World Food Day will be celebrated worldwide on Oct. 16 with the theme: “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” Established in 1979, the event marks the creation of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Experts at Heifer International shared their thoughts about what farmers can do about climate change.
Pierre Ferrari, president and chief executive officer, received a master’s degree in economics from The University of Cambridge and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has more than 40 years of business experience at companies such as Coca-Cola USA, CARE and the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund.
“Climate change is accelerating, causing longer and deeper droughts, flooding and other disastrous events. Smallholder farmers and their families suffer the effects of climate change more than anyone else. They are the canaries in the coal mine. What are we doing to help them grow the food that will be necessary to feed over 9 billion people in the next 15 to 20 years? Livestock plays a key role — one that is perhaps misunderstood and counterintuitive. It turns out that with livestock on these farms, their waste and the food that they eat is very well integrated into a highly productive, highly fertile soil-management system. It allows farms and farmers to be more resilient and resistant to the kind of drought you see all over Asia and Africa.
So we believe that climate-smart agriculture is the integration of livestock and agriculture — meaning growing crops for people and forage for animals while returning livestock waste into the soil. Because many smallholder farmers cannot afford quality animals, the placement of livestock, and the training of farmers to take care of animals in a healthy way is a critical piece of development and food security. It involves taking all of these components in an integrated and holistic manner so that soil is resilient and captures water, allowing all these farms to grow abundant food in highly fertile soil, and building continuity and sustainability. The way food is grown across the world absolutely must adapt to changing climate conditions; livestock has a significant role to play in helping farmers become resilient.”
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Dr. Oscar Castañeda, vice president for The Americas program, has worked for decades designing, implementing and evaluating community-based sustainable development programs. Before joining Heifer, Castañeda served World Neighbors as country director for his native Guatemala. He has also been a consultant and part-time professor in the fields of agroecology and organic agriculture. He has authored several publications and led numerous workshops on sustainable organic agriculture and project planning and monitoring. He is fluent in Spanish, English and German.
“In the journey of facing climate change and its effects both seen and unseen, we stand on the side of farmers. Most people view them as either guilty of destroying the environment or as victims of climate-related disasters. We see them as the best opportunity to cool the planet.
The best approach to cooling the planet is by building larger coalitions of farmers cultivating the land using environmentally friendly practices: covering the soil, rotating crops and integrating different species of crops and livestock. By building closed cycles of food production and resource consumption, farmers become not only resilient to the effects of climate change, but they improve the environment for future generations.”
ABOUT HEIFER INTERNATIONAL
Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in nearly 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. Heifer’s goal is to help 4 million families achieve living incomes by 2020, which will allow them to feed their families daily; educate all their children; and have proper housing, water, hygiene and other essential resources. For information, visit Heifer.org, read our blog, follow us on Facebook, on Twitter or call 888.5HUNGER (888.548.6437).