Industrial agriculture and food production are major contributors to climate change, and the small-scale farmers whose regenerative practices our future relies on are bearing the brunt of the impacts. In recent years, these farmers have experienced increasing pest pressure, decreasing yields and a quickly changing landscape — all of which are threatening their livelihoods. Considering that small-scale farmers feed the majority of the developing world, the implications are serious.
Agroecological strategies for combating climate change and feeding hungry communities, such as using cover crops and compost to boost soil organic matter and fertility, must be a global priority, scaling up and out in coming years. Despite the serious threat that climate change poses to humanity in general, and to small-scale farmers in particular, proven solutions like small-scale regenerative agriculture receive little government or market support and safeguards.
Why Small-Scale Farmers?
380 million smallholder farming families in the Global South produce over 70% of food (as measured by total calories) for the Global South and at least half, by the same measurement, consumed globally.
Small-scale farmers are among the most affected by climate change even though they don’t produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.
Small-scale farmers practicing regenerative organic agriculture can drawdown greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate global climate change.
Small-scale farmers receive little government or market support and safeguards and are vulnerable to increasing pest pressure, decreasing yields, and climate extremes.
Stand With Small Farmers
Supporting and developing small-scale regenerative farming, however, will require significant resources, research and funding. Experience has shown that farmers around the world learn best from their peers. Emerging from Central America in the 1970s, the “Farmer-to-Farmer” movement has fueled the training of thousands of peasant farmers by facilitating the exchange of practical experiences and best practices. This movement is based upon community empowerment, traditional knowledge, and local innovation and cooperation.
Small Farmers Cool the Planet
Industrial agriculture is a key driver in the generation of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for 30-50% of total emissions. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, heavy machinery, monocultures, land change, deforestation, refrigeration, waste, and transportation all contribute to a food system that generates significant emissions and affects global climate change. However, small-scale farmers and pastoralists could sequester a significant amount of CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices. In fact, recent studies demonstrate that small-scale farmers already feed the majority of the world with access to less than a quarter of all farmland, while actively sequestering CO2. Even though small farmers are by and large more productive than big farms, we are fast losing small farms in many places, while big farms are getting even bigger and generating more GHG emissions.