Cool insights for a hot world: trees and forests recycle water

Anyone who has walked outside on a sunny day knows that forests and trees matter for temperature, humidity and wind speed. Planting trees speaks to concerns about climate change, but the directly important aspects of the tree-climate relationships have so far been overlooked in climate policy where it relates to forest.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a new review. The authors suggest that the global conversation on trees, forests and climate needs to be turned on its head: the direct effects via rainfall and cooling may be more important than the well-studied effects through the global carbon balance.

Yet, current climate policy only recognizes the latter. While farmers understand that trees cool their homes, livestock and crops, they had to learn the complex and abstract language of greenhouse gasses and carbon stocks if they wanted to be part of climate mitigation efforts. Not anymore, if the new perspectives become widely accepted.Read more

‘De-risk’ the wood energy sector to unleash green growth

With population growth and urbanization, the demand for energy from trees is growing rapidly around the world. This demand presents a golden opportunity for wood energy be a force for energy security, sustainable development and greener economies. But this exciting potential can only be realized when the wood energy sector, particularly the one in sub-Saharan Africa, is ‘de-risked’ to become orderly, legitimate and sustainable.

Charcoal traders in DR Congo. Photo courtesy of Jolien Schure/CIRAD
Charcoal traders in DR Congo. Photo courtesy of Jolien Schure/CIRAD

A special event at the recent XIV World Forestry Congress (7 to 11 September, Durban, South Africa) saw a high-level panel of experts discuss the situation of woodfuel and charcoal production, trade and consumption around the world, with a particular focus on Africa. The event titled “More than heat! Wood energy for the future,” went beyond wood as a household energy resource, to its potential—as a modern fuel—to power green growth for national economies. Read more. . .

Forests and society a major theme at the XIV World Forestry Congress

Forest give food and oxygen, stabilize land, improve water quality and availability, reduce the effects of climate change, and provide spaces for cultural activities, reflection and enjoyment.

Convened by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and hosted in Durban by the Government of South Africa, the XIV World Forestry Congress (#Forests2015 on twitter) 7-11 September 2015, will have a strong focus on young people, women and local communities in defining a vision for a sustainable future of forests and forestry. Read more. . .

Evergreen, Nipa and ‘push-pull’ presented at global innovations forum 2015

Agriculture as practiced in most parts of the world today will simply not feed a human population of 9 billion by 2050. Innovation in food production is needed, and it needs to be adopted on a wide scale.

Indeed, the purpose of the ongoing Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) 2015 has been to bring together global leaders, policy makers, researchers, manufacturers and community leaders to showcase and discuss the best agricultural innovations.The high-profile event was opened with keynote speeches by HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nayan of the United Arab Emirates, HRH King George Rukidi IV of Toro, Uganda, HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales,  and US Vice President John Kerry. Read more…

Climate-smart agriculture needs knowledge, cooperation and a healthy dose of trust

Smallholder farms in Kamonyi District, Southern Rwanda. Photo by A. Sigrun Dahlin
Smallholder farms in Kamonyi District, Southern Rwanda. Photo by A. Sigrun Dahlin

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been at the forefront of climate-smart agriculture for the past decade, advocating for and supporting farmers to adopt this type of sustainable land use worldwide. This support is only set to grow with the relocation, starting in 2015, of FAO’s facilitation unit for climate-smart agriculture unit to the organization’s headquarters in Rome.

Eduardo Rojas Briales, Assistant Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said climate smart agriculture offers “an integration of food and nutritional security, higher productivity and increased incomes, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Read more. . .

A new alliance to spread climate smart agriculture among millions of smallholder farmers in Africa

African smallholder farmers have a new ally in their effort to adopt farming practices that raise food production, build resilience to climate change, and create healthier and more sustainable landscapes—that is, practices that are climate smart.

The aim of a new initiative, the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA), is to see 6 million smallholder in Africa practicing climate smart agriculture within the coming 7 years. This effort contributes to NEPAD’s Vision 25 x 25, which aims to reach 25 million African farm households by 2025. Read more. . .

For smallholders, an abundance of opportunities in climate-smart farming

Rose Koech, a farmer in Bomet, Kenya, cuts calliandra shrub for her dairy cattle. She is a member of the East Africa Dairy Development Project. Photo by Sherry
Rose Koech, a farmer in Bomet, Kenya, cuts calliandra shrub for her dairy cattle. She is a member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

The landscape appears ripe with opportunity for small-scale farmers worldwide, as their contribution towards feeding the world and fuelling development amidst a changing climate is more widely acknowledged.

“That smallholder farmers’ role in food production and natural resource stewardship is recognized as one of the quickest ways to lift over one billion people out of poverty and sustainably nourish a growing world population is an outstanding opportunity in itself. We should not lose sight of this focus,” said Delia Catacutan, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) senior social scientist, gender program coordinator, and Vietnam country representative.

Catacutan said many fresh prospects for the world’s billions of small-scale producers in developing countries are also coming from “trends towards increasingly secure land tenure and property rights; pro-poor food security initiatives; freer trade across national borders; and private-sector investments in smallholder agriculture value chains.”Read more. . .

Climate smart agriculture must be farmer-smart, gender-smart and equity-smart too

A farmer who is part of a tree planting scheme in the Mount Kenya region. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT) via Flikr

High hopes are pinned on the agriculture sector to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, through undergoing a deep transformation to become climate smart. Agriculture is considered to be “climate-smart” when it contributes to increasing food security, and raises climate adaptation and mitigation in a sustainable way.

According to the recently released UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2013, agriculture has the potential to contribute to reducing global emissions to the tune of between 1.1 and 4.3 gigatonnes annually. Merlyn Van Voore, Adaptation Fund Coordinator at UNEP, said reductions in emissions from all sectors are urgently needed if we are to avert a rise in temperature this century that will have catastrophic effects on people and the environment. Van Voore was speaking on 12 November 2013, at an  event held on the sidelines of the ongoing UNFCC climate change conference in Warsaw.Read more. . .

Wake up now to make agriculture sustainable

UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2013
UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2013

“The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development … to an ‘ecological intensification’ approach,” states the UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2013 released yesterday (18 September 2013) in Geneva. “The required transformation is much more profound than simply tweaking the existing industrial agricultural system.”

The new report, titled Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate,” is a clarion call for drastic changes to agriculture globally in order to combat hunger and curb further damage to the environment in the face of a changing climate. Read more. . .

Sound farming advice for a ‘new normal’ climate

It’s natural to wonder whether our current climate—with its erratic rainfall patterns and increasingly frequent weather upheavals—will ever return to normalcy. According to a leading development expert, it won’t.

“The planet’s climate has changed irreversibly; continued change is the new normal,” Brent M. Simpson, Deputy Director of the USAID-funded Modernizing Extension and Advisory Service (MEAS) project, told a recent forum in Nairobi. Read more. . .