The Rainforest Alliance’s climate team weighs in on the importance of sustainable agriculture as a tool in the fight against global climate change.
Periodically, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — a secretariat that supports all institutions involved in international climate change negotiations — solicits the perspectives of governments and civil society on key issues under negotiation. In 2012, the UNFCC made sustainable agriculture a focus of their policy-making decisions.
In a submission to the UNFCC, the Rainforest Alliance outlined the many benefits of sustainable agriculture. Here is a summary of our submission:
Sustainable agriculture is no silver bullet…but it might be the next best thing.
Much of the debate around agriculture and climate change concerns trade-offs: making choices between mitigation (reducing climate change) or adaptation (adapting to its impacts); increasing farm productivity or promoting long term food security through sustainable land management; and developing land or conserving it.
Although these trade-offs certainly exist, we believe that promoting sustainable agriculture — as embodied by Rainforest Alliance certification under the SAN Standard –- helps to strike a balance by improving food security, increasing productivity and yields, conserving ecosystems, and augmenting farmer incomes.
Sustainable agriculture can also improve farmers’ resiliency to climate change and communities’ capacity to adapt to climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from farming and enhancing carbon stocks in soil and biomass.
Though it offers great promise for adaptation, mitigation and food security, its wide-scale adoption is not without challenges and significant barriers to adoption. Farmers often lack access to sufficient financing sources, education and training, technical assistance, and fertilizers, seedlings and machinery.
How can we overcome barriers to the adoption of large scale sustainable agriculture?
In light of these constraints, the Rainforest Alliance advocates for advancing agriculture and climate change policies that:
- Promote communication and collaboration amongst public and private financing entities
- Enable flexibility in the design of programs to ensure that they are tailored for local contexts and cultural norms, and reflective of locally appropriate best practices
- Draw upon the collective experience of voluntary agricultural certification standards and systems, agricultural commodities roundtables, and national governmental programs that have made great progress in terms of sustainable agriculture implementation, and
- Foster coordination and collaboration among policy, institutional and financial sectors to create an environment that enables the widespread adoption of sustainable agriculture.
At the international level — through the UNFCCC and projects in Ghana, Mexico and South America — the Rainforest Alliance is working to build the case for sustainable agriculture as a proven, scalable system for supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation.
To read more about the types of policies that should be promoted to address the challenges and benefits of implementing sustainable agriculture, check out the full-text of our submission to the UNFCCC.