The global shift to agriculture around 13,000 years ago changed humanity forever. We evolved from scavenging in the wild, to agrarian communities, which eventually led to civilizations growing into the cities and towns we know today. And because crops and animals were farmed to provide a high nutrient diet, the global population exploded — from four million people 10,000 years ago, to more than seven billion (and counting) today.
In fact, by 2050, the UN projects the global population will sit around 9.8 billion, and with it will come a growing demand for food. Australia is already feeling the impact of this year’s floods on the food supply, and globally hunger is on the rise as climate change impacts crop and grazing yields, ocean health, and natural resources—including water, and biodiversity. So it’s clear we need to evolve our approach to supply.
In many parts of the world, agricultural methods have not changed for millennia. Some have been transplanted from one environment to another with little regard for the conditions in which they are supposed to flourish. Practices that once created a remarkable process of industrialisation and globalisation of food and agriculture can now undoubtedly be improved.
From clearing forests to create pasture, to reliance on fertiliser and pesticides, many agricultural techniques generate a great deal of greenhouse gas. 38% of the world’s land is now used for farming and grazing, and is thought to be responsible for 23% of global emissions.
It’s a good old-fashioned Catch 22. To feed people in the face of climate change, we need to farm more. But if we continue to farm in the exact same way, our climate is going to change for the worse even faster. The only solution, of course, is to approach farming a little differently.
Embracing new methods
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach that transforms agricultural development under the new realities of climate change to support the future of business, biodiversity and food security. CSA supports reaching internationally agreed goals such as the Paris Agreement and aims to tackle three main objectives:
- Increased productivity: Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity to improve nutrition security and incomes.
- Building resilience: Reducing the exposure of farmers to short-term risks like drought, pests and diseases to improve their capacity in the face of longer-term stressors like shortened seasons and erratic weather patterns.
- Reducing emissions: For each calorie or kilo of food produced, CSA pursues lower greenhouse gas emissions, avoids deforestation and identifies ways to absorb carbon out of the atmosphere.
Climate smart farming in action
At GreenCollar, we work with farmers across all three CSA pillars. Our carbon farming projects are designed to enhance agricultural productivity whilst storing carbon in vegetation and soil, supporting infrastructure upgrades, feral pest management and land regeneration, among other things.
For example, the Dungarvan Human-Induced Regeneration Project in Western New South Wales has seen the Leigo family change their decades-long approach to managing the land and their livestock. By installing over 135km of fencing that enables native animals to pass through the property, constructing 10 trap yards, and creating 13 new water points, the Leigos have been able to introduce periods of true rest for the land, which allows native vegetation to regenerate. The flourishing vegetation has, in turn, created a virtuous cycle for the livestock business, with the Leigos noting “the better the condition and extent of our native vegetation, the better our animals perform.”
Meanwhile, the Tallering Station Human-Induced Regeneration Project in Western Australia is breaking an historical cycle of almost 200 years of intensive grazing to establish a better balance of native vegetation, recognising that this will restore what had become an ‘at risk’ landscape.
A commitment to a climate-smart future
GreenCollar is dedicated to working with farmers, graziers, Traditional Owners and land managers to help them change how they work the land to improve resilience and reverse humanity’s impact on the planet. For many farmers, learning to adapt to climate changes now, and to prepare for long-term changes in the future, can mean the difference between thriving and just getting by.