Focus on public finance, not market mechanisms

Climate & Natural resources,Food Security11 Nov 2010Habtemariam Abate
This blog is part of the blog series about the ‘It’s Down 2 Earth’ conference on agriculture, food security and climate change held in The Hague between 31 October and 5 November 2010. The participants discuss the future of agriculture; how it can contribute to food security and be placed at the heart of sustainable development and poverty eradication – and still be an instrument to challenge climate change?

As part of the CSOs/NGOs contribution to a positive outcome from the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, we tried to reflect our views and concerns. In particular, we did this through side-events organized by other like-minded Northern and Southern NGOs and international organizations (including Agri-ProFocus and the World Agroforestry Center).

We have tried to reflect that the inclusion of agriculture in climate change negotiations – the objective of the Hague conference – will definitely create opportunities for small-scale farmers, especially for African smallholders, but also risks. We feel that recognizing and rewarding the contribution of African smallholders will help to achieve the goal of humanity and reduce global warming, particularly as 90 percent of Africa’s carbon sequestration potential is found in its soils.

But our concerns arise from previous carbon trading experiences. In India, China and Brazil, the implementation of CDM projects was dominated by fraudulent multinational companies, who excluded both the sellers and buyers of carbon credits; likewise, African smallholders do not have the capacity and energy to compete with these multinationals.

There is also the question of scale. Smallholders’ fragmented holdings are rich in their potential to lock atmospheric CO2 into the soil, but may be unattractive to the so-called carbon traders, who look for a minimum of 3000 ha. They will not see profitable ventures, and the complicated structure and the costs associated with monitoring, reporting and verification requirements, which may lead into massevictions and the displacement of smallholders, risking the livelihoods of millions.

The view of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and Ethiopian Civil Society Network on Climate Change (ECSNCC) in the Hague was this: if the contribution of smallholders has to be recognized to enhance the goal of humanity, then it will not be through market mechanisms but through public finance, bearing in mind historical responsibility. Along this line, the representatives of PACJA, and the ECSNCC who had the chance to participate in the Hague conference were happy that the outcome was only a ‘living road map’, not a ‘road map’. This gives room for the greater global SCO movement, and all allies of the world’s poor farmers and pastoralists, to contribute towards the protection of smallholders’ interests in future negotiations, including the upcoming UNFCCC talks in Cancun.