Business as usual is not an option

As the UK election is approaching, Find Your Feet is one of the 188 organisations that joined the Vote Global manifesto.

One of the key demands in the Vote Global manifesto is that the UK government support the poorest countries to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, ensuring that this funding is additional to official development assistance. 

Poor people living in rural areas, who depend on farming to feed their families, are already suffering the effects of climate change. Their crops are failing more frequently, meaning that they are seriously struggling to grow enough to survive.

In the wake of the World Food Crisis, over the past couple of years debates have raged as to how we can best feed the world.  A 2007 intergovernmental report, co-sponsored by 7 UN agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation and World Bank suggested that a ‘business as usual’ approach to agriculture was not sufficient. However there is little evidence that different approaches to agriculture are seriously being considered.

The approaches I am talking about are, in fact, centuries old. Early farming systems were characterised by diversity – depending on a wide range of plants and animals for food. In fact there is still there is successful farming going on in many countries that makes good use of polycultures; land husbandry practices such as crop and field rotation, composting and use of legumes; and of ‘traditional’ varieties of seed bred for resilience across a range of conditions. This agricultural approach, which is broadly termed ‘agroecology’ is productive, resilient in the face of environmental shocks, and less dependent on fossil fuels; it also offers consumers a source of good quality healthy food and offers farmers fulfilment as valued members of a community.

Whilst the industrial agricultural approaches regarded as exemplary in the twentieth century have reduced the drudgery of agriculture, and in many cases increased production, there have also been great environmental costs. Industrial agriculture, which is characterised by the use of non-renewable resources that deplete the environment, constitutes our recent past. It cannot, however, be our future.

Agroecology challenges us to move beyond the narrow focus of ‘Green Revolution’-type approaches that privilege production over all other criteria, to a more coherent, sustainable, vision for the future. It is both conservative when it comes to the potential over utilisation of environmental resources and radical in its protection of the rights of small family farmers and its promotion of a new paradigm for agriculture – one that recognises the interconnections between food, farm, family and notions of a just society, not just ever increasing production.

At this election we would like to see a real recognition of the fact that, in the light of the pressures of climate change, ‘business as usual is not an option.’ In considering how we are going to support the poorest countries to adapt to and mitigate against climate change there needs to be space for a serious consideration of how exactly this ‘additional’ funding will be used.

Dr. Dan Taylor is Director of Find Your Feet

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