Farmers must be at the center of new, international work on climate action

March 29, 2023

The proposals are in. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has closed its submission period for recommendations on how to structure the four-year Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security.

Solutions from the Land has been working toward this moment since last November, when the UNFCCC sent out its call for input after reaching agreement on the need for joint work at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27). As an officially recognized observer of the UNFCCC, SfL was invited to submit its views to guide the joint work. SfL also contributed to the proposal submitted by the UNFCC Farmers Constituency, which is made up of more than 70 nongovernmental farmer organizations accredited by UNFCCC, including SfL.

SfL was pleased to see the UNFCCC adopt agriculture-positive language in the agreement. However, we believe we must build on this momentum by taking every opportunity to remind international leaders of the importance of keeping farmers front and center.

With this in mind, SfL’s final submission to the UNFCCC affirmed two overarching guiding principles:

  • Farmers at all scales must be at the center of all discussions and decision-making.
  • Agriculture is not separate but part of the earth’s ecological system.

SfL also recommended that the joint work adopt six high-profile global workstream priorities that recognize:

  • Water as essential to all life and shifting water-soil relationships as the signature of a variable and changing climate and capacity to produce food.

Extreme climate events, increasing variability of local and global weather (drought-flooding; unseasonable extreme heat and cold) and the uncertainties of water distribution—scarcity and excess—are urgent issues affecting agricultural capacities to deliver an abundance of nutritious food for a growing global population.

“Food shortages often get the attention, but the need for water is eye-opening, especially in countries without as much access to water,” says Brad Doyle, a soybean, rice, wheat and grass hay farmer in Arkansas who serves as chairman of the American Soybean Association chairman and as a Solutions from the Land farmer envoy. Doyle captures and stores rainwater in wetter, winter seasons to irrigate his crops in drier seasons.

“We need water for all of life: for drinking, for our livestock and for our crops. There is no food without water,” Doyle says. “We as farmers have a responsibility to manage and take care of the water we use.” 

  • The need for system approaches.

Expand diversified and sustainable agricultural intensification production strategies appropriate to different geographies, ecosystems and watersheds, cultures, and a wide variety of farm types and scales to meet present and future demand and changes in conditions.

  • Integrated livestock systems for high quality protein and livelihoods for farmers at many scales.

Sustainably managed livestock systems have high adaptive capacity, resilience to climate change, and play broad roles in safeguarding food and nutrition security, livelihoods, nutrient cycling and carbon management.

Specifically, livestock:

  1. Can utilize forages, crop residues, and by-product wastes and convert them into high quality commodities.
  2. Are critical to global food and nutritional security due to their high-quality protein, essential fatty acids and bioavailable micronutrients.
  3. Provide livelihoods for farmers at many scales, heritage and cultures.

“Livestock can be an incredible tool for sequestering carbon and building up the health of the land and entire ecosystem,” says Amelia Levin Kent, a Solutions from the Land farmer envoy who raises beef cattle in Louisiana. “The land needs grazing animals, and these animals provide a high-quality, nutrient-dense source of protein that helps humans thrive. We must consider livestock an essential component of any plan to improve the health and well-being of our environment and society.” 

  • Innovations, scientific, technical, local and indigenous knowledge.

The following are essential building blocks of uncommon collaborations needed to effectively deliver food and nutrition security in the present while building capacity to pivot and adjust to future changes:

  1. Continued involvement of scientific and technical knowledge.
  2. Enabling conditions.
  3. Involvement of farmers, youth, local communities and indigenous peoples, including gender considerations.
  4. Meeting the needs of farmers and food systems.
  • Innovative policy and social approaches to scaling up.

Policies should enable farmers to concurrently produce multiple benefits for society without additional regulatory burdens that reduce efficiencies, effectiveness, and sustainability; and the need for a diversity of policies and solutions that are practical and foster agricultural adaptative responses and resilience.

  • Context-specific priorities and solutions.

These priorities and solutions must be aligned with national policies and priorities, be determined based on the social, economic and environmental conditions at site (including the diversity in types and scale of agricultural activity) and be subject to evaluation of potential synergies, tradeoffs and net benefits.

These priorities are foundational to local and global food security and nutrition, and they enable capacities to consistently and concurrently deliver multiple sustainable development goal (SDG) outcomes under increasing uncertainties and a changing climate.

To learn more, you can read the full submissions of recommendations from Solutions from the Land and from the Farmers Constituency.

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Our Vision

An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.