By Adriana Opromolla

The delegations to COP18 of Caritas Internationalis, Misereor and CIDSE discussed yesterday, Nov. 27th, the role of agriculture in climate change and the ways agriculture has been addressed up to now by climate change policies. Participants also included partner organisations from India, Bangladesh, Chad and Kenya.

Agriculture – namely, small-scale farming and organic farming – is at the heart of the Caritas work on food security and food safety in many developing countries. Caritas organisations manage a large number of projects on all continents to help Small-Holder Farmers (SHF) increase their resilience to climate change, achieve food security for themselves and their families and improving their livelihoods. In most cases, organic farming practices also produce a beneficial effect on the environment by preserving natural resources, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

In the UNFCCC negotiations, agriculture is seen as a source of pollution and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions due to methane gas emission while the promotion of Sustainable Agriculture should be the opportunity for reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is important to realise that the Nitrous Oxides released by the use of chemical fertilisers are 300 times more damaging than Carbon Dioxide in contributing to GHG.

Catholic organisations and their partners attending the Doha climate talks came together to discuss whether the decisions adopted so far are really beneficial to small-scale agriculture and the environment, or whether they rather respond to other political objectives. The economic returns of climate-related agriculture programs implemented so far were especially debated. Experience proves that international funds allocated for adaptation projects (projects helping farmers develop resilience to climate change) are largely insufficient and do not reach the poorest and most vulnerable farmers in developing countries to improve their livelihoods.

“Big farming corporations get most support for introducing the monoculture of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which has resulted in the depletion of local/indigenous seeds and the extinction of traditional practices. This has adverse effect on the environment and on the local community” said Dr. Haridas Varikkottil Raman,  Manager (NRM) of Caritas India  and  Regional Program Coordinator of Agriculture program of Caritas Asia.  “We want to promote organic farming, a practice suitable to small-holder and family farming, respectful of traditions and the environment”.

“Instead of focussing on the economics of agriculture, we want to revive its moral imperatives” said Zar Gomes, Regional Coordinator of Caritas Asia. “By fulfilling the moral obligation to provide food to everyone, organic agriculture also cares for equal relations between employers and workers, as well as for natural biology through its ecologic approach”. By just using natural matters, organic agriculture ensures not only food security, but also food safety.

Caritas delegates will bring these reflections into UNFCCC sessions related to agriculture. The decisions adopted in this COP18 will be crucial to determine the future regime of agricultural policies at national, and consequently grass-root level.