Small-scale farming can fix the climate and ecological emergency

17Jan 2021
Editor
The Guardian
Small-scale farming can fix the climate and ecological emergency

 Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity,  improving the water cycle,  enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, -

-and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. Practices include recycling as much farm waste as possible and adding composted material from sources outside the farm.  

Regenerative agriculture on small farms and gardens is often based on philosophies like permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, key line design, and holistic management. Large farms tend to be less philosophy driven and often use ‘no-till’ and/or ‘reduced till’ practices.

As soil health improves, input requirements may decrease, and crop yields may increase as soils are more resilient against extreme weather and harbour fewer pests and pathogens.  

Regenerative agriculture is based on various agricultural and ecological practices, with a particular emphasis on minimal soil disturbance and the practice of composting.    

Thousands of farmers and activists across six Continents will come together at the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC Global) this week to show that small-scale farming can fix the climate and ecological emergency. Representatives of indigenous communities from the   are pushing for food, farming and nature to be at the top of the COP26 agenda this November.

Farmers around the world who practice climate-friendly methods, including regenerative and organic farming, will share their success stories over the course of the seven-day global conference.

Colin Tudge, Oxford Real Farming Conference co-founder, said: “Agriculture in its present form is both a cause and a victim of all that is wrong with the world – from social injustice and political unrest to mass extinction and climate change. It is treated as a business, like any other, and required above all to compete for profit in the global market.

“What we need is real farming - based on the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty. ORFC Global will bring together farmers, food producers, activists, policy makers, academics and many others from around the world who are already showing how things could, and must, be very different.

“The ORFC is part of what is becoming a vital global movement - to restore agriculture to the centre of the world stage and to ensure that it operates in the best interests of all humanity and of the natural world.”

Elizabeth Mpofu, small-scale organic farmer, coordinator of the global farmers’ movement La Via Campesina and co-founder of the African Women Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems is one of 500 speakers at ORFC Global. She said:

“Small-scale agroecological farmers around the world, the majority of them women, are producing food and resources for their communities while reducing CO2 emissions from agriculture. It’s as simple as that. Agroecology is the way forward. It’s a climate-friendly farming system.”

Jyoti Fernandes, smallholder and coordinator of The Landworkers’ Alliance which represents farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers in the UK, said: “We are in a climate and ecological emergency, but we already have the solutions. Agroecology reduces carbon emissions, sequesters carbon and increases biodiversity. On top of this, small-scale farms using local supply chains reduce transport, waste, packaging and refrigeration.

“By growing food locally, we are cutting out the need for imports of crops that may have been grown on land cleared of forests. Leaders need to wake up to the facts quickly and set targets for a transition to agroecology.”

The call from farmers comes in the face of multiple global threats. The climate crisis, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, economic inequality and poverty continue to be caused and exacerbated by industrial farming, with huge monocultures devoid of workers relying on chemical inputs and geared to global markets.  

The conference will host sessions put together with partners in  about 70 nations including Tanzania. 

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