Farmer-to-Farmer and the Environment
This article is a contribution to a four-week blog series celebrating 30 years of USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program.
Environmental conservation has always been a significant—though often secondary—consideration in Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteer assignments. Agricultural systems are not sustainable without conservation of soil and other natural resources. Now, increasingly, F2F projects are focusing specifically on environmental issues.
Our natural environment is a universal heritage of immeasurable value, but continuous and increasing exploitation of our natural resources is approaching an alarming level. Over-exploitation and environmental degradation need to be checked, and proper planning and policies need to be implemented for sustainable development and management of our environment. This is the challenge faced by many countries around the world; to achieve development without compromising the nature, richness and integrity of the natural environment.
One prominent environmental issue today is climate change. Climate change is not a new phenomenon—it has been a defining natural factor throughout much of earth’s history. However, what is new is the speed of climate change today and the growing certainty that that speed is a consequence of human actions.
The effects of climate change are being felt most acutely in the poorest countries in the world. Few of these countries are well equipped to deal with even natural climatic stressors. The accelerated climate change we experience now is predicted to increase the variability and frequency of extreme events in ways that are outside the realm of our experience. But even with no historical analogue upon which to lean, adapting to climate variability is essential for achieving long-term food security and development and is, quite simply, an imperative for our time. Climate change-related research will be needed to develop new technologies and approaches that both minimize the negative impact of food production on climate and better adapt food production practices to climate change.
Strategies that can address the current risks of climate variability will go a long way toward helping countries address the future negative consequences of climate change. Managing for climate change—whether through mitigating or adaptive strategies—is fundamental for preserving and enhancing development. The more such management is directly linked to national development priorities and business opportunities, whether in increased energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable livelihoods, environmental protection, or through other means, the better.
It is not only climate change that presents a threat to food security and our productive capacities. Deforestation, erosion, water contamination, and a loss of genetic diversity all threaten the environments of people, plants, and animals around the globe. Multi-faceted, specific, and aggressive approaches will be needed to address these challenges. The F2F program is uniquely positioned to offer expertise, shared experiences, and close attention to local contexts that can help overcome many of the hurdles we face in natural resource management.
In Senegal, F2F volunteers provide support to host organizations to improve conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. F2F assignments aim to enable vulnerable farmers in the Kaolack and Kedougou regions to increase agricultural productivity, increase their food security and mitigate some of the effects of climate change.
The F2F project in the Dominican Republic aims to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to the unpredictable impacts of global climate change (GCC), focusing on the Yaque del Norte watershed. The project takes a cross-cutting approach, involving watershed management assignments, increasing awareness, capacity building, and promoting mitigation and adaptation strategies. Volunteers work with local hosts to:
- Protect water resources through effective soil, water, and natural resource management to reduce the damage caused by severe storms and other effects of GCC;
- Increase hosts’ institutional capacity to approach the effects of GCC impacts;
- Introduce real risk-reducing measures to mitigate farmers’ vulnerability to GCC impacts;
- Raise awareness of the impacts of GCC to promote incorporation of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in land use and infrastructure planning among municipal leaders and community members;
- Increase adoption of sustainable Climate-Smart Agricultural Technologies to improve agricultural productivity and resilience to climate change.
One F2F project in Jamaica is increasing climate change resilience of targeted livelihoods and ecosystems. Activities aim to reduce the exposure of livelihoods to the impacts of climate variability and change, while supporting national and local efforts to adapt and be resilient. This is accomplished by protecting agriculture and natural resource-based livelihoods and improving sustained and Institutional capacity to mitigate and manage the effects of climate change.
A program in Guinea supports the Institut Supérieur Agronomique Valéry Giscard d’Estaing de Faranah, as well as agriculture sector stakeholders and local and regional educational and environmental institutions, to strengthen sustainable agriculture and improve the adoption of proven West African technologies by Guinean farmers. It strengthens agriculture education and the integration of agriculture and climate change in Guinea.
There are many additional examples of F2F volunteers working with hosts on natural resource management. The other posts today highlight some particularly note-worthy projects.
- Gary Alex & Erin Baize
From November 16-December 11, F2F program partners are sharing their knowledge and experience providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. This blog series aims to capture and share this program experience.
Read more articles celebrating 30 years of F2F on Agrilinks (http://agrilinks.org/blog/farmer2farmer).