Colleen Dardagan

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AS climate talks in Durban hot up, agriculture, one of the worst emitters of greenhouse gases, is scrabbling to find a place at the negotiating table.

At the World Agriculture and Rural Development Day this week-end, politicians and experts warned negotiators and their leaders to give the sector a higher profile.

Bruce Campbell, director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s programme on climate change, said it was astonishing that agriculture remained excluded from a global agreement on climate change.

He said the talks in Durban offered a last-ditch opportunity for farmers.

“At the Copenhagen talks two years ago, agriculture enjoyed but a single page of text in the negotiation agreement.

“In Mexico, that text was removed in the last 24 hours from the agreement and now, if there is no agreement on agriculture this time round, we will have to begin asking if it will ever happen.”

Agriculture is one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, and is considered the greatest culprit in the wastage of water, but experts at the deliberations said the sector also offered a range of solutions in fighting climate change.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice-president for sustainable development and chairwoman of the consultative group’s fund council, said investing in agriculture was one of the most important solutions. For this reason, the bank was boosting its $2 billion (R15.94 billion) investment in agriculture to $8bn.

With one in seven people across the world going to bed every night on an empty stomach, Sir John Beddington, chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, called for urgent practical action.

“By 2025 we will have another billion people on the planet. That means we have 14 years to adjust.”

At the other end of the scale, Beddington said at least one billion people were eating too much. In France at least 40 percent of the population was obese.


In his presentation to more than 500 delegates at the conference, Beddington said 884 million people lacked access to clean water, 1.5 billion were dependent on land that was degrading, and at least $7.5bn was lost to extreme weather in 2010. At least 1.4 billion of the world’s population lived on $1.25 a day, while 1.3 billion tons of food a year were wasted.

“These assessments make a compelling case for action now. With this in mind, 13 scientists from around the world were tasked with coming up with a plan to identify and promote policy action to achieve sustainable agriculture, food security and poverty reduction while delivering climate change adaptation and mitigation.”

The scientists came up with seven recommendations:

l Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies.

l Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade.

l Intensify sustainable agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental effects of agriculture.

l Target populations most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity.

l Reshape food access and consumption patterns.

l Foster healthy and sustainable eating habits, to reduce waste.

l Create shared, integrated information systems.

South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said food security was absolutely critical to peace and stability in the country.

“We now have an inter-ministerial committee just looking at food security.”