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Publication | 20 October 2020

Systemic Challenges, Systemic Responses: Innovating Adaptation to Climate Change through Agroecology

There is an inextricable link between our food systems and accelerated climate change.

A growing body of evidence reveals that accelerated climate change has far-reaching impacts on our food systems, while at the same time, our food systems are adversely affecting climate change trends.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2019) found that unsustainable agricultural production processes accelerate biodiversity loss, and are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, land degradation, and the unsustainable use of freshwater resources. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, if current rates of greenhouse gases emissions are maintained, there will be a 17% decline in the production of four major cereal crops that provide the staple food for billions of people (coarse grains, oil seeds, wheat and rice) by 2050.

These findings underscore that the agricultural sector is both a contributor to, and casualty of, accelerated climate change. To date, however, the global response has remained sectoral, and disconnected in nature. The complexity of local adaptation needs, coupled with the need to address the resilience of food systems as a whole, means that no single initiative can address all challenges in a comprehensive way.

There is emerging evidence that agroecology – which links food production at farm level to the broader social-ecological systems that support resilience to climate change – can contribute towards more systemic solutions. Adding to concrete results documented by agroecological initiatives, such as MASIPAG in the Philippines or Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming in India, recent reports from High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, and the Global Commission on Adaptation, have acknowledged this contribution.

Over the course of several months, a broad range of experts, policy makers and practitioners held a series of consultations to explore the contribution of agroecology to innovative and transformative climate change adaptation responses. This paper is the culmination of this process, which not only sought to develop a common understanding of the role of agroecology to climate change adaptation, but to craft a common language that can help bring together the agriculture and climate change communities.

Systemic Challenges, Systemic Responses: Innovating Adaptation to Climate Change through Agroecology
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