It is not always usual to find such a diverse group from different backgrounds, views and ages come together to discuss issues, especially in a small room. But when farmers, youth and the indigenous people’s representatives sat together with scientists, climate change negotiators and other stakeholders to discuss the future of agriculture in the UNFCCC negotiations, a vast diversity of views, aspirations and even clothing is exactly what was observed.
And, when it comes to ensuring that agriculture does not get locked out of a new United Nations global climate change agreement, such range of diverse views is needed to decide on the best way forward. To this end, a half-day workshop was organized on the sidelines of the recent UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Lima Peru by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), to raise awareness on the status of agriculture in the negotiations and provide a networking space for farmers, youth representatives, and scientists.View pictures from the event
For many years, agriculture has suffered neglect on the fringes of the COP negotiations, and many efforts to get it in via various negotiation streams or programs including Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), have encountered stiff barriers. Although there has been progress in recent years in putting agriculture on the agenda, including agreement to to have discussions under SBSTA discussions in 2015, getting agriculture a real place at the table means taking a multi-pronged approach. And achieving this requires all sectoral stakeholders – farmers, scientists, youth groups – to engage their governments.
However, the foundation for this active engagement can only be built on a strong awareness of the current issues and status of agriculture by all stakeholders; this is in addition to listening to farmers about how climate change currently affects them, and hearing their views on the best policy practices that work well for them. The level of engagement and enthusiasm in the room indicated that this was accomplished.
To start the discourse, Sonja Vermeulen – CCAFS Head of Research – gave a quick rundown of the past and present status of agriculture in the UNFCCC negotiations before yielding the space to George Wamukoya of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and James Kiyangi of CCAFS Regional Program Leader for East Africa who both recounted their first-hand experiences of involvement in the processes over the years and suggested ways forward based on that.
In discussing entry points for agriculture in the negotiations, Wamukoya explained the need to actively engage other stakeholders and platforms, particularly in the forestry sector. He pointed out that agriculture directly impacts forests, as in many continents it is one of the main drivers of deforestation which in turn increases carbon emissions. Thus, there is a need to engage forest specialists to acknowledge this and get agriculture into forest discourses at the COP negotiations.
From James Kiyangi’s viewpoint, the most important thing to do may be for stakeholders in agriculture to step back and ask themselves the question: “why do we want agriculture included in the UNFCCC negotiations?” There is a strong case for including it, he explained, because agriculture contributes to greenhouse gases emission and global warming which in turn affect farmers and their productivity. He highlighted that understanding this basic issue plus the need to increase productivity for food security in the face of climate changes and agriculture’s present contributions to GHGs demands its involvement in negotiations.
Many participants representing youth, farmers and the indigenous people had the chance to share their views. A participant from the Caribbean posited that agriculture in many developing countries of Central America and Africa has always been climate-smart, therefore these countries should be leading the way in agriculture negotiations rather than the less climate-smart countries of the global north.
For the youth, the view was that it is counter-productive to discuss agricultural sustainability unless agriculture is made more appealing to today’s youth who may have better capabilities for change. Farmers and indigenous people on their part believe there is a need for increased participation and engagement from stakeholder in decisions affecting them.
A youth delegate shares her views. Photo: G. Betancourt (CIAT).
In the end, it was generally agreed that there is a big equity issue in the agricultural debate, where different categories of farmers in different regions of the world have highly varying contributions to climate change. While some may be large emitters, others are in fact contributing to the solution. And while it is imperative to agree on the political direction of framing these issues, it is equally important that governments and stakeholders involve farmers at the negotiating table, as no lasting solution can be found without their involvement.
Honduras’ agriculture sector, the backbone of the economy, is extremely vulnerable to climate variability and change. Bad weather conditions and fungus from increasing temperatures are already tormenting farmers by crippling yields and profits from the previously successful coffee and banana plantations.
This is however only one of many concerns facing the government, which also has to tackle land degradation, hurricanes, rainfall-triggered landslides and floods, and now severe droughts, sweeping across the country.
Needless to say, Honduras is one of the most climate-affected countries in the world. Between 1992 and 2011 the population experienced 60 extreme weather events with hundreds of climate-related deaths following in their footsteps.
To reverse the situation and start building a more stable and equitable future, appropriate steps towards establishing forward-looking plans that take into account uncertainty and climate variability, are needed.
In line with this thinking, a Future Scenario workshop was held in one of the two most vulnerable regions of Honduras, Choluteca, in September this year to test and thoroughly revise a draft climate strategy by the Secretariat of Agriculture and Livestock. The “Strategy for risk management and climate change adaptation for the sector of agriculture and livestock” was tested against country-based socio-economic and environmental scenarios combined with climate impacts on the agricultural sector.
Image from the Scenario workshop in Honduras. Photo by: Marieke Veeger
Led by the University for International Cooperation in Costa Rica and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the workshop managed to pull together key policy-makers and government officials that work directly with farmers. Having key stakeholders on board for the workshop was really the result from extensive partnership building by the CCAFS Latin America Program.What are scenarios?
Scenarios are not meant to be predictive, but instead help policy-makers and others acknowledge future uncertainty, and test current strategies and policies against different but highly plausible future worlds.
One can say Scenarios are different “what-if” accounts of the future that can be told in words, numbers, images, maps and/or interactive learning tools. The scenario illustration represents one of the many future scenarios Honduras might come to experience, as imagined by participants in the scenario process.
The image represents a Honduras caught up in several internal conflicts ranging from depleting water sources and environmental degradation, to rising inequality, and steep urbanization and population growth, and reduced state power in favour of private businesses.Participants take a critical look at the climate strategy
The country’s policy makers can use scenarios to ask what needs to happen today, in order for Honduras to achieve its goals in the face of an uncertain future? In the context of the scenarios, policy makers try to re-design their plans to avoid catastrophic situations like the scenario above - if it becomes clear that they can be avoided.
On the other hand, they try to make sure the policies help people adapt to changes that are outside of the government’s control, like climate change or global economic crises.
Despite a tumultuous start, with original key stakeholders leaving the Secretariat of Agriculture and Livestock, we were finally able to bring everyone together in September for a workshop, says Marieke Veeger, scientist at the University for International Cooperation in Costa Rica, in her role as Scenarios Coordinator for Latin America for CCAFS.
We got participants to build various scenarios, and using back casting, and the group came up with several items that had to change in the current strategy, such as the lack of long-term adaptation techniques and focusing too much on the national shrimp industry.
Women walk between shrimp ponds. Photo: Mike Lusmore (WorldFish)
It quickly became very clear that the strategy had to be diversified, and include other types of livelihoods, such as cattle and poultry businesses too. Participants also suggested to include territorial planning in its objectives to guarantee most fertile lands for agriculture, since several of the scenarios showed drastic urban expansion, says Marieke Vegeer.
I was really happy to see that the participants, some of whom had led the strategy work themselves, were so open to the suggested changes. That is not always a given in this work,” explains Marieke Vegeer. “What’s good about the Scenarios work is that it can really help policy-makers strengthen a current plan or policy, without requiring too much time and effort from them. I believe that is what our partners find the most attractive.
After the session, most of the suggested improvements to the plan have been incorporated and the plan is to implement them in the beginning of next year. The improved version of the plan has been used in the development of a broader government adaptation plan as well. The participants have also expressed an interest in using the same methodology in other national climate and agriculture plans, to help make them more robust, both great outcomes from these efforts.
Success is many times dependent on good timing, something you might not be able to influence. But we have found that building the right relationships with key influential stakeholders and getting them to participate in the workshops is crucial in order for policies to change. Also, making sure that there is a plan or policy ready to be tested, which will be implemented regardless of the Scenario activities, is also key in order to achieve traction, says Marieke.
During the COP20 climate change conference week in Lima Peru, Marieke Veeger presented the Honduras case study and the successful Scenarios process. View her presentation below (in Spanish):
Scenario work has been ongoing under the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) umbrella since 2010, led by the University of Oxford. A lot has happened since then, and the last few years focus has moved from developing scenarios to helping policy makers use the modelling and scenario building techniques to improve specific policies, work that is now starting to pay off as in the Honduras case and in many other cases:
As the global population grows, so does the demand for fish and the pressure on aquaculture to increase productivity. This is particularly true in Vietnam where the population will increase by 15% to 103 million by 2030. Fish is a staple food throughout the country and an affordable source of micronutrients and essential fatty acids that are vital for good health.
Intensive aquaculture relies heavily on commercially produced fish feeds, which can lead to increased water usage and pollution. To both reduce this environmental impact and improve the nutritional value of farmed fish, the “Nutritious-system feeding concept; nourishing Vietnamese ponds to produce quality seafood” project aims to increase the contribution of naturally occurring food in the diets of farmed fish and shrimp.
Launched on 20 November 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, the project will work with Vietnamese aquaculture farmers to research an innovative “nutritious-system” concept that involves feeding not only the cultured animals in the pond but the entire pond ecosystem, including algae and bacteria in the water. These microbes in turn produce nutritious, natural food for the fish or crustaceans in the pond.
This system reduces costs for the farmer and may increase the nutritional value of the fish and shrimp – in particular the concentration of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. In Vietnam, where more than 23% of children are stunted and 12% are underweight, increasing the availability of affordable, nutritious foods, like fish, is essential.
Spanning five years, the project combines research with technological innovation to improve the feeding system, while ensuring that productivity and profitability are retained.
The project will assess which factors contribute to the transfer of essential Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids through the pond’s food chain and determine the ideal ratio of algae and bacteria for optimal water quality and nutritive value for fish and shrimp. These technologies will be translated into new commercial products like improved pond feeds, feed additives and culture protocols. The project will also assess the social and institutional factors affecting the uptake of this feeding system in Vietnam’s aquaculture industry.
Making aquaculture more efficient, reducing costs and lowering environmental impacts with fewer losses due to disease or water quality failure will strengthen the aquaculture industry, benefiting all stakeholders including poor and vulnerable consumers.
Part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, the project is funded through the Netherlands Organization for Agricultural Research WOTRO Science for Global Development, and is led by Wageningen University in partnership with WorldFish.
Together, WorldFish and Wageningen University will co-fund a Postdoctoral position to facilitate an innovation platform analyzing stakeholders’ positions and perspectives on the “nutritious-system” concept.
The platform will also identify the barriers and enablers for successful implementation and adoption of the technology by fish farmers in Vietnam and potentially other countries in Asia, and perhaps beyond.
To enhance the scaling potential of the technology and support decision-making around it’s uptake, the Postdoctoral researcher will study the likely effects on food and nutrition security and social sustainability, including effects on vulnerable people.
Board members of the project represent academia (Wageningen University Research, Can Tho University), aquaculture industry stakeholders (including Nutreco/Skretting-Vietnam, the world’s largest fish-feed producer), animal health specialists (Vemedim Animal Health), My Thanh Shrimp Association and WorldFish.
About the project: The ‘nutritious-system’ feeding concept; nourishing Vietnamese ponds to produce quality seafood (Short title: nutritious-system pond farming in Vietnam)
The project aims to implement a novel ‘nutritious-system’ concept in aquaculture, using microbial processes for mineralisation of wastes and the production of high quality natural foods. In cooperation with the industry, novel nutritious-system-feeds are developed that are as easy in use as normal feeds, but cheaper, and that target simultaneously natural food production and feed fish and shrimp. Research focuses on generating (1) insight in which factors contribute to the transfer of essential ω3-PUFAs through the pond food web into fish or shrimp, (2) ways to balance the algae (autotrophic):bacteria (heterotrophic) ratio for optimal decomposition, maintenance of water quality and nutritive value of fish or fish shrimp, and (3) analysing and supporting the process of joint design and technology development. Research findings will be communicated and popularized through (peer-reviewed) papers and meetings and will contribute to the development of novel nutritious-system feeds and ingredients.
The goal of the project is to increase the contribution of natural foods to fish or shrimp production in present-day pond systems (range extensive <==> intensive) without a reduction in overall productivity and profitability.
Johan Verreth, Wageningen (Project Board Chair): email@example.com
Marc Verdegem, Wageningen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Phillips, WorldFish: email@example.com
Jens Peter Tang Dalsgaard, WorldFish: firstname.lastname@example.org
Filed under: Animal Feeding, Aquaculture, Asia, CGIAR, CRP37, Feeds, Fish, Project, Research, Southeast Asia, Value Chains, Vietnam, WorldFish