Bernard Giraud, Co-founder and President of Livelihoods Venture was invited to participate to the High-Level discussions of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, COP14, which will take place from September 2nd to 13th in New Delhi, India.
Why is land health a global priority? What can be expected from the private and what solutions can be implemented to stop land degradation? Bernard Giraud will showcase the Livelihoods Venture experience and solutions to preserve land health, increase carbon sequestration as well as food security.
1. Why such a focus on land health?
“Land is the foundation of any agriculture. A well-structured soil enriched with organic matter is not only productive but also stores carbon and facilitates the water cycle. On the contrary, extractive farming practices that export organic matter with every crop, massive deforestation and pressure of poor husbandry management conduct at least to land degradation and even desertification in a growing number of areas. This trend is accelerated by climate change, and in turn also contributes to accelerate climate change. Doing so, we are destroying the capital that feeds a global population expected to reach 10 billion in 2050. If soil productivity declines, more land is needed to meet human needs at the expense of the remaining natural ecosystems that are currently under pressure. The recent IPCC* report on climate change and land is very clear on the challenges we are facing and the interactions between land degradation, food production, use of natural resources and climate change.”
*IPCC: the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.
Bernard Giraud, Co-Founder and President of Livelihoods Venture
2. What have you learned from your 10-year-experience with the Livelihoods Funds?
“ The Livelihoods Funds invest in large scale projects of land and ecosystem restoration, reforestation and farming models aiming at a fair combination between productivity and sustainability. Experience shows that farmers are the key actors of change, whether it is a positive or a negative one. And farmers motivation is mainly driven by their expectation to improve their income and their families’ livelihood. Therefore, solutions on soil restoration that require deep changes of farming practices can work at scale if farmers see a benefit of doing so. The economic, social and ecological components of the transformation are inseparable. They must be designed and implemented together. Another learning is the absolute need for governments, the private sector and the civil society to join efforts. Not only at policy level but also, and as importantly, to create coalitions of actors that are committed to implement and accelerate concrete change in given areas and production chains.”
3. What can be expected from the private sector?
“ Farming practices and land use are driven by food needs and the use of other raw materials from agriculture. Companies of all sizes that purchase, process and market products from agriculture must play a major role in supporting “regenerative agriculture” upstream in their supply chain. By regenerative, we mean farming practices that increase organic matter and micro-organisms in soils, contribute to sequestrate carbon, reduce erosion and replenish underground water resources. An increasing number of companies realize that the “commodity” paradigm, based on trading raw materials without knowing their origin and their ecological and social impacts is over. The reconnection of supply chains is facilitated by technological progress on traceability. For example, companies which invest in the Livelihoods Funds support identified groups of farmers engaged in regenerative agriculture and take long term commitments on purchasing from these farms.
This transformation is of course driven also by trends in food habits and a growing number of consumers who aspire to healthier and ecologically friendly products. Civil society organizations through advocacy, and public authorities through policy and regulatory norms are driving forces that should pull in the same direction to encourage business transformation.”
4. Which major initiatives could help reverse the trend on land degradation?
“To accelerate changes at scale in soil management, we need to put a value on it. One missing link today is a soil-carbon market that would valorize the effort of farmers who take care of soil health. 58% of soil organic matter is carbon, which means that agriculture can play a major positive or negative role in climate change depending on practices that store or release carbon. Recognized methodologies and international standards are increasingly available to monitor and certify the carbon content in soils. A carbon price and a dedicated carbon market would help farmers manage their transition to sustainable farming or be more competitive. Instead of using significant amounts of public money to subsidize high carbon emission inputs (such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) governments would be encouraged to incentivize farmers who engage in regenerative practices and monitor it through soil carbon measurement. At international trade level, a monetization of soil carbon would provide a competitive advantage to products from regenerative agriculture while penalizing products from “extractive” agriculture. It is a long way to go but it would be a major lever for a systemic change.”
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