Are farmers to blame for climate change misfortunes?

Author: Thomas Malunda. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • It is also necessary for different stakeholders to guide farmers during transition through trainings to mitigate their contribution to global warming. 

Climate change has become a menace globally because of its effects that are being experienced by different sectors. Several impacts have been observed namely the prolonged droughts, increase in global temperatures leading to wildfires, melting of ice caps leading to the increase in sea levels, biodiversity loss and species extinction, among others.

In the agricultural sector, outbreak and prevalence of new pests and diseases, unpredictable rainfall patterns and prolonged droughts have been reported all of which are detrimental to the farmers.

According to the WHO, approximately 250,000 deaths are expected between 2030 and 2050 mainly coming from malnutrition (food insecurity), influx of vectors causing diseases and heat stress, all of which are expected to be driven by the changing climate.

Although climate change is negatively impacting farmers, they are partly to blame for it. According to the World Bank, agriculture generates 19-29 percent of the total greenhouse gases which is expected to increase if the current farming practices are not improved. Farmers contribute towards climate change in many ways, including; Use of Nitrogen containing fertilisers on their farms. Many of the commonly used fertilisers on the farm are NPKs which stands for the major nutrients; Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Nitrogen present in these fertilisers reacts with Oxygen in the atmosphere to form Nitrous oxide, which is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. One Nitrous oxide molecule has 298 times the global warming potential of the carbondioxide molecule.

Decomposition of organic wastes. Through this, methane, another green house gas, is produced, which also contributes towards global warming and hence climate change. One methane molecule has 25 times global warming potential.
. Encroachment on wetlands and forests. Several wetlands and forests that were originally carbon sinks are destroyed by converting them into arable land, which turns them into carbon sources. 
. Burning of fossil fuels in factories during the manufacture of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides which releases carbondioxide into the atmosphere.
. Transportation of the inputs and outputs to and from farms, respectively in vehicles.
. Enteric fermentation among ruminants which releases methane into the atmosphere.

With all the above practices continuing on the farms, which is due to the need of meeting the global food demand for the ever-increasing population estimated to be at 9 billion in 2050 by the World Bank, more greenhouse gases are expected to be released.

Farmers are partly to blame for the catastrophes they are facing since they are playing a part in it. In order to prevent more damage from happening, there is need to transition farmers to climate smart farming whose core principles are productivity, enhanced resilience, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. 

It is also necessary for the different stakeholders in the agricultural space such as government, research institutions and private sector companies to guide farmers during transition through trainings to mitigate their contribution to global warming. 

Increasing of farmer resilience is one of the key aspects to increasing climate change adaptation which is one of the issues that the COP 27 should tackle.

The writer is Thomas Malunda, an agroecologist
Email: [email protected]

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