfair agri-food systems that carry on a brutal social inequity?
Industrial agriculture contributes to deforestation and an increase of industrial livestock production, which both contribute significant to greenhouse gas emissions. This type of agriculture also increases rural livelihoods’ fragility through the use of synthetic inputs and the cultivation of genetically modified seeds, pushing for a homogenization of agriculture and protecting large supply chains. Problems like land grabbing and massive migration to urban areas are not addressed by these types of program interventions, keeping alive an unsustainable living for most of the society for the sake of powerful corporations. In the CSA and UN REDD+ discourse at the GLF I missed further analysis in how agro ecological systems can help in addressing hunger through organic farming and diversification and providing a solid basis to increase social and ecological resilience against climate change.
Regrettably, essential issues like biodiversity or food sovereignty don’t have the role that they should have in global discussions about climate change. Policy makers seem to be overlooking the importance of agro-ecological systems in building social support networks and its substantial contribution to mitigate the effects of climate change, which seems to be the reason why these are not promoted. Instead the conclusions of the COP encouraged governments to “present actions to fight global warming in order to reach further agreements in Paris 2015”. But why so much focus on the social side when talking about agriculture and climate change? Because to stop rural exodus and dispossession of indigenous territories that industrial agriculture is provoking is key to achieve conservation. There are no forests without people, and indigenous communities have been demonstrating over years that they are their best protectors, as well as small farmers – especially women – are the best actors in order to keep a balance in landscapes, in a social, economic and environmental way. Last but not least, this exodus is having a major impact on youth, who are migrating in developing countries to urban areas due to the lack education opportunities, health care and land tenure statuses.
The implementation of landscape approaches in a meaningful way will depend on our capacity to change the economic system in which we are living. It is urgent to adopt an integrated approach that considers social and environmental aspects as principal drivers of development. From a social perspective there is a need for specific regulations at the local and community level to help indigenous communities, women groups, small farmers and youth to protect their land and to stimulate local development. This requires the development of more specific public policies, which currently aren’t developed enough to address the problem of climate change in terms of adaptation and mitigation. From the environmental side, we need first to understand our own limitations in framing the complexity of nature and second to take into account intangible dimensions of it as the spiritual one, which is an inextricable part of indigenous communities’ cultures. This implies a deep shift in our values at a macro level.
To achieve this change, it is important to remember that this climate change crisis that we’re already suffering has been caused by an economic system that prioritizes financial growth over social development and environmental conservation. Therefore, we don’t need any more financial approaches based on parameters of productivity, designed to protect the interests of big corporations to solve this crisis, but a radical change in the way we address the problem. We have to reconsider the approaches of the main programs being currently developed in terms of landscapes strategies: CSA and also the REDD+. Strategies such as the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) are considered by these programs as a key tool for the implementation of solutions regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This builds on mitigation and adaptation measures upon economic patterns to sustain the same values that led us to the current situation. Instead, we propose a plural approach that includes different levels and dimensions of knowledge in the negotiations about climate change.
Small farmers’ – including groups of women as a specific stakeholder – and indigenous’ communities have to be included at the center of the analysis in the processes of adaptation and mitigation of Climate Change. Only then we will be able to learn from real alternatives to develop agriculture systems and to live in harmony with the environment. Only then it will be possible to implement actions that allow us to build more resilient systems at a larger scale. It’s to us, young professionals and researchers, to take upon the responsibility of being critical to the messages given in spaces like the GLF and be able stand for the inclusion of non-recognized knowledge into the negotiations.
Hence, we, youth claim to be at the center of the negotiations too, to provide a different perspective that takes into account long-term measures and not rapid solutions. But we need to be involved in the negotiations now, as an active stakeholder that is directly experiencing the impact of climate change. And we have to be incorporated together with the marginalized groups mentioned above. We all form the invisible landscape of the society and there won’t be any substantial change until we’re considered at the place that we need to be, the core of the issue.
If you want to know more about CSA, discussion at GLF and agroecology? Check out these resources: