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The potential of organic agriculture for contributing to climate change adaptation

Müller, Adrian; Osman-Elasha, Balgis and Andreasen, Lise (2013) The potential of organic agriculture for contributing to climate change adaptation. In: Halberg, Niels and Müller, Adrian (Eds.) Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Livelihoods. Routledge, London and New York, chapter 5, pp. 102-126.

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Agriculture is and will be affected negatively by climate change in many regions. Most vulnerable are poor agricultural communities in the Global South and assuring food security for the twenty-first century requires successful adaptation to climate change in agriculture. Besides being affected by climate change, agriculture also contributes significantly to it. Some 10–15 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions are direct agricultural emissions. Adding emissions from conversion to agricultural land increases this share to more than 30 per cent. This chapter addresses the potential of organic farming systems to adapt to climate change. Depending on the context, the focus lies on the adaptation of the agricultural production system, of a community or at farm level. Adaptation strategies can be as diverse as changes in varieties cultivated (e.g. with increased drought resistance) or in management practices (e.g. mulching instead of burning of crop residues to reduce irrigation needs), physical investments for improved water management, a change in livelihoods from crop farming to animal husbandry, or even migration. Assessing success of adaptation can take several years to decades and some initially successful adaptation strategies may turn out to be a failure later on. Furthermore, the concepts used to frame adaptation in agriculture, such as resilience, need some further clarification and discussion. In this chapter, first we review briefly the main impacts of climate change on agriculture. We then present and clarify the key concepts for discussing adaptation measures in agriculture and address key challenges for their implementation. Subsequently, we analyse the adaptation potential of organic agriculture. We find that organic agriculture addresses most of the important challenges of successful adaptation. We also find that the current adaptation discussion in general does not sufficiently include the full adaptation potential of soil fertility (namely high levels of soil organic matter), of crop rotations and of biodiversity. After this, mitigation in organic agriculture is addressed briefly, in close linkage to the adaptation discussion. This is focused on the mitigation aspects that provide livelihood strategies and on synergies with adaptation, as there is already an extensive literature on the physical mitigation potential of organic agriculture. Mitigation aspects are also illustrated in Case study 1.

EPrint Type:Book chapter
Keywords:Food systems, socio-econimics
Agrovoc keywords:
sustainable livelihoods
Subjects: Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Society > Rural sociology
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Climate
Denmark > ICROFS - International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems
ISBN:978–1–84971–295–8 (hbk)
Deposited By: Grand, Mr Gregor
ID Code:25625
Deposited On:09 Apr 2014 09:00
Last Modified:15 Mar 2022 15:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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