The UN has commissioned several reports in recent years regarding climate change and the effect agriculture has on it and, as a consequence, world hunger. The reports make interesting reading, especially in regard to how changes in farming practices could have a profound impact on slowing global warming and alleviating poverty and hunger throughout the world. ‘Wake Up Before it’s Too Late‘, an extensive report drawing from over 60 experts worldwide, and an earlier document, UN report from 2010, both show that the only realistic way to feed the world in the future is to use organic and sustainable methods.
It puts forward several ideas:
- Nitrogen inputs into soil should be reduced, organic fertilizers should replace synthetic fertilisers and storage losses should be minimised.
- Socially, food wastage should be minimised and meat consumption reduced.
- Reducing the global numbers of ruminants (animals such as cows, sheep and goats) would directly reduce the methane emissions that account for about 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture. (This is mainly an issue for industrialised livestock systems and not for smallholders. Due to carbon sequestration in pastures, pastoral livestock systems can even be carbon-neutral if herd sizes are adequately low.)
- 20-40% of food is lost globally, mainly as a result of wastage in industrialised countries. Avoiding losses and wastage would reduce the output needed and the corresponding GHG emmissions.
- Conversion of pastures and/or forests to agricultural land and of forest to pastures needs to be reduced, as this can create roughly the same CO2 emissions as the total agricultural GHG emissions. Because this land-use change is often due to animal husbandry and feedstuff production for ruminants, this reduction should be combined with reduced animal numbers.
- The potential for taking up carbon by optimally managed agricultural soils should be exploited, as it could equal the total amount of agricultural emissions. This can be done by application of organic fertilizers, minimal soil disturbance and planting legumes in crop rotations.
- Increased soil fertility can be achieved by replacing synthetic fertilisers with organic fertilisers and monocultures with diverse crop rotations.
- The use of sustainable, and especially organic, crop protection rather than synthetic pesticides will foster biodiversity of insects, weeds, earthworms and other organisms.
- Promote increased biodiversity through measures such as crop rotations, use of local varieties, catch crops, hedges and other landscape elements.
- Creating a level playing field for sustainable agriculture at the global level. This involves abolishing distorting subsidies, such as for synthetic fertilisers.
The report states that organic agriculture carried out on sustainable, small-scale farms is an ideal solution.
This is good news for us at Taunton Farmers Market. Our farmers are all small-scale producers and grow and rear their produce in ways which are already in line with the UN report findings. Linscombe Farm and Ray’s Veg both use organic methods to produce their crops, and Forest Beef, Ellises Farm and our other meat producers specialise in small herds of rare breeds and raise their animals on farms which promote hedgerow and pasture abundance.
By shopping at Taunton Farmers Market, you are not only getting the best quality food possible, you are helping reduce climate change and alleviating world hunger. Sounds like pennies well spent to me.