Harmless Harvest: How sustainable agriculture can help ASEAN countries adapt to a changing climate | Agriculture

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A better way of growing food is the best bet against climate change for Southeast Asia’s small-scale food producers. Sustainable agriculture – agriculture that can meet the needs of present and future generations, ensures the efficient production of safe, high-quality agricultural products in a way that protects the natural environment, and improves on the economic conditions of farmers and local communities – offers the best chances for countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deal with climate change. By scaling-up sustainable agricultural practices across the region, ASEAN can help feed its peoples and support the livelihoods of small-scale food producers, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions to push back impending catastrophe.
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  POLICY PAPER MAY 2015   A farmer carries produce to a local market in Lam Dong province, Vietnam. Credit: Tran Thiet Dung/Oxfam  HARMLESS HARVEST How sustainable agriculture can help ASEAN countries adapt to  a changing climate A better way of growing food is the best bet against climate change for   SoutheastAsia ’ s small-scale food producers. Sustainable agriculture    –   agriculture that can meet the needs of present and future generations, ensures the efficient production of safe, high-quality agricultural products in a way that protects the natural environment, and improves on the economic conditions of farmers and local communities  – offers the best chances for countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deal with climate change.   By scaling - up sustainable agriculture practices across the region, ASEAN can helpfeed its peoples and support  the livelihoods of small-scale food producers ,   andhelp curb greenhouse gas emissions to push back the impending  catastrophe. www.oxfam.org  1 1  SUMMARY   Agriculture is a way of life in Southeast Asia. It is the source of food and livelihoods for millions of families and provides raw materials for industries. Cycles of planting and harvesting have nurtured many cultures and traditions across the region for millennia. However, productivity in the agricultural sector is under threat from climate change. Temperatures are decreasing rice yields. Rising seas levels are causing salinisation in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Extreme weather events are leading to intense floods and droughts. 1   Climate change is undermining food production and endangering the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and fisherfolk, both women and men. It is making food harder to grow and secure, and pushing more people into poverty. Women ‟ s burdens will worsen because of climate change. Responsible for gathering or preparing food for the family, they will find food more scarce and expensive because of extreme weather events. The recently released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts that climate change will become more severe, affecting agriculture and efforts to curb poverty and hunger. Without global action on climate change, there will be nearly 50 million more people at risk of hunger in the region by 2020. Unfortunately, funds and technologies to help small-scale farmers and fisherfolk to prepare for climate change (climate adaptation) are hard to come by. Recently, agriculture has been found to be an increasing contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Initiatives such as „climate smart agriculture‟  aim to reduce the emissions (climate mitigation) of the sector. However, these initiatives can take a toll on the food security, livelihoods, and rights of small-scale farmers and fisherfolk; on the use of indigenous farming technologies and knowledge; and on biodiversity.  At the global climate talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), developing countries, who are already feeling the effects of climate change, insist that adaptation should be the focus of climate action, and not mitigation. Oxfam believes that it is mainly large-scale agricultural companies and richer, industrialised countries that should be responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. Small-scale producers from developing countries should instead be supported to adapt to climate change and meet food security requirements. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a coalition of ten countries in Southeast Asia, must safeguard agriculture because majority of ASEAN peoples depend on it. This policy brief asserts that ASEAN can help poor farmers and fisherfolk in the region adapt to climate change through programmes promoting sustainable agriculture and agro-ecology. It calls on ASEAN to use existing regional platforms such as the ASEAN Climate Change Initiative (ACCI) and the ASEAN Multi-Sectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry towards Food Security (AFCC) to bring countries to work together on climate change. ASEAN can maximize the effectiveness of these platforms by adopting the following recommendations:  2 2  1. Support the scaling up of gendered, inclusive sustainable agricultural (GISA) practices. This means championing sustainable agricultural practices, which function both as adaptation and mitigation. ASEAN must ensure that these programmes are informed by an accurate understanding of the impacts of climate change on poor women food producers, who are often left out of development projects. One programme that ASEAN can scale up is System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which is gaining ground in several countries.  2. Develop a regional knowledge hub for climate adaptation and mitigation practices in agriculture. This includes creating a cross-country database that tracks climate change impacts in agriculture, documenting effective policies and practice on climate adaptation and climate resilience, and developing a core of experts  – from the academic world, government and civil society groups  – who can assist in sharing practices and knowledge.  3. Help build the capacity of Member States to implement sustainable agricultural practices and agro-ecology by holding cross-country knowledge and information sharing, farmers‟  exchange programmes, trainings, and documentation of best practices.  4. Create an ASEAN fund to support climate action in agriculture, especially programmes on agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture. Government pledges to the Green Climate Fund can help to fund this programmeme.  3 3  1 INTRODUCTION: WHY AGRICULTURE MATTERS   Agriculture is the main source of food and livelihood for millions of poor families across Southeast Asia. It is a major contributor to economic output, accounting for about one third of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Myanmar (39.9%), Lao PDR (30%) and Cambodia (28%) in 2010. 2 It provides employment to more than sixty percent (60.3%) of the labor force in Cambodia, close to half (49.5%) of the labor force in Vietnam, and more than one third of the labor force in Thailand (41.3%), Indonesia (38.3%) and the Philippines (33.6%) in 2010. 3  Agriculture is also an important source of trade revenues for many countries in Southeast Asia. The region is a key producer and exporter of palm oil, crude rubber, rice, sugar, shrimps, and fruits like banana and pineapples. 4 In 2011, agricultural exports accounted for almost one third of the export income of Myanmar (29.3%), and more than 10% of the export receipts of Indonesia (16%), Lao PDR (12.8%), Malaysia (13.3%), Philippines (10.7%) and Vietnam (13.7%) . 5 Increasing demand for food will boost emerging producers such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar for rice, palm oil and aquaculture in coming decades. 6 More importantly, large segments of the poorest people in the region are in rural areas which live off the bounty of land and sea. Climate impacts on agriculture have far-reaching effects on the lives of these people, and can seriously undermine initiatives against hunger and poverty. This makes agriculture an important focus and locus of poverty reduction and climate adaptation.
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