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Dr Majola Mabuza, (4th from left) among the panellist at the Soils Advantage event at COP24 (Source: CCAFS website)

Can farmers capitalise on carbon sequestration?

Dr Majola Mabuza, (4th from left) among the panellist at the Soils Advantage event at COP24 (Source: CCAFS website)

Dr Majola Mabuza, (4th from left) among the panelist at the Soils Advantage event at COP24 (Source: CCAFS website)

A lot of human activities including deforestation, converting grasslands into arable land, repeated soil tillage, and burning of fossil fuels have disrupted the carbon cycle, taking it out of balance. To this end, scientists and climate change activists have made a clarion call to farmers, as land managers, to play an active role in taking carbon back to the soil.

Soils act as a source and sink for carbon and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Conservation agriculture and agroforestry are some of the practices that simultaneously improve soil carbon, soil fertility and water conservation, hence their adoption at scale can help increase food production to meet the needs of the growing population.

In one of the COP24 side events co-hosted by SACAU, an important point was raised to the effect that for farmers to heed the call of ‘taking carbon back to the soil’, there needs to be a compelling value proposition apart from the rhetoric of benefiting from ‘increased yield and household food security’. Farmers need to capitalise on carbon sequestration.

When polluters buy carbon credits, the financial returns are enjoyed by a company, organisation or project that has prevented an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere.

If farmers can store substantial amounts of carbon in the soils, why can’t they benefit from the carbon market? While it was pointed out that measuring the actual amount of carbon sequestered in soils and plants could be difficult and very costly, this is a matter that needs to be debated further, with the hope that more innovative approaches will be introduced.

Farmers’ level of awareness, knowledge and understanding of carbon sequestration also need to be improved for them to benefit from such an initiative.

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From reactive disaster management to proactive disaster risk reduction

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Disasters and their impacts are increasing at an alarming rate around the globe. Damages inflicted by natural hazards such as drought, floods, fire and hail, diseases and pests continue to affect a number of sectors, including agriculture.

Often times, damages and losses caused by natural disasters are incurred by smallholder farmers who are highly vulnerable to external shocks and lack physical and financial resources to regain lost livelihoods.

Despite all this, published reports indicate that globally, less than five percent of postdisaster aid has been targeted to agriculture in the past fifteen years. In view of such statistics, an important question that arises is whether policy makers realise the impact of natural disasters on agriculture, and the role that agriculture can play during times of disasters.

These are some of the issues that were deliberated upon during the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Conference hosted by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from 26-28 March 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.

A critical analysis of the agriculture-disaster risk management nexus reveals that despite bearing the major brunt of disaster impacts, agriculture plays a vital role in ensuring that people affected by various forms of adversities maintain access to food and livelihoods during and after an unfortunate event, and in building resilience over time.

Therefore, it is in every country’s interest to take into consideration the “safeguard” role of agriculture in times of crisis as the sector is expected to absorb environmental and economic shocks at different levels of the economy. This calls for a change in approach from reactive disaster management to a proactive disaster risk reduction one.

While emergency response is still an essential part of sectoral disaster risk management, the need to adopt a long-term and risk-reduction approach remains central in the promotion of resilience for sustainable development. As such, for countries to enhance their prospects of achieving food and nutrition security, disaster risk reduction should be mainstreamed at all levels in the agriculture value chain (farm to stomach).