The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: Peace-Building One Dinner at a Time

While we are constantly reminded of the interconnected nature of the world, this interconnectedness has not extended to our responsibilities as citizens. The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an initiative that attempts to address this problem by bringing people together to connect around political, social, and humanitarian issues.

The basic premise of the project centers on sharing a meal, a universal ritual to which we can all relate. There is a twist though – the meal is shared around a computer screen, connecting diners from different countries via Skype. The project brings together diners through links with universities, media groups, and civil society organizations.

Maddox describes the Virtual Dinner Guest Project as “a mechanism to play catch-up to where our governments are having a conversation. People are not consulted or directly in involved in high level dialogues, although their destinies are absolutely impacted by those kinds of decisions. In a failing global economy, it is becoming essential to be involved in the world in a practical way, not just through charity donations.” Echoing a global trend propelled by revolutions and civil society groups, he states: “at the end of day why shouldn’t they be spokesmen – we are all just one voice among many.”

In contrast to the traditional aid paradigm, Maddox aims to focus on local activists and create south-south collaborations, in which people and projects with similar concerns can support each other through their own experiences. Maddox’s aim is to work toward a global network of local actors who interact and practically apply the lesson’s learned from Virtual Dinners in their work: “Talk, digest and then act. That’s us,” Maddox says.

“Conflict is always going to exist,” Maddox remarks, “but how you manage it is important.” For him, engaging people in discussion is the first step toward building peace, and he is pursuing this belief one dinner at a time.

Read the full article at Muftah.

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Climate Change in Nebraska Requires Planning for the Future of Agriculture, Experts say

Nebraska is in the western cornbelt and in a marginal rainfall area to begin with, John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, told the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee on Tuesday.

“A little change in not only the amount but the timing of moisture has huge, huge consequences both on grain production but also livestock,” he said.

Hansen and climate specialists were testifying on a bill (LB583), introduced by Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm, that would beef up the state’s Climate Assessment Response Committee’s membership, reporting and communication duties to better prepare for changes.

The country is in the worst national drought in 50 years, and the past year was the warmest and driest ever in Nebraska, they said.

“We’re sitting here with virtually no subsoil moisture. We couldn’t possibly be more vulnerable as we go into this next growing season,” Hansen said.

Not dealing with the changes and volatility is not a prudent path forward, he said.

Haar’s bill would add a member of the High Plains Regional Climate Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to the Climate Assessment Response Committee. It would require the committee to report to the governor the impacts of climate change on Nebraska and how to prepare for it, and facilitate communication to address climate change impacts and response strategies.

Haar told the committee 34,000 daily record highs were set last year at weather stations across the country. The country also had the second most weather extremes on record, behind 1998.

“We need to start considering how to adapt to the impacts of the changes that are occurring and work diligently to ensure that we do not make the problems even worse,” he said.

Clint Rowe, professor in UNL’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said the state can no longer afford to debate if human-induced climate changes are happening. They are.

In September, record low amounts of sea ice were reported, he said.

“We’re loading the dice toward more extremes,” he said.

The 2012 drought was an eye opener, said Michael Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center and a member of the Climate Assessment  Response Committee. The warm and dry weather beat out the dust bowl years of the 1930s.

Across the country, economic losses from the drought are estimated between $35 billion and $77 billion.

While scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have said the drought falls within the context of natural climate variability, he said, the heat combined with the dryness in 2012 gives a glimpse of what future climate extremes might look like in Nebraska. And all climate models indicate increased temperature in the future.

Hansen said that although Nebraska has always been a state of weather extremes, it seems the volatility is increasing.

“We need to develop the tools we need to manage that volatility,” he said.

How does the state use less water? How does it store water more efficiently? How does it change its cropping patterns? How can it get more use out of the moisture it has?

One reliable study says Nebraska will be too far south to grow corn by 2050.

“Whether it’s 2050 or whether it’s 2080, whenever it is, it behooves us to be thinking about what it is that we do to develop appropriate kinds of crops and strategies to deal with the kind of weather that we’re getting,” he said.

Wild Foods in the Urban Economy

Calgary groups raise awareness of urban wild foods

by Matt Hanson

Local projects are redefining the food-scape in Calgary. Photo credit: Matt Hanson
Local projects are redefining the food-scape in Calgary. Photo credit: Matt Hanson

CALGARY—The landscape of food cultivation in Canada is changing. Economists predict an increase in food prices next year across Canada as the United States economy continues to decline. Wild foods harvesting is one of the many ways by which people across the country are confronting the current economic downturn and reclaiming their health sovereignty.

Despite Calgary Parks and Pathways Bylaw 20M2003, which prohibits wild foods harvesting by virtue of prohibiting any act to intentionally “damage, dig, cut, disturb or destroy any park vegetation, whether alive or dead,” there is a growing interest in wild foods harvesting.

Calgary Food Bank runs a wild game outreach program for schools. Piitoayis (Eagle Lodge) Family School located in southeast Calgary uses the program to educate K-6 students about Aboriginal traditions of wild game. “Calgary Food Bank received a number of inquiries from Aboriginal people requesting wild game meat with respect to their cultural traditions,” Calgary Food Bank Communications Coordinator Kathryn Sim told The Dominion regarding the initial interest to support a wild meat program. “We seek to provide a diversity of foods.”

There are numerous other projects in Calgary redefining the food-scape. Leaf Ninjas, a successful Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) urban farming initiative; and The Light Cellar, a raw superfoods specialty store, are engaging more youth in permaculture and wild foods harvesting is having a greater role in fostering local economic sustainability.

Daniel Vitalis, a leading health and personal development strategist, explains how wild foods are not limited to solid foods, but also include fresh spring water, air and sunlight. “It’s easy to think of the food we eat as nutrition. It’s a little bit more of a stretch for people to realize the water they drink is nutrition…now I want you to understand that your air is part of your nutrition,” said Vitalis. “We also need light to regulate a whole lot of our systems.”

“The economic system will decline on itself, so it is first necessary to live independently,” said Vitalis during his recent series of speaking engagements in Calgary. “We can develop food sovereignty by connecting with our local foodshed—food producers. This is about learning how to take care of your physical body in a new way.”

Urban farmer, gardener and Leaf Ninjas founder Luke Kimmel leads the initiative into its second year. Also at work on urban permaculture projects such as building shelter belts, Leaf Ninjas is active year–round, networking through community engagement events on their website. “Every time we pay for something, we give it value,” Kimmel told The Dominion. “Bringing wild foods into the urban economy is a way to give economic value to wild foods.”

Bylaw 20M2003 is “mutually disregarded by both wild food harvesters and local politicians,” says Kimmel. Employing the right to harvest local wild foods in Canadian cities is not futile. “Basically, that bylaw can be ignored,” says Kimmel. “People need to have access to their local food.”

Kimmel also shared with The Dominion many permaculture-savvy ways to engender wild nutrition activism in the city. “By using the seeds from plants that grow in the city as weeds, such as orach, I gather the seeds and plant them in my plots. Another way is by guerrilla gardening, where you can plant seed anywhere in any green space on public property,” says Kimmel.

In Canadian cities, young farmers are as rare as wild foods harvesters. “There are individuals who currently practice wild foods harvesting as their main or complementary economic activity. In Alberta, the chaga mushroom, which grows particularly in the boreal forests, has seen an upsurge in harvesting and trade,” says Kimmel.

“The city or municipality should have no say in what individuals harvest and trade,” says Vitalis. “The rule of law is not just the laws written down by legislatures—it’s the idea of a contract that exists between individuals.”

“People are disconnected from their food source,” Calgary local foods enthusiast Rogelio Lozano told The Dominion. The most recent survey conducted by Leger Marketing indicates that over 90 per cent of the Canadian population wants mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) food.

Calgary Harvest donates one third of fruit harvested from fruit trees on homeowner property to Calgary Food Bank. It is also accepting wild game donations starting this year. “Calgary Food Bank plans to issue notices to all hunters renewing and receiving licenses about donating wild game beginning in January 2013,” says Sim.

Local Food Systems and Public Policy: The Case of Zoning Laws in Quebec

Food is one of our basic needs. It is an integral part of culture and has been a driving force in the creation of human settlements. Originally, food was closely linked with urban form since most of it came from local or regional sources. However, over the past few decades, our food system has become increasingly globalized (MacLeod and Scott, 2007). With the rise of agribusiness, the ability to transport food cheaply over long distances and the development of food preservation based on technology have enabled the distance between farm and market to increase dramatically. Recently, such practices have been questioned for the damage they cause to the natural environment, high energy consumption, and their contribution to climate change. In addition, the quality of the food available to residents is subject to increasing concern. In fact, the trend toward increasing distances between producers and consumers has prompted many to question the environmental and social sustainability of our food choices (MacLeod and Scott, 2007). The question of how to feed the urban population, particularly during crisis, is becoming urgent every day. Concerns about health and the loss of tradition and culture that began to take hold in post-modern society, the spread of the ‘food desert’, especially in poor urban areas (Cummins and Macintyre, 2002: 436), where there is no easy access to affordable food, food banks and soup kitchens, demonstrated that the urgency of access to food and food security for everyone must be confronted. To note here, the modern movement for LFS (local food systems) as an alternative to the conventional agricultural system is not new. It started in Japan in the 1970s with the teikei, which means ‘putting the producer’s face on the product’ (Mundler 2007: 2). The teikei were organized around consumer cooperatives, whose members would link up with producers and even helped with the work on the farm (Pretty 1998: 164-165). A similar model was also adopted in Québec by Équiterre in 1995 where consumers, organized into groups, pay up front at the beginning of the season and receive deliveries of food baskets each week, thereby sharing the risk inherent in agricultural production (Blouin et al., 2009).

Agriculture is a major driver of human-caused climate change, contributing an estimated 25 to 30 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, when done sustainably it can be an important key to mitigating climate change (Nierenberg and Reynolds, 2012). The sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity is likely to be particularly beneficial for small-scale farmers, who need to optimize the limited resources that are available to them and for whom the access to external inputs is lacking due to financial or infrastructural constraints (FAO, 2011). Benefits on a large-scale can also be achieved by focusing on improvements relevant to large commercial farmers and conservation agriculture has already been effective in this respect. Inevitably, there is considerable skepticism over the practicality of the widespread adoption of agricultural production practices that embody a greater use of biodiversity for food and agriculture and a greater emphasis on ecosystem functions (FAO, 2011). Two major geopolitical realities have a constraining effect on peoples’ thinking. Firstly, modern, intensive farming in developed countries receives very large levels of financial support and all sectors of the agricultural and food industries are linked in to this highly subsidized system to a greater or lesser extent. Secondly, there is a continuing commitment to ensuring that food prices remain low and that basic foodstuffs are affordable by all sectors of society including the poorest. These both tend to lead to a disinterest in the nature of agricultural production systems and present a very real barrier to the development of new approaches to production (FAO, 2011). However, it is increasingly recognized that an appropriate policy framework can largely overcome these constraints and, indeed, must be developed (FA0, 2011).

In the last few years, more localized food supply chains have been proposed as a vehicle for sustainable development (Lyson 2004; Halweil & Worldwatch Institute 2002; Rosset & Land Research Action Network. 2006; Desmarais 2007; Via Campesina n.d.). We can note here that the term ‘local’ is still contested and its definition varies from one local market development organization to the next. Literally, the term ‘local’ indicates a relation to a particular place, a geographic entity. However, as our literature review has uncovered, most organizations have a more elaborate definition of what is local, often incorporating specific goals and objectives that an LFS ought to deliver into the definition itself. There are three aspects of LFS, which are proximity (geographic distance, temporal distance, political and administrative boundaries, bio-regions, and social distance), objectives of local food systems (economic, environmental and social objectives), and distribution mechanisms in local food systems (farm shops, farmer’s markets, box schemes, community-supported agriculture, institutional procurement policy, and urban agriculture).

Besides the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), there is a growing interest by the public sector for local food, which is mainly linked to the idea of food sovereignty – a global movement that aims to transform food systems into engines of sustainable development and social justice (Blouin et al., 2009). To note here that La Via Campesina was the first organization to develop the concept of food sovereignty in 1993 in Belgium as a more radical alternative to the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (Pimbert 2008: 41). Thus, the pursuit of food sovereignty implies that work should be done in international treaty negotiations and human rights conventions in order to allow state sovereignty over food policy—that is, to prevent interference from foreign powers in the policy-making process, lift restrictions placed by international trade agreements, and eliminate dumping practices (Blouin et al., 2009). In 2007 in Montreal, a definition of food sovereignty was developed by a Québec-based coalition for food sovereignty that included producer organizations, civil society groups, food distributors, and development organizations. The definition states that “food sovereignty means the right of people to develop their own food and agricultural policy; to protect and regulate national food production and trade in order to attain sustainable development goals, to determine their degree of food autonomy, and to eliminate dumping on their markets. Food sovereignty does not contradict trade in the sense that it is subordinated to the right of people to local food production, healthy and ecological, realized in equitable conditions that respect the right of every partner to decent working conditions and incomes” (Blouin et al., 2009).

Over the last 60 years, Canada‘s overall food system has become more geared to large-scale systems of production, distribution and retail. In Quebec, the agricultural, food processing, and retail sectors account for 6.8% of GDP and 12.5% of all jobs. The province produces fresh and processed food worth $19.2 billion, while only consuming $15.4 billion (a 25% surplus), and retailers imported $6.9 billion worth of fresh and processed foods last year. About 44% of Quebec’s raw and processed food production finds its way into Quebeckers’ plates, the rest being exported to other Canadian provinces (30%) and oversees (245) (MAPAQ, 2009). We can note here that since 1941, the evolution’s of Quebec’s agricultural landscape is characterized by the decrease in the number of farms and a market concentration dominated by few producers. And this is very similar to what we see in other Canadian provinces and other industrialized countries (Lemay J., 2009).

As it was already mentioned in this report, local food systems are proliferating in Quebec (Lemay J., 2009). There is now a growing interest in the production, processing, and buying of local food. New “local food systems” are being set up to organize the various components that will meet the needs of all the stakeholders in the community or region (Irshad, 2009). The initiatives that are helping in this process in Quebec are: organic and other specialized agriculture ((316 certified organic livestock production units, 341 organic maple syrup producers, and 585 certified farms (CARTV, 2009)), famer’s markets (network of 82 open markets, seasonal or permanent, daily or occasional), community- supported agriculture (CSA) (Équiterre runs a networkwith over 100 participants farms. Others: Union paysanne, La Mauve (Coop CSA)), and solidarity markets (A new phenomenon, solidarity markets are a more flexible box scheme. Consumers can an order through a web portal) (Lemay J., 2009). Despite the growth of these initiatives, there remain several obstacles inhibiting their expansion. The three main obstacles are: lack of financing (for example, banks are not willing to issue micro-loans at competitive rates), economic power (in fact, the food retail sector is marked by high rates of market concentration; supermarkets have been able to achieve economies of scale because they do not have to pay for the social and environmental costs of their business practices), and knowledge (the lack of demand for local food attributed to a lack of information about where to procure it, and a lack of information about prices).

Now, identifying every obstacle, policy and existing initiative related to the nodes in the value chain in the literature of Blouin et al., (2009), we notice there is a dilemma between land protection and land access. This is mostly attributed to the case of zoning policy. In 1978 and in the context of rapid economic development, speculation on land, fragmentation of the land and non-agricultural use, the government of Quebec passed agricultural land protection legislation, the second in Canada (Loi sur la protection des terres agricoles (LPTAA)). This law also reflected a desire to plan and regulate in this area and an overseeing agency was also created – the Commission de protection du territiore agricole du Quebec (CPTAQ). Except for a similar law in British Columbia, this law is the only one of its kind in Canada, and it effectively organized the use of agricultural land over the years. However, today with greater concentration of ownership and fewer people in the business of food production, the zoning law is causing problems since it acts as barrier for entry for smaller and more value-added producers who need smaller plots (Lemay J., 2009). In fact, the zoning law is one of the laws that facilitates industrial long-distance agriculture at the expense of small-scale sustainable agriculture and short supply chains (e.g. zoning laws that favor big farms, subsidy systems that favor big retailers, funding schemes targeted at large producers, …) (Blouin et al., 2009). At the same time, we can see this on an international level – the pressure for city expansion, speculation and non-agricultural use is still strong. Moreover, beyond the provincial level, municipalities have authority over certain zoning laws and by-laws that can facilitate or inhibit the development of LFS, particularly regulations concerning the use of agricultural zones for commercial purposes (Blouin et al., 2009). Though aimed at protecting agricultural zones from industrial development and other forms of encroachment, such by-laws effectively prevent on-farm direct sales or the use of farmland for farmers’ markets or farm shops (Wormsbecker 2007) and organizers of such initiatives typically have to negotiate with municipal authorities for special permits or designated spaces (Connell et al. 2007). However, agricultural zoning per se (designations for tax purposes) falls within provincial government jurisdiction or a land management agency, such as the Agricultural Land Reserve in British Columbia or the Commission pour la protection des terres agricoles du Québec (Blouin et al., 2009).

To conclude, to achieve this vision of food sovereignty, LFS have to go beyond the distance travelled by food products before they reach the final consumers (food miles) and integrate social, economic and environmental benefits. Also, Farmers’ markets, CSA and other initiatives are becoming increasingly present in industrial countries in recent years, but they still only represent a very small part of the food market (Blouin et al., 2009). For example, in Quebec, Équiterre’s CSA went from one to 102 farms between 1995 and 2006. It contributes to 73% of the average turnover of the farms, and yields an average annual profit of $3,582 annually when conventional agricultural produces an average annual loss of $6,255 (Chinnakonda & Telford, 2007: 38-39). In addition, regarding the zoning law, there are some good possibilities. In fact, within the existing law, new initiatives are emerging elsewhere and new possibilities can be developed in other provinces. These include cooperative land trusts and the collective buying of land and green belts (Lemay J., 2009). However, other aspects require reform. CPTAQ should be more flexible to LFS needs. For example, in one case, the CPTAQ has agreed to allow municipal authorities in Ste-Camille to take management over a large farm that was for sale in order to help new young families establish small farms. In order to do this, the CPTAQ de-zoned the land, thus technically empowering municipal authorities to develop it however they chose;  however, there was an understanding that the municipality would keep the land for agricultural use. If this case is inspiring, there should be a formal way to make such arrangements without necessarily de-zoning the land and placing it at risk. The main and remaining question is how to allow the creation of small farms without endangering land protection for the future of agriculture in Quebec, especially in the context of rising non-agricultural activities in farming areas (e.g. shale gas exploitation) (Lemay J., 2009). Even though there is no national policy to promote LFS, provincial governments have been active with various programs in this area. There is much variations from one provinces to another, but the existing programs tend to cluster on the demand side, focusing on consumer education and marketing projects, even running some themselves (the origin labeling and promotion programs). To a lesser extent, there are some programs to support organic farming (transition programs) but very few focusing on processing and distribution. Moreover, it is important to provide knowledge for policy action on food sovereignty given the gap which exists in understanding the impact of existing public policy initiatives (Blouin et al., 2009).

References:

Cummins, S., and Macintyre, S. (2002). “‘Food Deserts’ – Evidence and Assumption in Health Policy Making.” British Medical Journal Vol. 325, No. 7361: 436-438.

Blouin et al. (September, 2009). LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS AND PUBLIC POLICY: A REVIEW OF THE

LITERATURE. Équiterre &The Centre for Trade Policy and Law, Carleton University.

Chinnakonda, D. & and L. Telford. 2007. Les économies alimentaires locales et régionales au Canada: rapport sur la situation. Ottawa: Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada.

Lyson, T.A. 2004. Civic Agriculture. UPNE. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2009august/a1.phpp://www.joe.org/joe/2009august/a1.php

Halweil, B. & Worldwatch Institute. 2002. Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market. Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute.

Desmarais, A. 2007. La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of Peasants. Halifax, London, and Ann Arbor, Michigan: Fernwood Pub. Pluto Press.

Rosset, P. & Land Research Action Network. 2006. Promised Land: Competing Visions of Agrarian Reform. Oakland, California & New York: Food First Books.

Wormsbecker, C.L. 2007. Moving Towards the Local: The Barriers and Opportunities for Localizing Food Systems in Canada. Master of Environmental Studies in Environment and Resource Studies. University of Waterloo.

Vía Campesina. La Vía Campesina: International Peasant Movement—Small Scale Sustainable Farmers are Cooling Down the Earth. Available at: http://viacampesina.org/main_en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=457&Itemid=37 [Accessed June 13, 2009].

Pimbert, M. 2008. Towards Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming Autonomous Food Systems. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.

Connell, D.J., R. Borsato. & L. Gareau. 2007. Farmers, Farmers Markets, and Land Use Planning: Case Studies in Prince George and Quesnel. University of Northern British Columbia.

MacLeod, M., and Scott, J. (May, 2007). Local Food Procurement Policies:

A Literature Review. Ecology Action Centre For the Nova Scotia Department of Energy. Retrieved from http://www.ecologyaction.ca/files/images/file/Food/LocalFoodProcurementPolicies.pdf

Lemay J-F. (2009). Local Food Systems and Public Policy: The Case of Zoning Laws in Quebec. Retrieved from http://canada-europe-dialogue.ca/events/2011-03-03-05-LocalFoodSystems/summaries/2011-03-04-summary-jean-frederic-lemay.pdf

CARTV, (2009). Statistiques pour l’appelation biologique. Retrieved from http://cartv.gouv.qc.ca-statistiques-pour-lappelation-biologique

MAPAQ. (2009). Statistiques economiques de l’industrie bioalimentaire. Retrieved from http://mapaq.gouv.qc.ca/fr/md/statistiques/Pages/statistiques.aspx

Irshard, H. (2009). Local Food – A Rural Opportunity. Government of Alberta. Agriculture and Rural Development. Retrieved from http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/csi13484/$FILE/Local-Food-A-Rural-Opp.pdf

Nierenberg, D., and Reynolds, L. (December 4, 2012). Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production. WorldWatch Institute. Retrieved from http://www.worldwatch.org/supporting-climate-friendly-food-production

Mundler, P. 2007. Les Associations pour le maintien de l’agriculture paysanne (AMAP) en Rhône-

Alpes, entre marché et solidarité. Ruralia 2007-20. Available at: http://ruralia.revues.org/document1702.html [Accessed July 15, 2009].

Pretty, J. 1998. The Living Land: Agriculture, Food, and Community Regeneration in Rural Europe. London: Earthscan.

FAO. (2011). Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture: Contributing to food security and sustainability in a changing world. Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research (PAR). Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/biodiversity_paia/PAR-FAO-book_lr.pdf


Vulnerability of Farms and Adaptation to Climate Change in Quebec: Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Variability

During the course of their lifespan, humans were used to harvest what they cultivate by their own hands. However, this reality has changed with the development of technology especially with the beginning of the industrial revolution that began in the 18th century. The industrial revolution has encouraged the over-use of fossil fuels, which is a high-carbon economy, such as coal and natural gas. People began to dominate nature. They cut trees, they destroyed forests, and they overexploited almost any useful resource to an extent that their actions have exceeded the world’s carrying capacity. In 2007, the area that is available to produce renewable resources and absorb CO2, which is called “Footprint”, has exceeded the earth’s biocapacity by 50% (Alcamo et.al, 2010). This is true because the methods that people have adopted are unsustainable. In fact and according to the American Institute of Physics, it is predicted that by 2050, the demand of the world for energy will double due to population growth and to the industrialization of developing countries (Crabtree, 2004). During the 20th century, global temperatures rose by approximately 0.60 C and climate models estimate that this figure is set to rise to 20 C by 2100 (Houghton et al., 1996). According to a report published on 18 November by the World Bank, the average temperature of the planet may rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century (Torre, 2012). This global warming has been attributed in part to human activity, and in particular to the burning of fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2, methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), tropospheric (low-level) ozone (O3), and water vapour (H2O), are among the important gases that are able, in the atmosphere, to absorb heat radiated by the earth, whilst allowing the sun’s energy to pass through unobstructed (Haslett, 2008). As a result, the gases allow the atmosphere to act like a greenhouse, and are responsible for producing the earth’s average temperature of 150 C (Haslett, 2008). This has given rise to the phenomenon that is referred to as the Greenhouse Effect, and without this natural phenomenon, the earth’s average temperature would be in the region of -170 C (Haslett, 2008). Concern is focused on the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere from human activity, which is causing an increase in the Greenhouse Effect, resulting in global warming. It must be noted that global warming may not be only due to anthropogenic effects and that natural phenomena may be contributing, such as variations in solar radiation output (Haslett, 2008).

There has now been well over a decade of research into the adaptation of human activities to climate change and variability in several countries, including Canada (e.g. Brklacich et al., 1997; Bryant et al., 1997; Bryant et al., 2000). In the early 1990s, apart from a certain level of skepticism, much of the work on the impacts of climate change on agriculture centred on climate change modelling. At that point in time – the early 1990s – farmers’ perceptions certainly revealed the potential of farmer adaptation to climate change and variability (Bryant et al., 2007; Bryant et al., 2005). Comparison of future yields under different climate scenarios with current yields was thus explored, giving ‘impacts’ in terms of changes in yields (Bryant et al., 2000). The yields for different crop types could then be compared and implications for agricultural land use change were derived directly from these model outputs, and this was undertaken in Quebec as elsewhere in North America (Singh and Stewart, 1991; Rosenberg et al., 1992; Mearns et al., 1992; Semenov et al., 1995). However, climate change and variability were certainly not a major preoccupation for farmers (Bryant et al., 2007; Bryant et al., 2005). At the same time, research during the 1990s stressed the need to recognize the inherent spatial variability of conditions under which agriculture has developed, and therefore to validate adaptation indicators more extensively and analyze regional differentiation of agro-climatic conditions in relation to vulnerability and adaptive capacity. In addition, the need to incorporate “the human factor” in climate change adaptation research resulted in a comparable change in orientation that included human agency with the biophysical impact-based approaches (Singh et al., 1996, 1998; André et al., 1996). From there, the issue of the adaptation of agriculture to climate change and variability (Bryant et al., 1997) was highlighted, followed by effort directed at understanding the capacity for adaptation of different farmers and farming systems (e.g. Bryant and André, 2003). As a result, questions have thus increasingly been posed concerning how human agency is or can adjust to these changing conditions. Research into the adaptation question for agricultural activities has been underway in Canada now by several small research teams for the last 16 years (Brklacich et al., 1997; Bryant et al., 2000).

The following paper will briefly discuss the research program dealing with adaptation of agriculture to climate change and variability at the universities of Montreal and McGill since the fall, 2004. The program is an extension of a longer research thrust into farm adaptation (and the adaptation of other human activities) that has been carried out at the Université de Montréal since the early 1990s. The partners of this particular research program are Ouranos, a climate change consortium in Montreal, the Agricultural Financing Agency for Quebec, the Ministry of Agriculture (Quebec), the Farmers Union of Quebec, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The Ministry of Natural Resources Canada and Ouranos financed this program.

The project focuses on risk management strategies by Quebec farmers, combining historical analyses of significant climatic events, selected crop production enterprises and insurance claims (yield effects) with analyses of farm-level strategies in terms of farm productivity and profitability (e.g. crop combinations and diversification strategies, on-farm resources ((soils, water) management strategies, sales strategies)) following these events. Also, the project builds on the understanding from the past experiences of farmers in Quebec in adapting to and coping with extreme events of adapting versus not adapting to changing climatic conditions. The research focused on three agricultural regions in Quebec, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean (SLSJ) region, Centre-du-Québec and the South-West Quebec (Montreal).                                                                                                             The methodology is mainly based on a general conceptual framework which takes into consideration the bio-physical environment (e.g. climate and soil conditions) and the adaptation to climate change and variability as part of farmers’ risk management strategies. One should note here that the farmers’ risk management strategies are made ‘in context’, for example, in the context of other actors’ decisions which modify farmers’ perceptions either by providing farmers with additional information (e.g. the ‘good practices’ guides of La Financière, information provided by the MAPAQ and the UPA) or which determine certain parameters in the farmers’ decision-making environment (e.g. definition of crop insurance program regions, participation costs in insurance programs and other decisions that affect farmers’ assessments of costs and benefits). In addition, assessing how farmers perceive and address one particular source of stress, i.e. climate change and variability, must be seen in the context of the broader economic and political context (e.g. interest rates, exchange rates that affect costs of exports and imports and environmental regulation) as well as more regionally-based factors and processes, such as urban sprawl around major urban areas. As a first step, the Advisory or Steering Committee from the partners and stakeholders (Ouranos, MAPAQ, La Financière, UPA, Agriculture Canada) was set up. Second, a temporal analysis of climatic and crop loss information (using yields variability by production type and region relating to drought conditions, and other extreme climatic events (from La Financière)), as well as the regular reports of the Financière on crop growing conditions, was undertaken for the whole of Quebec. Third, the three target regions were identified. For the specific regions retained, an intra-regional analysis of climate-related claims relating to drought conditions (and other extreme climatic events)/losses/yields, was made in order to identify any concentrations (‘hot spots’). Organizing and facilitating focus groups with professionals in the regions retained, as well as farmers in the target regions, were done. Then, an analysis of farm models with and without adaptation was made. After that, the vulnerability at farm, sector and region levels, was assessed.

Since the three regions are very different from each others in many aspects (i.e. topography, municipal conditions, agricultural regions – in terms of climate conditions, soil conditions, crop composition and farm structure), the results of the project should be expected to be different in each region. Also, regarding the management of risk, farms should not necessarily be the same in each region.  The results of the research were divided into three main parts, which are: the level of preoccupation regarding excess rain, drought and freezing conditions, practices that had been modified or that were suggested following past events (excess precipitation, drought conditions and frost), and the most appropriate practices to modify in the future. With respect to the Level of preoccupation regarding excess rain, drought and freezing conditions, excess rainfall represented the primary preoccupation for farmers from the SW Quebec (Montreal) region, while for the Lac-St-Jean farmers it was lack of snow, and for Centre-du-Quebec farmers, the occurrence of low temperatures during the summer. For the professionals from the Centre-du-Québec, the preoccupations were mainly those relating to excess precipitation in the spring, summer drought and insects. For those from the SW Quebec (Montreal) region, the preoccupations were mainly centred on excess rainfall (fall and spring), frosts, insects, diseases, excess heat and drought. In the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, it was mainly lack of snow, as well as frosts, insects, diseases, excess heat and drought that were the main preoccupations. The perceptions of farmers and professionals from the same region were compared. For example, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean the professional group was not as preoccupied with strong winds, excess heat and temperatures as were the farmers. The presence of blueberry producers in the focus group certainly explains some of this difference.

Furthermore, talking about the level of preoccupation regarding excess rain, drought and freezing conditions, some slight differences were observed between farmers and professionals in their perception of climatic events. Farmers from the Centre-du-Québec were relatively less inclined to advocate a change in crops (solutions that were proposed by the professionals) and, instead, opted more to change the type of seed used (i.e. the cultivars). On the other hand, the solutions and perceptions of farmers and professionals converged in terms of the importance given to changing the timing of farmers’ work operations, the method of working the land, drainage and of modifying techniques of soil drainage. Generally, farmers had modified different practices in their fields following problems associated with drought (timing, seeding density and choice of seed type). The professionals from the three regions were more inclined to suggest changes in the methods of working the soil. Irrigation was suggested by a minority of participants. And in relation to past problems with frost, most of the professionals suggested modifying the timing of different practices as well as changing crop type in the three regions. Most of the farmers also noted a change in the timing of different work operations as well as the technique of working the soil following freezing conditions. In the Centre-du-Québec and the Lac-Saint-Jean region, crop protection as well as the modification of wind breaks had also been undertaken. In the Lac-Saint-Jean region, the participants noted they had changed seeds and crops in relatively similar proportions (roughly 50 %).           Furthermore, concerning the most appropriate practices to modify in the future, participants were asked whether climate change was important in their region and to assign a value to the different strategies or practices to follow in the future. Generally, the highest values were obtained from the farmers in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. These emphasized the importance of diversification, of abandoning certain types of crops considered to be vulnerable, and as well of changing crops in order to profit from any rise in temperatures. Farmers in the Lac-Saint-Jean and SW Quebec (Montreal) regions thought it was more important to obtain government assistance but also that it was important to modify agricultural tools and seeds.  Diversification of activities was considered in all three regions. Among agricultural professionals, diversification of activities was of interest in all three regions, as well as modifying ways of working the soil and also soil drainage. Those from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region assigned much more importance to abandoning vulnerable crops and to changing crops in order to benefit from climate warming and government aid. Professionals from the SW Quebec (Montreal) region appear to want to have farming profit from methanol and ethanol production. Those from the Centre-du-Québec expressed the desire to adjust irrigation techniques to the imperatives of climate change as much as drainage techniques.

To conclude, agriculture is a sector that is naturally sensitive to climate and among the most likely to be affected by changing climatic conditions in the future. However, agriculture under certain conditions has the capacity to deal with and adapt to various challenges. As a result, modern farm managers are now trying to incorporate climatic uncertainty in their decision-making procedures with the objective of minimizing the adverse effects of changing climatic conditions or taking advantage of them on their farm by adopting wise practices and strategies.

Some suggestions of farmers and professionals were made to reduce the risks associated with climate change and variability. In the SLSJ region, crop diversification; development of windbreaks (e.g. snow cover); experiment with new practices; better water management; better advice to the producers; and change crop insurance; were recommended. To the South-West Montreal, the insurance should give credit for various techniques. The yield insurance punished only good farmers and supports poor ones who are not able or do not work to improve their production. In the centre of Quebec, there is a need for retention ponds and buffer zones to the field line instead of draining the ditch water directly to the river. It is evident that there are significant spatial variations both at the interregional and intra regional patterns due to climatic extremes. The variation spatially appears to be as significant as the substantial variation in temporal patterns. It is important to note that vulnerability also encompasses the broader system characteristics, at the community or territorial level, at the region, provincial, federal and broader international levels and recognizing such effects related to multiple sources of stress affecting the farm decision taker. The recognition of the reality of multiple sources of stress affecting the farmers’ decision-making environment also provides us with a clue regarding why farmers perceive climate change and variability with different degrees of ‘urgency’. As a result, agricultural risks are linked to one another. Adopting a holistic approach to risk management is important (Rispoli, 2011). Furthermore, there are significant differences between farmers in their level of awareness and adaptive capacity to deal with climate change and variability. Moreover, a number of results suggest important pointers for public policy and intervention in the field of agricultural adaptation to climate change and variability. Here, the key thread is that of variability and how this presents both a challenge and a set of opportunities for public intervention. While broad policies can be constructed to facilitate adaptation, the significant challenge is that it is at the level of the farmers in their communities that final decisions have to be taken. Public policy and intervention must be able to address the significant patterns of variability that were revealed by the research. Not only do climate conditions vary significantly between regions, they also vary significantly within broad regions (more so in some regions than in others). It is evident from the focus group meetings, that there is also significant variation between farmers in their awareness and ability to adapt, and to recognize the benefits of adapting through integrating appropriate strategies into their farm operations. Thus, on the one hand there are significant challenges in the public sector, perhaps in conjunction with other institutions and organizations such as the UPA and the Clubs Conseils, to undertake significant roles in counselling as advisors to farmers, as information providers and as educators. In addition, it is clear that some farming communities are more aware than others, and therefore perhaps already better able to adapt to the changing environment. Part of this comes from the network of social relationships that is stronger in some regions than in others. Since some of the adaptation strategies that might be considered involve groups of farmers working together (e.g. some drainage schemes), then these advising, information and education roles may also need to be oriented towards building the social capital that underlies such collective adaptation projects. One of the challenges in this is that adaptation may be partly a cultural phenomenon. Other research by the Université de Montréal research team had earlier emphasized that adaptive capacity was strongly related to farmers’ ability to be self-critical and question their current ways of managing and planning their farm operations. And in order to enable the potential of policies and programs to be used effectively to enhance the adaptive capacity of farmers, the issue of adaptation to climate change needs to be addressed more explicitly in the implementation of these policies and programs. Of course, this is more easily said than done.

References:

Houghton, J.T., Meira Filho, L.G., Callander, B.A., Harris, N., Kattenberg, A. and Maskell, K. (Eds.).  1996.  Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Alcamo et.al, (2010). “The Living Planet Report”. WWF. Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?195695/Tropics-in-decline-as-natural-resources-exhausted-at-alarming-rate–WWF-2010-Living-Planet-report

Haslett, S. (29 Septembre, 2008). Coastal Systems. Introduction to Environment Series. Routledge.  ISBN 0415440610, 9780415440615

Crabtree et. al (2004, December). “The Hydrogen Economy”. Physicstoday. Retrieved from  http://tecnet.pte.enel.it/depositi/tecnet/articolisegnalati/1447/38648-

Torre, M. (19 November, 2012). La Banque mondiale s’alarme d’une hausse des températures de 4 degrés. World Bank. Retrieved from http://www.latribune.fr/entreprises-finance/industrie/energie-environnement/20121119trib000731794/la-banque-mondiale-s-alarme-d-une-hausse-des-temperatures-de-4-degres.html

Rispoli, F. (27 May, 2011). Risk management for smallholders farmers: Weather index-based insurance. Committee on World Food Security. IFAD. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/cfs/Docs1011/FVP/CFS_FVP_Risk_Management_for_Smallholder_Farmers.pdf

Brklacich et.al, (July, 1997). Implications of Global Climatic Change for Canadian Agriculture: A Review and Appraisal of Research 1984 to 1997: Volume 1: Synthesis and Research Needs, 42 pp.; Volume 2: Research and Report Summaries, 114 pp. Ottawa: Report submitted to the Environmental Adaptation Research Group, Atmospheric Environment Service, Environment Canada, July 1997.

Bryant, C.R. and André, P., (2003). Adaptation and sustainable development of the rural community, pp. 449-460 in Laurens, L. and Bryant, C.R. (eds.). Montréal and Montpellier: IGU Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems and the Université Paul Valéry, 2003.

Bryant et.al, (2000). Adaptation in Canadian agriculture to climatic variability and change. Climatic Change, 45: 181-201.

Bryant et.al, (2005). Climate Variability and Quebec: Lessons for Farm Adaptation from an Analysis of the Temporal and Spatial Patterns of Crop Insurance Claims in Quebec. National Conference on Adapting to Climate Change in Canada 2005: Understanding Risks and Building Capacity, Natural Resources Canada, Montréal. May 4th to 7th 2005.

Bryant et.al, (29 March, 2007). Farm-level Vulnerabilities and Adaptations to Climate Change in Quebec: Lessons from Farmer Risk Management and Adaptations to Climatic Variability. Submitted to Natural Resources Canada. Contact number: A931.

Singh, B., and Stewart, R.B.: 1991. Potential Impacts of CO2- Induced Climate Change Using the GISS Scenario on Agriculture in Quebec, Canada’, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 35, 327-347.

Singh et.al, (1996). Influence d’un changement climatique dû à une hausse de gaz a effet de serre sur l’agriculture au Québec. Atmosphère-Océan 34(2). 379-399.

Rosenberg, N.J., (1992). Adaptation of Agriculture to Climate Change. Climatic Change, 21, 385-405.

Semenov, M.A. and J.R. Porter, 1995: Climatic variability and the modelling of crop yields. Agric. For. Meteorol., 73, 265-283.

Mearns et.al, 1992: Effect of changes in interannual climatic variability on CERES-Wheat yields: sensitivity and 2×CO2 general circulation model studies. Agric. For. Meteorol., 62, 159-189.

Singh et.al, (1998). Impacts of a GHG-Induced Climate Change on Crop Yields: Effects of Accelration in Maturation, Moisture Stress and Optimal Temperature. Climatic Change 38, 51-86.

Andre et.al, (4 September, 1996). Passive Response of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to Osmotic Shifts: Cell Volume Variations Depending on the Physiological State. BIOCHEMICAL AND BIOPHYSICAL RESEARCH COMMUNICATIONS 227, 519–523. ARTICLE NO. 1539. Retrieved from http://gpma.u-bourgogne.fr/articles/1996-4.pdf

Evaluation of Agricultural Adaptation Processes and Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change and Variability: The Co-construction of New Adaptation Planning Tools with Stakeholders and Farming Communities in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Montérégie Regions of Québec

Analysis of

Evaluation of Agricultural Adaptation Processes and Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change and Variability: The Co-construction of New Adaptation Planning Tools with Stakeholders and Farming Communities in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Montérégie Regions of Québec

Agriculture is a very important element for a healthy society. In fact, anything that negatively affects agricultural production and its ramifications on the various aspects of our society and its environment is extremely worrying. This aspect has taken the attention of the world and particularly in developing countries. For a developed country like Canada, the concern in agriculture comes from the high energy consumption and its contribution to climate change. With the rise of agribusiness, the ability to transport food cheaply over long distances and the development of food preservation technology have enabled the distance between farm and market to increase dramatically. According to Agriculture Canada, the agri-business sector is one of Canada’s top five industries, constituting 8.5 % approximately of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (USDA, 2004). As a sector, agriculture has been obliged to respond to many changes, forces and processes over the course of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21stcentury. Market changes, technological change, changes in political support and programs and international competition, are all some of the examples of the several changes that happened and are still happening nowadays. And now, climate change- the main issue- with its increasing climate variability. Agriculture has to respond to these problems either by the farmers and their families directly, or through forms of support and aid provided by central states and their partners. The best way is to begin with farmers and their families since they are the cornerstone of agriculture. Then, given the facts of the limited adaptive capacity of farmers to many barriers (e.g. climate change), states (these states must have the adaptive capacity to integrate these new roles into their interventions. Not an easy challenge!) must also assist farmers to respond to such important issues, especially in enhancing the adaptive capacity of farmers to respond to climate change and variability. And we must not forget here that the participation of the state requires the mandatory presence of public policy. In fact, public policy always involves participation by the state sphere and public authorities (Vaillancourt, 2008).

Also note that, concerning the state, the players associated with it may belong to a variety of political scenes (local, regional, national, continental or global) (Vaillancourt, 2008) as well as non political domains. However, some progressive circles tried to adjust their focus so as to tighten the links between that policy and the needs of the communities concerned due to the hindsight gained following the welfare state and employment crisis of the 1980s (Jetté et al, 2000; Vaillancourt, Aubry and Jetté, 2003; Vaillancourt et al, 2004). As a result of the participation of different stakeholders in the making of public policy, the term ‘co-construction’ evolved. Co-construction means the participation by stakeholders from civil society and the market in the design of public policy (Vaillancourt, 2008). The term stands upstream from the adoption of public policy. In other words, it means the creation of public policy. To understand the co-construction process, we should break down the various stages involved in the genesis of public policy, which are: “identification of the main goals for attaining the general interest; choice of regulation standards to foster quality; determination of funding means (state, private, mixed, etc.); definition of responsibility-sharing with respect to management; arrangement of responsibility-sharing with respect to the delivery of ser­vices belonging to public policy; and establishment of the policy for evaluating public policy” (Vaillancourt, 2008).

This final synthesis report, that I am analyzing, is about the co-construction of planning tools with stakeholders and farming communities to help farmers adapt and increase their capacity to adapt to climate change and variability. One should keep in mind that adaptation is a complex process. By definition, adaptation is “the process or outcome that leads to a reduction in harm or risk of harm associated with climate change and variability” (UKCIP, 2003). The perspective taken by the project is that the farming community is not only responsible to assure the adaptation of agriculture. It is more appropriate, in this case, to speak of the co-construction of tools to help in farmers’ adaptation, as a result of the consequences of changing agriculture for a society.

The research focused on two agricultural regions in Quebec, the Montérégie and the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean (SLSJ) regions. Also, the project developed an extensive analysis of climate change and its impacts on agricultural yields, undertook interviews with farmers and professionals associated directly or indirectly with the agricultural sector to help determine the key determinants of adaptive capacity, and developed farm models for cash crop farms in the two regions in order to explore the merits of certain adaptive strategies. Throughout the project, a co-construction approach was used in the research process, and the project also informed the recommendations regarding future avenues for developing appropriate forms of public and collective intervention to enhance farmers’ adaptive capacity to respond to climate change.

Since the Montérégie region is very different than the SLSJ region in many respects (e.g. topography, municipal conditions, agricultural regions- in terms of climate conditions, soil conditions, crop composition and farm structure), the results of the project should be expected to be different in every region. The results showed that the impacts of climate change vary significantly between each region. Hence, differences between regions and areas of the Montérégie and SLSJ were expected in the impacts on agricultural yields related to the different climate scenarios used. Also, given the different conditions of the municipal conditions of each region, the adaptation strategies, specifically like the co-construction tools, adopted in each region were expected to be different. In addition, factors that are important in the farmers’ decision-making process were also different. A much greater importance was assigned to whether or not there is a clear successor to the farm in the SLSJ region. On the other hand, a much greater importance was attributed to changing market conditions in the Montérégie region. And as a very important note, all of the results stressed the huge significance of developing programs and policies that are responsive to the very different conditions (i.e. climate and soil conditions, and the economic and social structure of agriculture) in the regions of the Montérégie and SLSJ. Also, it was obvious that farmers expected to be aided in several ways in developing their adaptive capacity and selecting their adaptation strategies, mainly and preferably by actors who had a relatively permanent presence in their territories or regions.

In the recommendation part, the project concluded that a form of territorialisation of public and collective intervention, and policies, is necessary. This essentially requires forming partnerships between the federal and especially provincial level, on the one hand, and regional and local actors on the other hand. However, one should note here that it is difficult to obtain social quality and public policy by relying only on state intervention, (Vaillancourt, 2008). And that is where the distinction between co-construction and co-production of policy begins to be helpful. Besides, at the local level, it is critical to provide training for actors in the use of various tools for helping farmers and groups of farmers, and as well in the whole field of climate change. For instance, developing a credible and respected local presence, depending on each region, is in effect equivalent to developing a form of extension network.

To conclude, it is important to encourage exchanges on a more systematic and regular basis between farmers, and between farmers and professionals associated with agriculture in each region. Since public policy is a form of intervention and since climate change is not the only stress that impacts agriculture, public policy should be based firmly on a holistic approach in which policies and programs at all scales including the regional level, that influence agriculture, the environment and agricultural and rural communities, must be integrated and monitored to ensure a minimum of conflict between the policies so that they do not themselves obstruct the process of adaptation. It is important not to forget that public policy is a complex process. “Intervention by the public authorities may take a large variety of forms, including legislation, regulations, policy statements, white papers, budget announcements and fiscal measures” (Vaillancourt, 2008). To add to and in order to enable the potential of policies and programs to be used effectively to enhance the adaptive capacity of farmers, the issue of adaptation to climate change needs to be addressed more explicitly in the implementation of these policies and programs. Of course, this is more easily said than done.

References:

JETTÉ, Christian, LÉVESQUE, Benoît, MAGER, Lucie and Yves VAILLANCOURT (2000). Économie sociale et transformation de l’État-providence dans le domaine de la santé et du bien-être: une recension des écrits (1990-2000), Sainte-Foy, PUQ, 202 p.

VAILLANCOURT, Yves, AUBRY, François and Christian JETTÉ (dir.) (2003). L’économie sociale dans les services à domicile, Québec City, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 341 p.

VAILLANCOURT, Yves, AUBRY, François, KEARNEY, Muriel, THÉRIAULT, Luc and Louise TREMBLAY (2004). “The Contribution of the Social Economy Towards Healthy Social Policy Reforms in Canada: A Quebec Viewpoint,” in Dennis Raphael (Ed.), Social Determinants of Health. Canadian Perspectives, Toronto, Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc., 311–329.

Vaillancourt, Y (July, 2008). Social Economy in the co-construction of public policy

La démocratisation des politiques publiques: Une vision canadienne et québécoise. Occasional Paper Series 03.Retrieved from http://socialeconomyhub.ca/sites/socialeconomyhub.ca/files/CSEHubOP3YvesVaillancourt.pdf

USDA, (19 October, 2004). Map of Canadian Provinces and Territories. Retrieved from http://www.fas.usda.gov/remote/canada/index.htm

UK Climate Impacts Programme, UKCIP, (May, 2003). Climate adaptation: Risk, uncertainty and decision-making. Retrieved from http://www.ukcip.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/PDFs/Risk.pdf


Analysis: Adaptation of Agriculture to climate change: Tera Department, Niger

 L’analyse de:

Adaptation de l’agriculture aux changements climatiques: Cas du département de Téra au Niger

(http://www.geog.umontreal.ca/D3T/Documents_pdf/memoire_Daouda_Hamani230407.pdf)

Niger is considered to be a 3/4 desert country because of the fact of not having sufficient rainfall to enough support the growth of its trees or woody plants. Adding that it is a third world country (i.e. extreme drought, no agricultural insurance for the farmers), Niger is very vulnerable to climate change. Insuring food security in a changing climate in Niger has become an urgent criterion to be worked from now on. Niger depends on agriculture since it plays an important role in the economy of the country. Actually, the agriculture sector in Niger contributes between 30 and 40% to the total GDP of the country, and the majority (80%) of the total Nigerian population depends on it. In addition, the effects of climate change are increasing and becoming known worldwide; despite this, the physical knowledge of climate change is currently insufficient for decision makers. In fact, one of the key issues for asset owners and decision makers is to know how and when to adapt or help a certain community to adapt to the increased risks of the impacts of climate change, especially when considering decisions regarding investment and development strategies in a certain area or country. As a result, to determine if/when, and how to adapt to a changing climate, decision makers such as scientists need to develop methodologies. The following written thesis by Omar Daouda develops a methodology to investigate how agriculture in Niger, specifically the Tera Department, can best adapt to climate change.

The methodology is based on four criteria – the impact on the revenue of population; the impact on food security; the management of natural resources; and the revival of the local economy, and five alternatives – reinforcement of the capacities of technical services; rational use of water resources; vulgarization of plant and animal species that are best adapted to the climatic conditions; diversification and intensification of irrigated crops and forage species; and development of actions for water and soil conservation and soil restoration (CES / DRS) for forestry, agricultural and pastoral activities. The criteria and the alternatives were chosen based on their pertinence with the national guidelines of SRP (Strategy of Poverty Reduction in Niger), SDR (Strategy of the Rural Development in Niger), and PANA (National Action Plan for Adaptation to climate change). Since the objective of the study is to obtain the most adaptable solutions in a given context, AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process), a multicriteria tool, was chosen as the best methodology among the most used methods such as cost/benefit and cost/efficiency analyses. AHP is a methodology that aims to resolve problems with several alternatives by simultaneously applying several criteria decisions. A comparison, specifically a binary comparison, to the main objective which is finding efficient options of adaptation to limit the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture, between the four criteria was made. Then, a comparison, also binary, to each criterion was made between the five alternatives.

If we take the four criteria, we can notice that four of them are connected in the sense that three of them are aimed at an ultimate goal, which is food security – the second criteria taken in the methodology. By definition, food security“exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”(World Food Summit, 1996). Plus, in the strategies of adaptation of agriculture to climate change, the impact on food security aims to eliminate famine. What must not be forgotten here that it is poverty, and not food deficiency, that leads to famine. In addition, the results of different multicriteria analyses showed that “the impact on food security”, with a weight of 55%, is the most important criterion that all the coping adaptation strategies of agriculture to climate change must be focused on in the department of Tera. According to the results of the methodology and since the “development of plant and animal species best adapted to climatic conditions” was proven to be the best alternative (with a weight of 47.4%), the criterion “impact on food security” should be mainly achieved by working on this third alternative. This alternative is based on the popularization of the animal and plant species that have the best ecological plasticity (resilience) to extreme drought. For example, in very old studies, Ziziphus mauritiana, Acacia laeta, Acacia seyal, Boscia angustifolia, Boscia salicifolia, Acacia Ehrenbergiana, and Rhus oxyacantha, were shown to be among the best adaptable plant species in the arid environment of Niger (Aubreville et.al, 1993). Furthermore, the vulgarization of the best adaptable animal species to drought, like camel, can help.

On the other hand, the strengthening of technical services (with a weight of 4.4%), such as human, physical and financial capital, was the least preferable alternative. Seeing this should not be shocking because of the past results which didn’t meet the anticipated expectations. Furthermore, the donors who provided the funding for these services came from NGOs rather than the state. We can conclude here that unlike the state, NGOs play an important role in helping communities to adapt to the negative effects of climate change in the Tera Department. Also, one should notice that NGOs are not playing that effective role in helping the inhabitants of the Department of Tera to well adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. Where has all the technical support, such as all terrain-vehicles/tractors, gone? This makes us realize that most of the NGOs are not playing a sufficient role in the field of adaptation of agriculture to climate change. And apparently, there is an obvious gap between the role of international and local NGOs. Also, it is true that NGOs are increasing in number and influence. At the same time, the politics of NGOs poses challenges for those who must implement a sustainable development policy (Ffolliot et.al, 2011). According to UNDP estimates, by 2002, more than $7 billion in aid to developing countries will flow through international NGOs (Mitri, 2011). So if the aids were flowing correctly, countries of the developing world, like Niger, would not have witnessed such extreme poverty. In addition, one should keep in mind that the excess of technical services, especially the physical capital, can cause damage to agriculture and the physical atmosphere, emitting more greenhouse gases. The second law of thermodynamics states that “all physical processes, natural and technological, proceed in such a way that the availability of the energy involved decreases” (Daly & Townsend, 1992). So, 100% efficiency does not exist. The first and the second laws of thermodynamics make it clear that all the energy used on the face of the Earth, renewable and non-renewable forms of energy, will ultimately be degraded to heat (Daly & Townsend, 1992). Moreover, the weights of the alternatives “rational use of water resources” and “diversification and intensification of irrigated crops and forage species”, which are respectively 7.2%and 17.3% seems more surprising. The explanation of this is that the Department of Tera does not have sufficient groundwater, unlike the rest of the country. Only surface water is available and it undergoes a competition between the population on one side, and between cattle and evaporation on the other side. Thus, intensification is hard to achieve in a place like the Tera Department because of the overexploitation of the scarce, available natural resources. It is important not to forget here that intensification can also have disadvantages. In fact, agricultural intensification can cause severe damage to the crops, individuals (i.e. farmers) and the physical atmosphere since it requires large inputs of labor, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and capital, on the same amount of land. Nitrogen-based fertilizers are an example on this. In fact, nitrogen-based fertilizers contribute significantly to the release into the atmosphere of nitrous oxide, a leading greenhouse gas with more than 300 times the heat-trapping impact of carbon dioxide (National Science Foundation, 2012). Mechanization which includes mechanical ploughing, harvesting and irrigation, is one of those examples. “By eliminating the traditional partner- the draft animal- the mechanization of agriculture allows the entire land area to be allocated to the production of food” (Daly & Townsend, 1992). On the other hand, the criteria “development of actions for water and soil conservation and soil restoration (CES / DRS) for forestry, agricultural and pastoral activities”, accounted for 25.1%, making it the second among the alternatives of adaptation of agriculture to climate change in the Department of Tera. Stone barriers (or stone contour lines), drip irrigation (or improved diguette system) and half-moon techniques were proven to be effective agro-forestry policies in the conservation and restoration of soil and water in the strategy of adaptation to climate change, especially when fighting wind and hybrid erosion in the Tera Department.

To conclude, the Tera Department is one of the vulnerable regions in Niger. And even if the region depends on the production of cattle, sheep and goats, for its economy, the emissions of greenhouse gases from such country are small compared to other regions in the developing world. Moreover, the vulgarization of plant and animal species has proven to be the best alternative for ensuring food security in a country very susceptible to the effects of climate change. Furthermore, when considering the adaption strategies to climate change, all the considered alternatives should work together since they are interrelated. Also, the state, NGOs and researchers, have an important role to play to assure the ultimate contribution of each alternative. If they work well together, they can achieve the best results of each alternative, especially the third alternative – the vulgarization of plant and animal species which are the most adapted to climate change (and the emerging climate conditions). This third alternative has important results on the other alternatives such as development of actions for water and soil conservation and soil restoration. For example, by first dissipating or popularizing the information about the best adapted plant and animal species to climate change, the actions of conservation and restoration can be improved for the better. In addition, the strategies for the adaption to climate change have their limits too.

Moreover, the role of different actors is very critical in raising the adaptation capacity of farmers to climate change. Policymakers, technical services, researchers, and farmers, have an important function to play, especially when it comes to assuring food security in a country that shows a poor resilience to the negative effects of climate change. For example, by favoring the research on agriculture and promoting the use of natural phosphates to fertilize land and actions against poverty through income-generating activities, policymakers can contribute to the vulgarization of plant and animal species the most adapted to climate change. The technical services can coordinate interventions in consultation with NGOs, and do an outreach campaign and training for farmers. Besides using the tools of an early warning system to plan agricultural and pastoral activities, researchers can promote, develop and disseminate information about the local plant and animal species the most resistant to drought. Farmers can prepare and disseminate a cultural calendar for the implementation of various agricultural operations such as the use of improved varieties (i.e. variety selection and breeding, crop rotation) that are adapted to the agro-climatic conditions of the area.

In addition, the missing part that I noted in the recommendation part of the written thesis of Omar, was the conflict between the farmer and the livestock producer. Actually, the forage plants are the cornerstone of rangeland management (Ffolliot et.al, 2011). “For sustained use of forage plants, the correct number of grazing livestock on a rangeland must be balanced with available forager sources” (Ffolliot et.al, 2011). In fact, the existing issue between farmers and livestock producers is an issue of managing the commons. The tragedy of commons is about the tragedy of freedom in a commons, and it involves population problems. Even if the effects of grazing are not felt by the herdsmen of a third world country due to low emissions of greenhouse gases, rangeland management should be an important goal in the policymaking decision to ensure food security. And of course, governments; researchers (i.e. ecologists) and farmers should play an essential role in this.

Furthermore, the role of different players should be integrated between the players, and the different players should be helpful and cooperative. Furthermore, one should notice that the AHP tool used in this study is a decision making process. In fact, the decision making process in natural resources management is based on four sequential steps, which are problem recognition, specification of strategies, specification of the decision criterion or criteria, and selection of the optimum strategy (Ffolliot et.al, 2011). Each alternative used to a recognized problem/criterion is a strategy. And that’s what the AHP tool used in the study was about.

To add, managing the policy process involves the players, policy dialogue, getting the timing right, and the role of communications (Mitri, 2011). “It is important to include all key stakeholders in the environmental policy process and to identify and nurture participants who can play a leadership or supporting role in advancing the policy process” (Ffolliot et.al, 2011). Donor coordination is also a very important for consistent and effective policies to emerge from the policy process. The policy dialogue enables the transparency and effectiveness of decision-making in the environmental policy arena (Mitri, 2011). It is important not to forget that the diffusion of the results of the dialogue to the local community or farmers, should be done in an explicit way. Also, the right timing is a significant component of the policy process. Since the policy process can take place over several months and years, persistence and patience are required (Mitri, 2011). The final management element in the policy process is communication. “Communication provides the means for building consensus among the public and stakeholders to support the policy reform that emerge from that consultative process” (Ffolliot et.al, 2011). And that is how the co-construction of effective public policies can emerge. All kinds of players should be cooperative between each others in order to assure the trust between farmers and different stakeholders.

On a final note, we need to help each other. If different players act separately, the objective of food security, especially in a vulnerable country like Niger, will not be met. And it seems like we are living in an irony, or should we call it a negative feedback to use a scientific term. Speaking in general, without taking any specific country, agriculture is a major contributor to climate change. According to the New York Times reports, approximately a third of all the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and forestry (Gillis, 2011). And here we – researchers; farmers; governments and NGOs – are now must have effective and immediate solutions for the adaptation of agriculture in the face of the devastating effects of climate change to ensure food security. Economic and population growth are the root causes of our environmental problems. In my opinion, it is better to work on the root causes instead of finding solutions to the problems, or both!

Of course, easier said than done.

As Pogo said during the Vietnam War, “We’ve been the enemy and it us. Suddenly, we are both the invading barbarians and the only ones around to protect the city. Each one of us is at the center of the civilized world and on its edge” (Fennell, 2003).

References:

Fennell, D. (October 5, 2003). Ecotourism. Third Edition. Psychology Press. Routledge.

Ffolliott, P. et al. (2001). Natural Resources Management Practices, Iowa State Press.

Daly, E., and Townsend, K. (1992). Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics. The MIT Press. Second Edition.

Aubreville, A. et al. (1993). Critères de choix du tracé et Liste indicative des espèces végétales. Retrieved from http://www.grandemurailleverte.org/donnees/especes_vegetal.pdf

Gillis, J. (June 4, 2011). Damaging the Earth to Feed Its People. The New York Times.

Mitri, G. (April 14, 2011).Decision-making and policymaking process: part 1. Lecture 15. University of Balamand.

National Science Foundation. (July 18, 2012). Scientists Develop New Carbon Accounting Method. Press Release 12-133. Retrieved from  http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123848

World Food Summit. (1996). Rome Declaration on World Food Security. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/righttofood/KC/downloads/vl/en/details/212325.htm