· Naturefund

Agriculture: Steer promotion, think climate protection

Naturefund recommends working group with broad participation - Transforming agriculture in the face of climate change.

The coalition government has promised farmers in Germany one billion euros over the next four years. This money is to be used to finance agri-environmental programmes and investments. Katja Wiese, board member of the nature conservation organisation Naturefund, says: "We have to pull together to make agriculture fit for climate change. Neither politicians nor farmers can do it alone, and money alone will not solve this challenge." 

According to Wiese, the farmers' protests in recent months show that they felt left out of the process. She therefore recommends forming one or more working groups with broad participation, in which farmers, politicians, conservationists, citizens and other interest groups are represented. In these groups, agricultural policy measures could be discussed, ideas and concepts developed and pilot projects agreed upon. "There is no one solution for all farms," says Wiese, "Rather, we need to build a learning system by trying things out, making mistakes, developing solutions together, improving approaches, discovering new things and finding ways that enable agriculture to build systems that are both productive and resource-efficient.

An important aspect of the restructuring of agriculture in times of climate change is the build-up of humus in the soil. More humus in the soil has many advantages: Humus-rich soils can absorb more water, provide plants with better nutrients and store large amounts of carbon in the soil over the long term. The introduction of agroforestry systems, in which crops and trees are planted on one field, also shows good results. For example, agroforestry systems significantly reduce erosion in fields, while at the same time reducing overall pest infestation. Naturefund has been practising this method successfully for years, for example in Bolivia and Madagascar. So-called "cover crops", intercrops with the aim of covering the soil and thus protecting it from drying out and promoting soil life, are also a possibility here. A form of grazing that is not widespread in Germany can also contribute to this: holistic grazing management, in which animals graze areas in high density for only short periods of time, not only enriching the soil with their animal manure, but also literally massaging plant residues into the soil through their tread, thus also contributing to humus build-up.

All these points above all increase biodiversity in and on the soil. "The more diverse a system is, the better it can react to changing circumstances," explains Wiese. It is also crucial, he says, that higher diversity puts more nutrients back into our food - an important factor in terms of health. 

Finally, it is also about a general turnaround in agricultural production: "We have to get away from more and more yields, whatever the cost. Only the food industry benefits from this, as it buys raw goods cheaply, which it then sells on processed at a high price," Wiese concludes and thinks: "This must come to an end." It's not about more yield, we have enough food, it's about more profit for the farmers so they can make a good living.

Naturefund is therefore offering - as it did last year in Frankfurt and Elsfeth/Lower Saxony and recently in Fuerteventura/Spain - a workshop in Romania on 20.3 and near Giessen on 18.4 and invites all interested parties to discuss new ways for agriculture. The results will be forwarded to the relevant representatives in the EU Commission so that, through this participatory process, the opinions of citizens can be included in the discussions on EU agricultural reform.

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