New agriculture minister acknowledges lack of consultation on ALR changes, BC, Canada

Published on April 17, 2004 on http://www.bcndp.ca/newsroom/new-agriculture-minister-acknowledges-lack-consultation-alr-changes

KAMLOOPS – Norm Letnick, Christy Clark’s latest agriculture minister, is acknowledging that there has not been real consultation to allow for the Liberals’ Bill 24 to move forward, say the New Democrats.

“Mr. Letnick latest public comments reflect that the Liberals never received any mandate from farmers and British Columbians across this province to make such sweeping changes to B.C.’s revered Agricultural Land Reserve that undermine our food security and farming sector,” said New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix. “Not only did the Liberals not campaign on changing the ALR, after entering office they never once consulted on this legislation.”

Letnick acknowledged Wednesday that the opposition to the legislation from within the agriculture sector is causing him to revisit the government’s lack of consultation on the legislation.

“One of the Liberals’ primary premises for Bill 24 – that a majority of farmland in the ALR outside of Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and Okanagan, is not productive farmland – has been thoroughly discredited by experts, who have informed the premier that the opposite is true,” said New Democrat small business critic Lana Popham.

“This not only reveals the Liberals’ lack of knowledge on the true overall value of the ALR, it reinforces that they never held any informed consultation on the ALR as part of the Core Review process that led this legislation. Real consultation would have resulted in better public policy that truly supports farmers, farming and our food security. Until such consultation takes place, Bill 24 needs to be shelved.”

A letter soil experts sent to the premier last week unequivocally stated that Bill 24 was putting at risk millions of hectares of high-class agriculture land located in the Interior, the Kootenays, and the north.

“These experts make clear that the government’s attempt to divide ALR into two zones – reserving Zone 1 for agriculture but not Zone 2 – is flawed, and based on erroneous assumptions. The truth is that the majority of B.C.’s best farmland is in Zone 2: 2 million hectares compared to 350,000 hectares. And in a province where only five per cent of the land base is suitable for agriculture, all these hectares need to be preserved and protected,” said Popham, who is also MLA for Saanich South and a former farmer.

Dix and Popham were in Kamloops Thursday meeting with agriculture groups as part of the Official Opposition’s ongoing effort to pressure the Liberals to shelve Bill 24, and to adopt legislative measures that actually promote farming, productivity in the ALR and B.C.’s food security. To achieve these ends, Dix has tabled the BC Local Food Act, which is being endorsed by agriculture groups including B.C. Local Food Systems and Farm to Cafeteria Canada.

The main elements of the legislation include implementing a comprehensive strategy on government purchasing locally grown food; reintroducing the successful Buy BC program; mandating a legislative committee on food and agriculture to prepare, in consort with the agriculture minister, a plan to increase local food production, marketing, and processing. The plan would set targets and implement policies to meet those targets which would be reported on annually in the legislature.

“Contrary to the claims made by Bill Bennett – the minister in charge of Core Review – farmers and British Columbians across this province are making it very clear that this is not the agriculture legislation our province needs. The ALR is supported by more than 80 per cent of people in this province, who recognize that if it is dismantled, their food security and local economy will suffer,” said Popham.

And more recently, WATCH: B.C. Farmers hope opposition ‘ploughs down’ Bill 24

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The McGill Food Systems Project

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You sit down to eat at a cafeteria on campus. Before the food even reaches your plate, it has a story. What if that story took place entirely on campus? The menu has been set by a group of Nutrition and Dietetics students, who rigorously researched a healthy, seasonal and delicious combination of foods for you to choose from. All of the fresh produce was grown at the Macdonald Campus Farm, or at an urban garden on the Downtown Campus – living examples of agricultural systems in harmony with their natural local surroundings which were studied by agricultural, environment and urban planning students alike. The stalks were used to provide energy to the greenhouse, and the preparation waste was composted on site for the next growing season. Every step of the process was intentional, efficient, and sustainable.

 Not only was the food grown and consumed at McGill, its cultivation contributed to the academic development of the students who helped produce it.

The McGill Food Systems Project is a collaborative initiative between Students, Professors, McGill Food and Dining Services, and the McGill Office of Sustainability.

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Using student research, community engagement, and stakeholder collaboration, we work to maximize the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the food systems of McGill’s downtown campus. The goal of the project is to get members of the campus, regional community, and food supply chain working together create a food system they can be proud to eat from.

For more: http://www.mcgill.ca/mfsp/

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


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

A Glimpse at Venezuela’s Urban Food Revolution in Caracas

By Rachael Boothroyd

In the hilltops of barrio Antímano in the urban metropolis of Caracas, surrounded by defunct factories, there is a quiet food revolution going on.

The Fernando Carlos Clavijo “agricultural production unit,” is just one of the more than 19,000 farming cooperatives being developed by the government in conjunction with organized communities in a bid to change the way food is produced in Venezuela and to move towards a model of sustainable and community-based food production.

The idea of the UPA in Antímano was originally thought up by families in the area, who spent 3 months cleaning the area and making it suitable for food cultivation. However the project is also supported by the State, and the unit has received economic and technical support through the Ministry of Agriculture, the national Agriculture Bank and CIARA (Training and Innovation Support Service for the Agrarian Revolution).

The unit has been up and running for over a year now and grows all kinds of fruits and vegetables, including cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions and papaya, and will soon begin to produce eggs. The products are sold at low prices to the local community, or often given away or exchanged for other goods.

As well as the cultivation of vegetables, the unit is also experimenting with different methods of fish farming to produce cachamas, a type of Venezuelan fish, in heated tanks outside.

Orailene Macarri, one of the women belonging to the unit, told me that there are currently 15 families working there, and that the government’s ultimate goal is for all communities to have access to a UPA.

The unit is considered to be so successful that the families involved have been put in charge of organising training days and helping other units to mimic the experience.

These heated tanks are used for fish (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

The unit currently has over 500 cachama (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

A cachama (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

Inside the greenhouse (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

Spring onion (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

These little tables are being promoted by the government as a way for those who live in the barrio to grow their own vegetables. Citizens can apply for the tables, as well as training packs, fertilizer and seeds through their communal councils or directly through the Ministry of Agriculture. The government has also set up information points in the capital’s metros to inform citizens of the project (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

An example of how the tables are being used by a family in the hilltops of Antímano barrio… (Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

(Rachael Boothroyd/Venezuelanalysis)

Event: Les Récoltes Urbaines de Montréal/ The Urban Harvests of Montreal- 28 September

By Cherine Akkari

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, with the rise of agribusiness, the ability to transport food cheaply over long distances and the development of food preservation 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 in subject to increasing concern. The question of how to feed the urban population, particularly during crisis, is becoming urgent every day. The spread of ‘food desert’, 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.

Friday 28 September, 2012 an event ‘Les Récoltes Urbaines de Montréal’ was held near west Saint-Laurent Metro Station. The objective of the event was to celebrate agriculture and local food.

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Urban farmers, specifically Peri-urban farmers, came to this event promoting their local food.

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Chefs were present too! They were cooking local fruits and vegetables and tasting them to the attendants, in solidarity with the Peri-urban farmers.

Moreover, There was a big indoor board on which examples on how supporting local food/agriculture were presented: Image

Here are the examples that were present on the board:

-) Lufa Farms– the first commercial greenhouse operating on an urban rooftop in the world

-) Maison Productive House (MPH) in Montreal

-) Carrot City

-) Strantropol Roulant Montreal

-) Nutri- Centre La Salle

-) Crapaud- UQAM

-) Maison Ecohabitation

P.S: All the above photos were taken by Cherine Akkari