News / Africa

Report: Environment and Food Needs Can be Met

Author Danielle Nierenberg visits an urban gardening project in Kibera, Kenya—Africa’s largest urban slum. (Credit: Bernard Pollack)
Author Danielle Nierenberg visits an urban gardening project in Kibera, Kenya—Africa’s largest urban slum. (Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on climate-friendly agriculture

Joe DeCapua
Agriculture has been a major driver of human-caused climate change, responsible for up to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it’s also extremely vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures. But a new report says agricultural innovations can result in climate-friendly food production.


Droughts, floods, severe storms and unpredictable weather patterns have all been blamed on climate change. The Worldwatch Institute says the events not only “affect people’s daily routines, but disrupt life-sustaining agriculture.”

In 2012, the Midwestern United States breadbasket suffered record heat and severe drought. Super storm Hurricane Sandy slammed into the eastern U.S. In 2011, severe drought worsened a humanitarian crisis in Somalia. In 2010, Russian wheat farmers experienced their worst drought in more than a hundred years. The list goes on.

What’s more, the report says the “challenges are expected to grow more pervasive in the future.”

Danielle Nierenberg is co-founder of the research group Food Tank and former director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet Project. The co-author of the report - Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture - said agriculture currently contributes to climate change in many ways.

“Because industrial agriculture tends to be very resource intensive, uses a lot of fossil fuels, it’s a huge contributor to climate change. Anywhere from 25 to 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the agriculture sector. If you look at all the ingredients that really go into making food – fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotic use, transportation, processing facilities – all those things are very dependent on fossil fuels,” she said.

Livestock, in particular, has a major effect on the environment.

“Because meat consumption is growing, particularly in places like Brazil and China and India the market is responding. There are more industrial animal facilities or factory farms that are cropping up in places in the developing world. And those factories really require a lot of fossil fuel inputs. They require long distance transportation. So, all those things can contribute to climate change,” she said.

The report says that agriculture can adapt to these challenges. At the same time it can reduce its environmental footprint and meet the food needs of a growing population.

It outlines – what it calls – six sustainable approaches to land and water use. Nierenberg says they can help food producers adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects, as well.

These include agroforestry or growing trees on farmland to reduce erosion, remove carbon dioxide from the air and keep soil healthier. The trees also provide shade for livestock and create wildlife habitats.

Planting cover crops, the report says, can make soil less vulnerable to drought, heat and pests. Urban farming is another recommendation.

“Growing more food in cities can reduce transportation costs. So, urban residents can buy very locally from rooftops or backyards in their communities. So you’re reducing transportation. You’re making a city more green and helping sequester carbon so that it’s not just a concrete jungle, but a place that really supports food production,” Nierenberg said.

There are also innovations in water conservation, such as recycling wastewater in cities, drip irrigation and catching and storing rainwater. Nierenberg says it’s also better to use indigenous crops and livestock that are adapted to particular climates.

“These are breeds that are very resistant to high temperatures or very resistant to diseases that occur when temperatures rise. For live stock, in particular, well meaning missionaries have been trying to encourage pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere to adopt more exotic, higher producing breeds of livestock for many years. And while those breeds can produce a lot more meat or more milk, they often become too expensive for traditional breeders or traditional pastoralists to raise because they get sick very easily. They need a lot more water. They need a lot more food,” she said.

Nierenberg said that over the next 50 years, African farmers have the ability to sequester or trap 50 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere. She says while all the recommendations are practical, there are obstacles to putting them into practice.

“Funders and donors and development agencies and NGOs tend not to recognize the importance of things already working on the ground. It’s often easier to get funding for some sexy new technology rather than investing in things that have been working for decades or in some cases even centuries,” she said.

The Worldwatch Institute report warns that “climate change will clearly have dramatic impacts on the agricultural sector and on global food production. It adds that “techniques that can help food producers mitigate or adapt to climate change will enable farmers and consumers to better survive an era of unpredictable weather patterns and a steadily warming climate.”

You May Like

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

Ten Migrants Drown in Mediterranean, 4,800 Rescued

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs