Group faults ‘One Size Fits All’ agricultural policy response to climate change

A farmland
A farmland

Agricultural policies should be drafted to suit geological landmarks, climate variations and other factors.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), one of the world’s most influential international development and environment policy research organisations, has faulted a general agricultural approach to addressing climate change and its impact on food production.

According to the independent, non-profit organization, agricultural policies should be drafted to suit specific needs after putting into consideration geological landmarks, climate variations and other factors.

The global beliefs and histories that have dominated agricultural policy are built on crisis scenarios around meeting projected food demand are now complicated by global climate change and food price spikes, according to the report.

“Current policy narratives limit climate resilience in world’s dry regions,” the organisation said in a report released on Friday titled ‘Current policy narratives limit climate resilience in world’s dry regions’. It added that partial narratives that underpin policy-making prevent people in dry regions from fulfilling their potential to provide food and sustain resilient livelihoods in a changing climate.

“A ‘one-size fits all’ policy response will not be viable,” Srijit Mishra of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research said. “Instead, we urgently need an alternative macro policy that focuses on location-specific, decentralised, integrated, and knowledge-centric approach that pro-actively exploits diversity and variability to sustain and enhance production.”

“Policymakers often dismiss the world’s dry-lands as fragile ecosystems where highly variable, unpredictable and scattered rainfall is seen as fundamental constraint to food production that compels local people to over-farm or over-graze their land, thereby exacerbating scarcity and degradation, further reducing productivity and inducing desertification, conflict and migration,” the report stated, adding that this ignores both the dynamics of dry-land ecosystems and how dry-land communities have long learnt how to live with and harness this variability to support sustainable and productive economies, societies and ecosystems.

Speaking about the situation in China, Wenjun Li, a professor at Peking University, according to the report, said people have developed systems of pastoralism with highly mobile livestock as a strategy to cope with variable environmental resources and climatic conditions. However, policymakers have misunderstood this.

“As more stakeholders begin to recognise that climate change is an important issue, we have an opportunity to reframe mainstream policy narratives that influence pastoral development policies in arid regions,” he said.

Scientific evidence is mounting that rangeland degradation is intensifying and expanding in China’s rangelands, as a direct consequence of 30 years of inappropriate policies. Such policies have simultaneously brought negative impacts to herder livelihoods and the development of pastoral society, the organisation said.

Agriculture in Nigeria is a major sector of the Nigerian economy, providing employment for about 70 per cent of the population. The sector is being transformed by commercialization at the small, medium and large-scale enterprise levels. Major crops include beans, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, gum arabic, kolanut, maize (corn), melon, millet, palm kernels, palm oil, plantains, rice, rubber, sorghum, soybeans and yams.

Nigeria has a vast variety of soil and weather differentials in its landscape. However, not many policies have been put in place to address and enhance this varying landscape.

Agricultural sustainability in the northern Nigeria for instance, requires flexibility in both ecological management as well as economic activity. There is a pronounced dry season and Rainfall occurs only seasonally and is often intensive when it does come.

The effectiveness of past agricultural policies was constrained by policy instability, policy inconsistencies, narrow base of policy formulation, poor policy implementation and weak institutional framework for policy coordination, among a host of others challenges.

The organisation is of the view that mobile pastoralism, (the act of moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and water in contrast to pastoral farming, in which non-nomadic farmers grow crops and improve pastures for their livestock), contributes substantially to food security, livelihoods and economic prosperity, and can increase resilience to climate change; but it insists policymakers, donors and the public at large tend not to appreciate its benefits.

Mobile pastoralism is common in Nigeria largely by Fulani Herdsmen who move their cattle in search of food. There have, however, been frequent clashes, resulting in deaths, between the herdsmen and local farmers who accuse the cattle of grazing their farms. The Nigerian parliament recent set up a committee to look at ways of addressing the frequent clashes.

The organisation urged journalists, researchers, and pastoralist communities to work together to improve media coverage of pastoralism, and by doing so highlight pastoralism’s potential contribution to sustainable development in a changing climate.

The reports come as dry-lands experts from around the world meet in Bonn, Germany for the second scientific conference of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the eleventh session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (9-19 April).

The new research, coordinated by the International Institute for Environment and Development with funding from the Ford Foundation, will be presented at the 7th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 22-25 .


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