Why Agroecology Should Be Considered as Key for Climate Negotiations

 
 
The land at St Denis Libolina primary, a school for physically challenged has been transformed into food forests and gardens using agroecology and feed the children, teachers. They have now sent a challenge to the community to do the same. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

The land at St Denis Libolina primary, a school for physically challenged has been transformed into food forests and gardens using agroecology and feed the children, teachers. They have now sent a challenge to the community to do the same. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

DUBAI, Dec 2 2023 (IPS) – Students of St Denis Libolina Primary have used agroecology farming techniques to transform the entire school garden and any free space into food forests and gardens for different vegetable varieties, legumes, and herbs.

Now the students, who are physically challenged, have challenged their parents, villagers, and farmers in the outskirts of Myanga Township, in Kenya’s Bungoma County, in the Western region, to do the same.

“Barely one year ago, teachers had to contribute money to buy green vegetables to be used by staff members,” said Gladys Orlando, the school head teacher. She was speaking to IPS during a recent media visit. “But today, there are always more than enough vegetables, not just for the teachers but for all students in our boarding facility.”

With rainwater harvested from classroom rooftops, several trenches dug on the school garden, and the use of cover crops, the school has managed to sustainably trap water and soil moisture to support farming of diverse crops, not limited to vegetables, cereals, fruits, tuber crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, and arrowroots, among others.

“I have never known that this area can be this productive,” said Naomi Sitati, a parent at the school and a smallholder farmer who has always cultivated maize and beans. “I have since been coming here to learn alongside the pupils, and now I have established my own agroecology unit on a half-acre piece of land at home.”

According to experts at the ongoing climate negotiations (COP 28) in Dubai, UAE, such agroecological farming techniques are key to the continent’s food systems because they optimize the use of local resources such as manure and local water sources for irrigation, thereby minimizing the ecological footprint and enhancing the sustainability of agricultural practices.

“Techniques such as rainwater harvesting, use of cover crops, and drought-resistant crops help conserve water,” said Dr Million Belay, the General Coordinator for the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.

“This is especially vital as climate change is expected to make water sources more unpredictable and scarce,” he said during an event on the sidelines of the 28th round of climate negotiations in Dubai.

According to Xavier Emodo, the teacher in charge of the farming project at St Denis Libolina School, all organic waste in the school and rubbish collected under tree sheds are all used to make compost manure to keep the soils nourished.

“We have particular students who are always dedicated to the management of compost manure in this school; others are dedicated to pest control and crop management; and we even have a treasurer who takes record of any income generated from the surplus,” said Emondo. “These students are very passionate about whatever they are doing, given that our new teaching system, also known as competency-based curriculum, calls for such practical lessons as part of the syllabus.”

Each and every block at the school has small vegetable gardens in front of classes. Each garden is managed by learners from those particular classes. “Students from these classes are always competing to outdo each other,” said Emodo.

So far, the school has acquired two dairy cows, whose cow dung is instrumental in composting the manure, and they provide milk for the learners.

“We have found that by leveraging traditional knowledge and practices, agroecology empowers communities (such as St Denis Libolina School) to be stewards of their own land and resources, fostering local innovation and self-reliance in the face of climate change,” said Belay, who is now pushing for agroecology to be included in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) future negotiations agenda.

“We are calling for agroecology’s diversified cropping systems to be recommended for climate resilience because the techniques reduce the risk of total crop failure, providing a safety net for food production systems,” he said.

During last year’s climate negotiation (COP 27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the “Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security” was adopted by all parties. The four-year joint work includes implementation of the outcomes of the Koronivia joint work on agriculture and previous activities addressing issues related to agriculture, as well as future topics, recognising that solutions are context-specific and take into account national circumstances.

One of the objectives for the joint work was to promote a holistic approach to addressing issues related to agriculture and food security, taking into consideration regional, national and local circumstances, in order to deliver a range of multiple benefits, where applicable, such as adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and mitigation, recognising that adaptation is a priority for vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers

Evidence-based studies have demonstrated that diversification inherent in agroecology provides farmers with multiple income sources, such as different kinds of crops, livestock, and value-added products, thereby reducing economic vulnerability to climate-related shocks.

“It integrates food production’s ecological, economic, and social aspects, thereby promoting sustainable and equitable systems while also addressing farm-level production and socio-economic processes like markets and distribution,” said Belay.

So far, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly recommended the use of agroecological principles and practices, among other approaches that work with natural processes to support food security, nutrition, health and well-being, livelihoods and biodiversity, sustainability, and ecosystem services in adaptation to climate change.

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