All Tools in the Toolbox Needed to Address the Mega Challenges of the Day

May 29, 2020

While the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has postponed the next formal climate convention (COP 26) until November of next year, the delay hardly means that work on the relevant issues will come to a halt. In fact, today the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties committed to continue crucial work to tackle climate change despite the COVID-19 crisis.

This decision reflects the growing awareness that the mega-challenges that the world is facing – whether it’s a faulty food system, poverty, poor health and well-being or a changing climate – are inter-related and must be addressed simultaneously.

Solutions from the Land (SfL) has been among what is now a growing number of global interests promoting climate smart agriculture (CSA) as a valuable platform and useful framework for addressing these intertwined challenges. Food and nutrition security, cleaner energy, better climate conditions, improved livelihoods and other staples of life require the integrated and harmonized solutions offered by CSA.

SfL is also among organizations working to reject “silver bullet” solution approaches and dispel the perception of a dichotomous relationship between agroecology and other innovations. The global pandemic has fully demonstrated that all kinds of innovations, as well as a diversity of production systems and practices, are needed in order to improve resilience and prepare for the next global challenge… whatever it may be.

Work underway in the Iowa Smart Agriculture project affirms the value and importance of multifaceted approaches to resolving complex challenges. The leadership team guiding the project is seeking to further enhance the viability of Iowa agriculture by helping identify and scale up economically viable pathways to diversify production and create new revenue streams for all of the goods and services that flow from well managed farms in the state.

One idea the team is pursuing is a combined research/knowledge sharing project that would tie efforts to incentivize the adoption of cover crops to efforts to help livestock producers improve the efficiency and economic functioning of anaerobic digesters. The economics around standalone digester projects is very challenging, so they are exploring ways to bring multiple systems together in a hub and spoke model, where biomass from cover crops could enable larger quantities of gas to be produced, consolidated, scrubbed and injected into a pipeline for shipment to premium markets enabled by low carbon fuel standards. This type of innovation could generate revenue for farmers while improving water quality, reducing erosion and sequestering carbon the ground.

To meet ambitious local, state, national or even global sustainable development goals, all types of proven, pragmatic and science-based to land management will be needed. This requires an “all tools in the toolbox” approach to managing land that recognizes the tremendous diversity of agricultural landscapes and ecosystems.

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