As world population clock recently crossed the 8-billion mark under conditions of a 1.2 degree Celsius warmer Mother Earth, two major international gatherings: COP 27 and G 20, which took place in the recent past promised to deal with the global challenges of climate change and food security. Strengthening the resilience and sustainability of food systems was a key message from both summits. It is evident that the global leadership is serious towards limiting carbon emissions and adapting to climate resilient agriculture. During the symposia stake-holders raised strong voice for promoting, facilitating and accelerating the global transition to regenerative food production systems and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated biodiversity and socioeconomic vibrant systems.
The future of our world is hanging by a thread and survival of humanity is at critical crossroads wherein de-carbonization cannot wait. The agriculture sector is considered as one of the key emitters of GHGs and is responsible for the changes we are seeing in our climate today. It is estimated that the sector is responsible for around 15% of global carbon emissions. As a consequence of increased population and per capita demand, the global food needs are anticipated to grow. Many recent studies found that even if all fossil fuel emissions are ceased, the emissions from the food and agriculture sector would push the world past the Paris climate target. It’s not too late to change the course; many actors are seeking more sustainable ways of producing food. To tackle such crisis, it is expected that integrating livestock with regenerative agriculture can offer a potential solution by way of reversing climate change, rebuilding biodiversity web and thereby resulting in carbon drawdown and improving food security.
Integrating livestock into regenerative agriculture has the potential to increase the diversity in the soil, which could lead to a more resilient soil system. The approach offers the promise that can reduce pollution and enhance carbon capture. These farming systems are designed to work in harmony with nature, while also maintaining and improving economic viability. Healthier soils are also more resilient to the impacts of climate change and can increase yields, help improve farmers’ livelihood and conserve much needed biodiversity in the process. One way to make regenerative farming more sustainable is to integrate animal husbandry practices in it, when managed with the best approaches; livestock can enable more self-reliant farming systems. Animals can eat the cover crops and grass that protect the soil. In turn, the animal’s manure can naturally nourish the soil and build the soil’s health.
Adopting practices like planting cover crops, avoiding overgrazing, integrating livestock and using livestock to fertilize fields, can substantially increase the soil’s organic matter and conserving much needed top-soil and restoring water table. This greatly improves the long-term health of the farm and its sustainability. Such food production systems yield considerable benefits like improved soil health, reduced risks associated with raising a single product, reductions in fertilizer input and animal feed costs, reduced labor and machinery costs and thereby increasing carbon sequestration in the process. Grazing cropland improves soil fertility by increasing soil microbial density and organic matter due to the continuous addition of manure.
Integrating livestock in biodynamic agriculture has been proposed as an alternative means of producing food that may have lower environmental and social impacts. Regenerative food systems put people at the center of the change and emphasizes on producing high quality food whilst improving the surrounding ecosphere. The aim is to provide resilient and fair livelihood and dignified employment that enables people across the globe to support them and their families and thereby promoting sustainable future for coming generations. These outcomes form the foundation of sustainable food systems which contribute to achieving our ambitious climate targets. The concept revolves around the fact instead extracting resources from Mother Nature; we are actually acting as stewards of the biodiversity.
The path to carbon farming is a long-term journey with new challenges, helping farmers by way of climate financing, biodiversity credits, rewarding climate smart approaches, adopting precision farming and offering technical and scientific guidance, can pave a way for better future. Our Net Zero Roadmap needs to revolve around the theme of regenerative agri-livestock sector thereby rebuilding biodiversity, addressing climate change, ensuring equitable food security and supporting communities and natural resources. All the negotiators gathered at COP15-Montreal advocated and backed biodiversity financing that will guide global action on nature through 2030. It seems working with Mother Nature rather than against her, offers greater benefits to our environment, resources, health and community. Lastly, alternative agri-livestock production systems offer novel opportunities to improve ecosystem’s well being, beginning with soil fertility, through a holistic systematic approach that includes the health of the animals, farmers and communities. It builds resilience and mitigates the effects of extreme weather conditions caused by changing climate. Regenerative farming is the wave of the future and is changing the health of our planet, as we know it.
(The Author is Veterinarian and Technical Officer (Poultry), Directorate of Animal Husbandry Kashmir. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org