Stella Paul blogs from COP18 in Doha
Chief Adam Tampuri is a cashew farmer from Ghana in West Africa. Last year, Tampuri has lost fifty cashew trees, but he does not know what killed them.
”They just dried up one by one. Nowadays, we are getting strange plant diseases we never saw before,” said Tampuri at a side event at the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change today.
The loss of the trees has directly impacted Tampuri’s living condition: as a cash crop, the cashews are an important and dependable source of his monthly income. Fewer trees, therefore, mean that the money that will come from the sale of cashews will not be enough to buy food. Despite the loss, Chief Tampuri is hesitant to try climate smart farming techniques, especially soil carbon sequestration. “Climate smart agriculture (CSA) will benefit only large corporate houses and not us small farmers,” he commented.
The view of Tampuri was echoed severally at a side event organized by the Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON), an Indian non-governmental organization that promotes the rights of small and marginal farmers. In fact, when Ritu Tiwari of CECOEDCON said that climate smart agriculture could only benefit the interests of large seed firms and producers of genetically-modified organisms, the other panelists nodded in support.
The confidence of the speakers seemed to have emerged out of their experience on the ground. But have any of them assessed any real or potential loss resulting from CSA? If yes, did they have any number or figure to share with the audience?
My finding was disappointing. No panelists had information showing how a farmer could suffer loss from CSA. Panelist Anika Schroeder of Misereor, a Germany-based farmers’ organization, said there were instances when farmers lost money in Brazil, without citing specific examples. Also, there was no study that she could mention which had assessed either real or a potential loss or damage caused by CSA.
That set me thinking. Are farmers falling prey to blind assumptions? Is lack of knowledge feeding their fear of CSA? Or is there fire in this smoke?
I appreciate the concerns of farmers. But if such information gaps remain, there is reason to believe that this could very well be a reality. If that is the case, then there is an urgent need to address and allay this fear.
This could be done by roping in more CSOs, especially those representing small and marginal farmers in developing countries, to share and exchange information on CSA, its benefits and its potential damage. It would also be wise to build skills in farmers to monitor CSA, assess the loss and benefits and mitigate the damage. For nothing is more damaging than lack of knowledge. And, when it concerns agriculture and food production, adequate information would benefit not only the producers, but the consumers too.
**Ms. Stella Paul is an independent correspondent for global media houses, including Reuters AlertNet and Inter Press Service. Gender, livelihoods, drought and land degradation/desertification are among her major areas of interest.