April 04, 2015

Adaptation and Agro-ecology; Women’s Strategies for Climate Change

COP 20 side event, 1st December, Paracas

The COP 20 side event was co-organized by CECOEDECON, Beyond Copenhagen, Action aid International and Practical Action. Since there was no discussion on agriculture in COP 20/SBSTA, the side event hoped to get the attention of the country parties and negotiators as well as CSO participants on the issue of agriculture. The objective of the side event was to convey to the audience that the in the din of the climate smart agriculture, the agro-ecology is getting completely neglected, and the worst affected are women. Women have shown leadership in adapting to climate change and enhancing agro-ecology but the policymakers have failed them by prioritizing mitigation over the urgent needs of adaptation.

Opening the discussion moderator Ajay Jha said that women farmers have huge contribution in agriculture and food security and economy of the countries especially in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. Women have shown leadership in enhancing adaptive capacity of the agriculture through approaches which is ecologically sustainable and less dependant on external inputs, however, they face a number of challenges including that of climate change and policy design, lack of access and ownership being one of the most important among them. He emphasized that in South Asia where more than 65% women workforce is engaged in agriculture, less than 6% of them have land ownership. He added that in view of the fact that the cost of agriculture is rising steeply, agroecology also makes business case. Chris Handerson, from Practical action provided overall concept of agro-ecology, scenario of positioning of agro-ecology in agriculture and case studies of women farmers. He said that lot of farmers are adopting agro ecological approaches, and therefore, it is not something new being proposed. However, he added that existing system was loaded against small farmers, which presents a compelling need for policy reform and financial support. He recommended increased public investment in research, investment to agro ecological approaches and also hoped that a reformed market will also support agro ecological approaches.

Manu Srivastava from CECOEDECON provided case studies from Rajasthan India on experiments to enhance agro-ecology and improved water management, and loss and damage in agriculture due to disasters. She cited case studies from villages in Rajasthan (Paragpura & Bapugaon) where farmer led water harvesting structures and management have been able to bring the water table up and as a result farmers are able to draw two crops in a desert like condition. She also shared the findings of the loss and damage study from Uttarakhand climate disaster (June 2013), and emphasized that farmers were measly compensated for the loss and crops and land due to disaster. She underlined that loss and damage due to disaster cannot be compensated by adaptation alone, and needs separate treatment otherwise the gains from adaptation may be reversed.

Teresa Andersson from Actionaid international shared the position of agriculture in climate change mitigation. She lamented the mitigation focus in agriculture and false solutions being proposed. She added that agriculture is being discussed in multiple platforms in the climate negotiations (ADP, SBSTA, NAPs etc.) but none of them addressing the agro-ecology, which has been shown as the most resilient way of food production reports after report. She also strongly opposed the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture, which she said was a corporate driven and dominated platform with agribusiness corps like Yarra, Syngenta, Mc Donalds and Walmart.

An animated discussion followed the presentations where participants shared destruction of food systems due to climate change impacts, strategies adopted by women farmers and policy response etc. participants shared coffee being affected in Ethiopia, Potatoes being badly hit in Kenya and drought and extreme flooding in Asian countries. In famers/women farmers strategies participants shared Roof collection of water and other water harvesting technologies, women reviving traditional seeds in Kenya. In Peru women have responded by multilayer coffee farming, mulching, terracing and using home made fertilizers, growing traditional species of potatoes. In Gambia, women have started preferring compost over fertilizer and using traditional early maturing variety of seeds over HYV. Participants also provided examples of lack of ownership of land, economic and trade policies and lack of incentive as major policy gaps in promoting agro-ecology.

The moderator summed up the discussion with few conclusions.
  • The current trend in agriculture is posited against enhancing agro-ecology, however, farmers and women have been experimenting with certain adaptations on their volition.
  • Adaptation and agro-ecological approaches have been largely beneficial to the farmers, but it was not equally shared with farming community so that each farmer could benefit.
  • Adaptation too has a limit, and that brings the role of policies and incentivizing adaptation.
  • The climate negotiations by their focus on mitigation are not responding to the needs and aspirations of small farmers.
  • There is a need to stand up a resist false solutions and package of practices like Climate Smart Agriculture.