Why Sustainable Agriculture Is Good Not Just For Climate

In India, 43% of workforce is employed by agriculture, which is significantly higher than the global level of 28%. But at the same, agriculture sector is also responsible for global warming and climate change as it emits ranges of greenhouse gases, which include:

burning of crop residues, soil carbon loss, manure left on pasture, production and processing of livestock feed.

Greenhouse Emissions from Agriculture

Seriousness of agricultural pollution can be gauged from the fact that agriculture alone emitted 5.4 gigatons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent in 2017. Its share in 2017 of the total greenhouse emissions of 53.5 gigatons stood at 10%.

The top 10 historical emitters are China, India, the Soviet Union, Brazil, the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina and the Russian Federation.

Categorization Of Agricultural pollution is Difficult

Should emission from fertilizers be considered as the industrial production?

Similarly, biofuels is part of both: transport and agriculture

The Food an Agricultural Organization (FAO) has already highlighted the problem of food waste. If we consider food waste as a country, then it is the third largest emitting country. Who is responsible for food waste? Consumers or those who produce foodgrains?

Who is to be blamed for emissions from storing and transporting agricultural produce? Do all blames lie at the doorsteps of farmers, especially small farmers?

Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use’ (AFOLU)

It has always been extremely difficult to isolate agriculture from other sectors, especially sectors involving land use. Separating human-caused from natural caused factors is also difficult, resulting in the creation of the ‘Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use’ (AFOLU) category.

In 2014,the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the 5th Assessment report, according to which AFOLU’s share in the total emissions stood at 20-25% in 2010.

Emissions released from agricultural activities:

  • Crop residues and savannah burning: N2O, CH4
  • Cultivated Organic Soils: N2O
  • Manure applied to soils: N2O
  • Synthetic Fertilizers: N2O
  • Manure Management: Ch4 and N2O
  • Rice Cultivation: CH4
  • Enteric Fermentation: CH4
  • Drained peat and peat fires: CO2, N2O, CH4
  • Land Use Change and Forestry: CO2

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA)

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) defines Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) as an approach that helps guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate.

Eliminating Unsustainable trend in Agriculture

Agricultural inputs

Unsustainable use of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers can’t go on for a long period. Sustainable land management is a solution. IPCC too favors replacing heavy use of agricultural inputs with sustainable land management.

Food waste

Examples of Sustainable Land Management:

  • Increasing soil organic matter
  • controlling soil erosion
  • better management of fertilizer use
  • improved crop and manure management
  • better quality feed

Problem of inequitable consumption will go nowhere as long as the problem of food waste persists. We need to eliminate food waste and also have to promote diversifying diets.

What we need to do: promote coarse grains as healthy diets, reduce livestock rearing and carbon emission from meat industry, increasing access to fruits, nuts and seeds and green vegetables.

Role of policymakers

It is the Government’s responsibility to eliminate unsustainable land management practices. Insecure land tenure is a hindrance, and so are the not having access to resources and insufficient and unequal private and public incentives, lack of awareness.

Additional Readings For UPSC Prelims & Mains

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