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Farming implicated in climate change

Food production accounts for almost one third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a study published last week by the agricultural research organisation CGIAR.

Food systems, from growing crops and raising livestock to storage and transportation, contribute 19 to 29 per cent of global man-made GHG emissions, releasing 9,800 to 16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2008, the report Climate Change and Food Systems by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security said.

Agricultural production accounts for 80 to 86 per cent of total food system emissions.

“Not only are emissions from agriculture much larger than previously estimated, but with weather records being set every month as regional climates adjust and reset, there is an urgent need for research that helps smallholder farmers adapt to the new normal,” said Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium.

According to Cambodia’s Initial National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2002, agriculture accounted for 15.5 per cent of GHG emissions and removals in the 1994 GHG inventory. Within the agricultural sector, domestic livestock accounted for 48.1 per cent of greenhouse gas and precursors emissions in 1994, followed by rice cultivation with 29.9 per cent and agricultural soil of 20.9 per cent.

Projections said agriculture will account for 27.5 per cent of GHG emissions and removals by 2020.

Nina Brandstrup, UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) representative in Cambodia, said “within the food production sector, livestock is a particularly large source of greenhouse gas”.

The FAO said the Ministry of Environment and the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance support mitigation and adaptation activities but there is still limited knowledge among producers and consumers about the impact their activities have on climate change. There is greater concern about the impact of climate change on agriculture rather than the other way around.

Chhim Phallyboth, program coordinator of the Cambodian Organic Agricultural Association (COrAA), said there is a growing awareness about the possible impact of climate change but only a few people are aware that agriculture and food production contribute to climate change.

“Farmers, for example, would blame the deforestation as a cause, but have little knowledge that agricultural practices contribute to the release of greenhouse gases and that there are options to reduce agriculture’s impact,” he said.

Winfried Scheewe, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) advisor to COrAA, said the focus is now on increasing the organic matter content of the soil. “This binds atmospheric carbon to the soil and increases the capacity of the soil to hold more water and nutrients,” he said.

“We could compare fertile soils to a foam which can hold a lot of water while the decomposing organic material nourishes the crop on the surface.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anne Renzenbrink at anne.renzenbrink@phnompenhpost.com

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