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Seedlings from the soil

Vegetable seedlings rising out of the soil. (Photo

Climate Talks Must Include BROAD Ecological Agriculture Solutions

Against huge odds and with minimal resources, farmers and peasant agrarian communities around the globe are proving we can nourish people and the planet with agroecological farming.

Helmy AbouleishAndrew Kimbrell

At the 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference happening right now in Egypt, one of the planet’s top sources of greenhouse gas emissions is barely on the agenda—industrial agriculture and the food we eat. Despite generating about one-third of all climate-harming emissions, industrial food and farming gets short shrift (at best) at the Conference of Parties (COP27) summit in Sharm el Sheikh. How can this be, and what can we do about it?

The future of farm and food systems must include a transition toward proven agricultural technologies that can feed the world while sustaining the natural resources upon which we all depend, including our climate.

The COP27 arrives amid grim reports that emissions are at record levels, according to the World Meteorological Association. A 2021 study tracking global food system emissions from 1990-2015 confirmed agriculture’s pivotal role in the climate crisis—impacts stemming from agricultural energy and land use, livestock, processing, and long-distance shipping, among other sources.

The core of the problem is today’s industrial food system, which relies heavily on fossil fuels (pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and massive carbon-spewing machinery), global export markets rather than domestic and regional resources and needs, and corporate supply chains and processing rather than market systems that favor farmers and consumers.

The need for bold solutions that rapidly and radically cut emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide could not be more urgent. That’s what makes the sidelining of industrial food’s emissions so troubling—there are proven alternatives already in the ground (literally) across the globe that will help draw down emissions while feeding the world and sustaining rural farming communities.

Instead of ignoring one-third of climate-wrecking emissions and maintaining an industrial agriculture system that is failing humans and the planet, we must immediately expand ecological farming systems—which includes biodynamic, regenerative, organic, and agroecological farming practices. Evidence shows that these systems reduce GHGs, ensure food and water security, and sequester carbon while protecting biodiversity, soil, water, wildlife, livelihoods and jobs, socioeconomic equity, and more.

What’s urgently needed is a BROAD approach that incorporates ecological farming including organic, agroecology, biodynamic and other proven sustainable practices that work with nature rather than destroying it. A new alliance of prominent civil society organizations from across the globe—the International Coalition on Climate and Agriculture (ICCA)—is promoting solutions to ensure that food and farming are Biodiverse, Regenerative, Organic, Appropriate Scale, and Democratic (a “BROAD” approach).

These BROAD practices are already happening around the world. Right in Egypt, in desert regions northeast and southwest of Cairo, SEKEM produces a bounty of food using 100 percent organic and biodynamic methods that sustain and enrich biodiversity rather than undermining it, employing its motto, “Creating out of nothing.” No pesticides, no genetically modified foods, no nanotechnology, but good old-fashioned, well-proven, all-natural farming techniques. Applied by around 2,600 Egyptian farmers, SEKEM also incorporates an Economy of Love, which considers social, cultural, and equity principles.

Across the continent, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) supports an inspiring array of agroecology initiatives that are generating food and restoring ecosystems in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. As AFSA describes it, agroecology is "a people-centred system of sustainable agriculture, combining Indigenous knowledge with cutting edge science, making the best use of nature to create healthy communities, and empowering a social movement that resists the corporatization of agriculture."

Models like these, and countless ecological farming initiatives across the globe, offer a viable and profoundly sustainable path out of today’s industrial corporate food system and the climate damage it causes. Against huge odds and with minimal resources, farmers and peasant agrarian communities throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and beyond are showing the world we can nourish people and the planet (our soil, water, air, and biodiverse habitats) with agroecological farming.

At the COP27 and beyond, the International Coalition on Climate and Agriculture—an alliance of civil society leaders and activists representing agriculture, the environment, indigenous peoples, farmers, and other movements around the globe—is advancing ecological agriculture principles that are central to addressing our increasingly disastrous climate crisis.

Our international coalition's message to COP27 and policymakers worldwide is simple: The future of farm and food systems must include a transition toward proven agricultural technologies that can feed the world while sustaining the natural resources upon which we all depend, including our climate. Farmers have developed and advanced these technologies for centuries through hard-won experience and innovation. Agroecology and food systems based on the core principles of biodiversity, regeneration, organics, appropriate scale, and democracy (BROAD) are our best hope for a truly sustainable shared future.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Helmy Abouleish

Helmy Abouleish

Helmy Abouleish is CEO of the SEKEM Initiative in Egypt, founded by his father Ibrahim Abouleish in 1977. SEKEM promotes sustainable development in ecology, economy, societal and cultural life. The SEKEM Holding produces, processes and markets organic and biodynamic foodstuff, textiles and herbal medicine in Egypt, Arabia and internationally.

Andrew Kimbrell

Andrew Kimbrell is the founder and Executive Director of Center for Food Safety, the leading food/environment NGO in the United States. He is also co-founder of the International Coalition on Climate and Agriculture (ICCA), and founder and Director of the International Center for Technology Assessment, and the Earth Advocacy Institute. In 1999 he initiated the court challenge that resulted in a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court victory forcing, for the first time, EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses and their impact on the climate crisis.

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