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  • Rashida Kabanda

Agroecology can protect Mother Earth and even do more.

The Earth, which is about 29% covered with land and the remaining 71% is covered with water, is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour life. Geological records show that there have been several significant variations in Earth's climate. These changes have typically occurred very slowly over thousands or millions of years. These have been caused by many natural factors, including changes in the Sun, emissions from volcanoes, variations in Earth's orbit, and carbon dioxide levels.

Global Climate Change has already had observable effects on the environment. These effects include increased heat, drought and insect outbreaks, all linked to Climate Change, have increased wildfires. Declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns. The magnitude of Climate Change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally and how sensitive the Earth's climate is to those emissions.

Since the Industrial Revolution began in about 1750, Carbon dioxide levels have risen more than 30%. Later the Green Revolution brought in industrial agriculture, whose practices contribute about 25 to 30 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions, further accelerating Climate Change. Furthermore, as a result of over-farming, development and other factors, soil capacity is dramatically declining. Now more than ever, the governments are recognizing the fragility of our food systems. The current food system is rapidly deteriorating the planet. With the current growth in population pushing food security to the edge, it is predicted that by 2050, the current food system wouldn't feed the over 9 billion people inhabiting Earth. This is in addition to the human activities that are pushing the planet to the breaking point.

According to the World Economic Forum's 2016 Global Risks Report, the failure to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change will be "the most impactful risk" facing communities worldwide in the coming decade ahead even of weapons of mass destruction and water crises. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) report in 2018 suggested that keeping to the 1.5C target would require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".

Throughout much of the world, food security and hunger are, in large part, environmental issues. Climate Change is a significant threat to agriculture and the Small-scale farmers who depend on local food production for their livelihoods. Small-scale farmers are struggling to keep up with shifting weather patterns and increasingly unpredictable water supplies. Farms are more likely to face attacks from weeds, diseases and pests, which affect yield. Extreme events also threaten crop yields, such as through flooding or reduced water supply. To ensure food security following the COVID-19 pandemic, we must confront the Climate crisis.

Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The day focuses on diversifying, educating and activating the environmental movement worldwide. To the small-scale farmers, especially in Uganda, Earth Day is every day. From Sunrise to sunset, sometimes through the night, they take care of the land and the animals on the farm.

ESAFF Uganda, which is the largest Small-scale farmers' advocacy organization in Uganda as for long fronted agroecology as the leading solution to the current climate crisis in the agriculture sector. Agroecology is the only approach that brings small-scale farmers closer to solving this challenge mainly because it encourages the interaction between crops, animals and the environment hence benefiting Small-scale farmers, the population and the Earth's ecosystems. Agroecology allows efficient resource use, reduces harmful external inputs and improves soil health.

Many stakeholders, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have alluded to the fact that agroecology is key to transforming food and agricultural systems and embraces the spirit of the 2030 Agenda. In 2018, FAO launched the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative, which aims to accompany and support national agroecology transition processes through policy and technical capacity. When implemented by Uganda, this initiative would then foster the transition to agroecology.

It is with no doubt that we believe that agroecology can have an impact on the current global climate crisis. This is because agroecology enhances the recycling of biomass and optimizing nutrient availability and balancing nutrient flow; agroecology secures favourable soil conditions for plant growth, particularly by managing the organic matter and enhancing soil biotic activity; agroecology minimizes losses due to flows of solar radiation, air and water by way of microclimate management, water harvesting and soil management through increased soil cover; agroecology ensures species and genetic diversification of the agroecosystem in time and space at the field and landscape level; agroecology enhances positive biological interactions and synergisms among agrobiodiversity components, thus resulting in the promotion of critical ecological processes and services; and it also prioritizes the needs and interests of small-scale farmers especially women who supply the majority of the food.

By transitioning to agroecology, Uganda will develop a sustainable food system that is fundamental to ensuring that future generations are food secure and eat healthy diets. A sustainable food system will ensure that the Earth is safe even for the next generations. To achieve the transition to agroecology and re-instate agroecology in our farming system to be able to address the current challenges in our food system majorly caused by climate change, all stakeholders should join small-scale farmers in disseminating information about the impact of agroecology on Climate Change and food security and create a movement that defends agroecology; collect evidence through research and agroecological practice documentation to guide in learning and policy advocacy towards de-emphasizing the interests of many industrial food and agricultural systems; advocate for the development and adoption of policies at the national and regional level that would up-scale agroecology as well as de-campaigning any law or policies that criminalize any agroecological practice.

Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, once said, "The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem". We are all responsible for interacting with the planet to maintain natural resources without hindering the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It can't be emphasized enough; it is time to move from "talk" to "action", and small-scale farmers are determined to lead the way. The focus is on influencing both policy and practice to ensure that agroecology is recognized as the only farming system that can protect Mother Earth and even ensure the desired food sovereignty.



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