A pre-release event for the upcoming report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has presented a bleak future if inaction is still remains the biggest form of action. A recent seminar held at Humboldt University looked at some of the report’s findings and discussed the need to keep agricultural policy one step ahead of the game.
Humboldt University opened its doors to the public last week to share and to discuss the topic of environmental governance. Former president of the European Society of Ecological Economics (ESEE), Professor Arild Vatn, began this year’s Albrecht-Daniel-Thaer Kolloquium with a lecture entitled ‘The Institutional Economics of Climate Change and Adaptation Research’. The seminar was framed within the context of agriculture and the need to adapt current and future policy decisions, especially in areas most affected by climate change, and what role institutions finally had to take.
The event looked at how climate change discussion and policy could be the opportunity and the platform to tackle the wider issue of global equity once and for all, which, coincidentally, was the very topic of discussion at the recent Development Cooperation Forum in Berlin last week. That event saw United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) gathering with top-level development experts.
All in all, these events, coupled with today’s release of the IPCC’s Working Group II report, signify that the time to move on climate change is now with certain sectors like agriculture already facing the brunt of the effects of rising global temperatures.
New Agricultural Strategies…in The Palm of Your Hand
Professor Vatn’s lecture emphasised the need for agricultural strategies that are adaptive and resilient to minimise the sector’s vulnerability. Farming methods have to undergo more than reactive short-term solutions to overcome challenges, as they could prove counterproductive in the future. Examples of this have been widespread particularly in drought-prone, southern Africa where the the tradition of mafisa or cattle sharing had to adapt to policy changes of private land ownership and fencing.
Networking and information sharing, which has been particularly aided by the high penetration rate of mobiles in some areas of the continent, must be prioritised to improve productivity and management, rather than relying on costly food reserves. A number of mobile subscription services have recently (pardon the pun) cropped up around Africa to assist farmers by providing realtime information about areas such as: changes in weather patterns; current market prices (negating the need for the farmer to make a long journey to market and allowing them sufficient time to negotiate fair prices); and tips for best practice methods. Tigo Kilimo is one such project directly helping farmers adapt to and deal with unpredictable weather patterns, providing up-to-date info on weather via SMS as well as suggestion on how manage crops according such weather.
Traditional techniques such as mafisa/cattle sharing as well as new, innovative ways to share information and build capacity demonstrate how multiple stakeholders working together for a collaborative and desired outcome can be successful; however, as highlighted by Professor Vatn, long-term and participatory solutions have to be created not simply on the ground but most importantly in a global institutional context.
He ended on a thought-provoking note: where does this leave our current institutions? Without change, will we see their feared collapse, or see a dramatic transformation by becoming the driving forces we need them to be?