Scottish Farm Land Trust announce crowdfunder for more land for agroecological farmers in Scotland!

This from the Scottish Farm Land Trust – a community benefit society established in 2015 to increase access to land for agroecological farmers in Scotland which has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000 by the end of November – and is more than halfway there, with matchfunding from grantfunders promised:
“We are a group of farmers, landseekers and environmentalists motivated to support more people to start farming.  Access to land in Scotland is particularly difficult due to the high level of concentrated land ownership: 8% of landowners owning 77% of farmland, and 40% owning 0.8% of the land.  There has also been a significant decline in agricultural tenancies over the past century despite attempts to change this trend through legislation.
In 2017 we carried out a survey of people who might want to start farming agroecologically in Scotland.  Over 1000 people responded, with 989 people wanting to start farming.  Significantly access to land was the biggest barrier to starting farming, with 71% of people saying this was their primary barrier.
Our vision is for a food system where farms are connected to their communities and produce nutritious food in a way that makes a positive contribution to local communities and the natural environment.  We want to see our farming system thrive, with a greater diversity of farmers and business models. Improving access to land and widening participation in the ownership of land is essential for this to happen. We will achieve this primarily through acquiring farmland to rent out to agroecological farmers on a long-term basis, and also working with other organisations to support a network of agroecological farmers across Scotland and influence policy changes.
We’re inspired by successful models such as Terre de Liens in France and the Ecological Land Cooperative in England and Wales.  TdL has set an impressive example.  Since it was established just over 15 years ago, it has acquired 177 farms covering 4,250 hectares of land, providing tenancies for 376 active agroecological farmers, and raised €65million in public shares offered at a 0% interest rate, with social and environmental benefit and citizen engagement being the primary motivations for investors.
Support SFLT today by donating to our crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000 by the 30th November.  All donations will be doubled by match funding from grant funders, making your donation go further.”

Nourish Scotland Conference: Game Plan for a Good Food Nation

November 21 & 22 2019 in Edinburgh

– for more information and to book go here

This from Nourish:

The conference is all about achieving change – how we get from where we are to where we need and want to be? What will it take to be a Good Food Nation?

Scottish Government have set ambitious targets in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and committed to bringing forward the Good Food Nation Bill. Now is the time to seize the opportunity for a healthier, fairer and more sustainable future for Scotland’s food system – we hope you will join us.

Developing a Game Plan

For much of the two days you will be working in a team with a facilitator to come up with your team’s game plan – how can we deliver on the Good Food Nation goals? Along the way you will have the chance to listen to and work with pioneers, thinkers and changemakers, and to access ideas from Scotland and around the world.

  • How can we increase dissatisfaction with the status quo (because without that there is no change)?
  • Do we have a clear sharp vision of what better looks like?
  • How locked in are we in the present system (resistance), what makes it so hard to change?
  • And given all that, where should we focus our efforts on next steps?

At the end of the event, we’ll publish every team’s work in a conference report.

Conference format

We will kick off with a contribution from Mairi Gougeon MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment and we finish with a panel of MSPs discussing the big ideas from the event.

For the remaining time, participants will be working in small teams developing and presenting their game plan. There will be time for sharing your knowledge and experience, plenary inputs from inspiring contributors, access to written material and video, a facilitator for each team and access to experts in attendance.

Over two full days, you will…

  • Hear from Mairi Gougeon MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment
  • Have the opportunity to engage with a panel of MSPs
  • Learn different theories of systems change
  • Acquire practical tools to use in your own work about how change happens
  • Share information about your project, campaign or enterprise with colleagues working across all parts of the food system
  • Meet old friends and make new connections
  • Leave knowing you are a part of a bigger movement working for a healthy, sustainable and fair food system

Do I need to attend both days?

Yes. Food system and social change are complex subjects. While we need more action for things to happen, occasionally we also need time to reflect and to do so collectively.  You will be working with a team of people from across the food system – building towards a collective game plan. Because of this, we do not have a day pass option.

What is included in the delegate fee?

All attendees – team coaches, expert witnesses and participants – are asked to pay the delegate fee (£65). This includes:

  • Two full days of facilitated group work with contributions from leading experts
  • Free entrance to evening event with Dr. Katherine Trebeck, co-author of The Economics of Arrival 
  • Delicious, locally-sourced lunches and snacks freshly prepared by Chef Steve Brown

The conference is not free for us to put on. While our time spent preparing it is covered by our funders (thank you Tudor Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation!) there are additional costs.

Evening with Dr. Katherine Trebeck, 6-8pm, 21st November

Dr. Katherine Trebeck is Research Director at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and co-author of The Economics of Arrival. She will be joining us on the evening of Thursday, 21st November to share insights on food, wellbeing and the economy.

Conference delegates are invited to stay for the evening event, which will include drinks and freshly prepared nibbles by Chef Steve Brown. Evening-only tickets are

Rome Summit Takes Bold Step Toward Agroecology

Leaders endorse agroecology as one of the cutting-edge innovations we need to help small-scale farmers adapt to climate change.

The Climate Action Summit at the UN last month was widely considered a disappointment, failing to garner the kinds of government actions needed to address the climate crisis. Sadly, the same can be said for actions on agriculture and climate change, despite a well-publicized commitment of $790 million to “to enhance resilience of over 300 million small-scale food producers in the face of mounting climate impacts.”

That is not because the investment isn’t needed. It is, desperately. Small-scale farmers in developing countries are already bearing the brunt of climate change yet they have received little of the promised funding to help them adapt to drought, flooding, heat, and other climate changes.

These new initiatives won’t bridge that gap. Just as government actions to date are proving far too weak to address the climate emergency, these agriculture programs support familiar measures that have thus far failed to help small-scale farmers. Some measures have left them even more vulnerable to climate change.

Many recognized that business as usual, in the face of climate change, is not an option. They moved beyond the failed policies of the present, endorsing agroecology as the kind of innovation farmers need to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. We need a more decisive shift. Fortunately, government leaders took a major step in that direction gather in Rome next last week at for a different summit, the annual meetings of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). They will be discussing approved an expert report on agroecology, an innovative and cost-effective way a more promising innovation to  address rising hunger and malnutrition while helping farmers adapt to climate change. A host of recent UN reports calls for just this sort of break.

“Agroecology is the only solution we have to address the multiple crises we are facing,” said Aisha Ali Aii Shatou of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa to the government representatives at the summit.

When the solutions are part of the problem

The new $790-million agriculture initiative is driven by recommendations from the Global Commission on Adaptation (CGA), which is co-chaired by Bill Gates, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. Its report, “Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience,” has as one of its core initiatives enhancing the resilience of smallholder producers.

Unfortunately, the Commission largely doubles down on the misguided effort to “modernize” agriculture in developing countries by encouraging farmers to adopt precisely the sorts of fossil-fuel-intensive practices that have made agriculture one of the greatest contributors to global greenhouse-gas emissions. As I saw in researching my book, Eating Tomorrow, crop diversity and soil fertility often decline as a result.

In its recommendations, the commission includes agroecology only as an afterthought, warning that we need to improve “the evidence-base for the effectiveness of adopting different agroecological approaches” – as if we don’t know enough yet to act.

They clearly hadn’t read the new expert report on agroecology and other innovations for sustainable food systems, released July 3 by the CFS’s High Level Panel of Experts. The expert report, two years in the making, is clear on the urgent need for change. “Food systems are at a crossroads. Profound transformation is needed,” the summary begins. It goes on to present a wide range of evidence that such methods have been shown to simultaneously increase soil fertility, diet diversity, and food security for small-scale farmers.

Agroecology promotes just the kinds of soil-building practices that “agricultural modernization” often undermines. Multiple food crops are grown in the same field. Compost and manure, not fossil-fuel-based fertilizer, are used to fertilize fields. Biological pest control decreases pesticide use. Researchers work with farmers to improve the productivity of their seeds rather than replacing them with commercial seeds farmers need to buy every year and douse with fertilizer to make them grow. As the expert report documents, soil fertility increases over time, and so do food security and climate resilience.

Agroecology: a proven response to the failing policies of the present

The growing global interest in agroecology comes in response to the widespread failures of input-intensive programs like the Gates-inspired Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Fed by heavy doses of government subsidies for commercial seeds and synthetic fertilizers, AGRA has promoted monocultures of a few staple crops, decreased crop and diet diversity, undermined soil fertility, and produced disappointing gains in productivity and farmer incomes. Global Hunger Index scores remained in the “serious” to “alarming” category for 12 of the 13 AGRA countries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its influential report on “Climate Change and Land,” echoed the urgent need for change and the direction that change should take: “[I]ncreasing the resilience of the food system through agroecology and diversification is an effective way to achieve climate change adaptation….”

Fortunately, in Rome government leaders were forward-looking. Many recognized that business as usual, in the face of climate change, is not an option. They moved beyond the failed policies of the present, endorsing agroecology as the kind of innovation farmers need to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

As African farmer Aisha Ali Aii Shatou told the summit, “Agroecology allows small-scale producers a dignified life, producing affordable, healthy food in healthy conditions. It eliminates dependence on costly inputs and adopts practices which regenerate seeds and soils while mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.”

The CFS next year will take up the challenge of translating this visionary report into practical policies.

Author attended the UN’s Committee on World Food Security summit in Rome October 14-18 as a civil society delegate.

Timothy Wise

Timothy A. Wise directs the Land and Food Rights Program at the U.S.-based Small Planet Institute and is a Senior Researcher at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute. Wise is the author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food (The New Press).

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Save a species-rich wet meadow for wildlife

Here’s an opportunity not to be missed!  A crowd-funder set up by Rob Thomas.  His description as follows:

 

“This pair of small fields on the banks of the river Tamar on the Devon-Cornwall border is a precious surviving fragment of unimproved wet-meadow habitat that is rich in wildlife and conservation potential. We are seeking to raise £10-15,000 in order to bid for the site at auction on Tuesday 15th October.  The site is valuable for a range of flora and fauna, with habitat suitable for water shrews, marsh fritillary butterflies, and a wide range of plant life typical of this increasingly rare habitat. If saved, the site will be used as a base for conservation, environmental education, and as a seed-source for larger-scale wilding projects in the area. “

 

As of this morning (Oct 8)  £11,572 has been raised of the £15,000 goal.

To find out how to support the crowdfunder please click here

Movement Building workshop in Bristol October 19 2019

This from the organisers, Stir to Action

Are you a movement builder, or aspire to be one? Do you recognise the impact you can have when you think big about change? Have you faced challenges of getting hundreds or thousands of individuals and organisations to create, speak and act together? Do you want to add greater value to your movement?

This movement building workshop centres on The Social Change Agency’s Movement Building Canvas. The Canvas is a practical framework to help you, your team or interested stakeholders to design and improve your movement for maximum impact.

The Canvas is designed to help you to get to grips with the essentials of your movement. Who is a part of it, and who could be brought in? What do you stand for? Where are you taking the people who sign up? And what do you need to get going and keep moving?

Details to be found here

Unprocessed red meat and processed red meat consumption: the research review that calls official dietary guidelines into question

 

Johnston BC, Zeraatkar D, Han MA, et al. Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 1 October 2019] doi: 10.7326/M19-1621

This from the BBC News report of the research:

The researchers – led by Dalhousie University and McMaster University in Canada – reviewed the same evidence others have looked at before.

The findings suggest if 1,000 people cut out three portions of red or processed meat every week for:

  • a lifetime, there would be seven fewer deaths from cancer
  • 11 years, there would be four fewer deaths from heart disease

And if every week for 11 years, 1,000 people cut out three portions of:

  • red meat, there would be six fewer cases of type 2 diabetes
  • processed meat, there would be 12 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes

The risks reported are broadly similar to what has been suggested before – but the interpretation of what they mean is radically different.

The researchers say:

  • the risks are not that big
  • the evidence is so weak, they could not be sure the risks were real

 

Environmental Audit Committee’s call to end support for fossil fuel energy projects oversees rejected by UK Gvt

Press Release (Monday September 30 2019)

Government rejects EAC’s call to end support for fossil fuel energy projects overseas and allows eleven times increase in “dirty” investment by UK Export Finance

The Environmental Audit Committee’s UK Export Finance Report published in June identified an ‘unacceptably high’ level of support for fossil fuel projects in poorer countries and called for an end to Government investment in new fossil fuel energy projects from 2021.

UK Export Finance’s Annual Report 2018-19, published later that month, revealed a ballooning in support for fossil fuel projects over a 12-month period.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP said:

“It is unbelievable that, despite an elevenfold increase in support for fossil fuel energy projects last year, the Government has rejected our call to end taxpayer money being poured into new high carbon projects by 2021.

“We called for the Government to commit to only back British business export projects that support the UK’s climate goals. Their refusal to do so completely undermines the Government’s commitment to get to net zero emissions by 2050. “People expect their political leaders try to stop, not accelerate, the pace of climate breakdown.”

 

ENDS

 

UK Export Finance agreed to share with EAC the exact support figures for fossil fuels and renewable energy projects for 2018/19.

They show:

  • UKEF’s 2018/19 figures show support for fossil fuel energy projects increased eleven times from £183 million in 2017/18 to £2.049 billion maximum liability in 2018/19.
  • Support for renewable energy projects fell from £69 million to £46 million maximum liability.

 

Among key recommendations in UK Export Finance Report with Government Response:

ENDING FOSSIL FUEL INVESTMENT:

We recommend that UKEF’s fossil fuel investment should finish by the end of 2021.

At the very least, UKEF should follow Sweden’s Export Credit Corporation (SEK) in introducing a 5% cap on gross lending to fossil fuel operations (coal oil and gas) as a proportion of total support.

From Government response:

  • “To end UKEF’s support for fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021 would not achieve an effective or “just” transition for UK workers into the low carbon economy and would be too rapid to support the transition that the UK’s oil and gas industry is beginning to make towards lower carbon and renewable energy sources. ln developing countries, energy security is a key component for development and poverty alleviation and these countries will continue to need to use a mix of energy sources.”
  • “We would note that, in introducing its cap on fossil fuel support, SEK does not have the same “just transition” considerations as does the UK since Sweden does not have a significant oil and gas sector.”

TRANSITION TO NET ZERO:

UKEF to commit to only support British businesses in projects that support the UK’s climate goals.

From Government response:

  • “The projects UKEF supports can have positive developmental and climate impacts, however UKEF’s primary statutory mandate is to support UK exports. UKEF’s support is demand-led and provided where overseas buyers have chosen to procure from the UK supply chain and are seeking financing support.”

ALIGN UKEF’s WORK WITH NET ZERO EMISSIONS:

UK Government should set out how UKEF will work towards net-zero emissions by 2050 to show climate leadership and a willingness to align the UK’s domestic and international approaches to job creation and climate change.

From Government response:

  • “UKEF is working with other government departments to ensure that UKEF appropriately takes into account the UK’s international climate commitments, including the Paris Agreement, in its activities. However, the emissions released by UKEF supported projects overseas will be subject to the limitations imposed by the Nationally Determined Contributions agreed by host governments as part of their Paris Agreement commitments rather than any commitments made by the UK. The emissions from these projects are owned and managed by other countries and not the UK or UKEF.”

RINGFENCE MONEY TO SUPPORT DEVELOPING CLEAN TECHNOLOGIES:

UKEF returned £500m to the Treasury in the last 5 years. Noting that key technologies to achieve net-zero emissions are still to be developed fully, we recommend that Treasury ringfences at least 20% of money returned by UKEF from all historic category A (highest risk to environment) projects as well as all projects with forecast emissions of more than 25,000 tonnes of COequivalent per year, for at least the next ten years. This money should be invested in renewable energy and low-carbon transition research and development.

From Government Response:

  • “The Government recognises the importance of supporting renewable energy and low-carbon transition research and development, but does not agree with the proposed approach. Hypothecating income in this way would restrict our ability to respond flexibly to changing priorities or react quickly to unforeseen circumstances… The UK is already a world leader in clean growth.”

Link to: Government Response in full with letter from International Trade Secretary Liz Truss

 

Notes:

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is the operating name of the Exports Credits Guarantee Department, the UK’s export credit agency (ECA). Its mission is “to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance, while operating at no net cost to the taxpayer.” UKEF works with around 70 private credit insurers and lenders to help UK companies access export finance.

Over a five-year period, 21% of UKEF’s support (£2.6 billion) went to the energy sector.

“Land restoration the cheapest solution to climate change and biodiversity loss”

This from the Climate News Network

Unless nations act now to halt the spread of deserts, they may face wars over food shortages and starvation by mid-century, the UN says.

DELHI, 26 September, 2019 − A stark warning that the exposure of more and more people to water scarcity, hunger and outright starvation may lead to the “failure of fragile states and regional conflicts” has been given by the United Nations as it attempts to galvanise governments into halting the spread of deserts before more cropland is lost.

The climate summit in New York was presented with a plan to try to halt the annual loss of 12 million hectares (30mn acres) of productive land caused by the nations which are parties to the UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which recently ended a high-level meeting here.

The plan was the list of actions nations agreed at the meeting of more than 190 countries to attempt to reverse the spread of land degradation that the UN estimates will displace 135 million people by 2045. The battle to halt the spread of deserts is seen by the UN as an integral part of the international effort to halt climate change.

How successful the new plans will be remains to be seen, as although  the Convention, like the Climate Change Convention, has been in existence since the last century, the problems continue to get worse. However, all the countries involved now have national plans to halt land degradation and restore croplands and forests.

One of the key new promises made at the Delhi meeting, which ended on 13 September, was to grant land tenure to groups to give them an incentive to protect soils and the ability of the land to grow crops.

“Land restoration is the cheapest solution to climate change and biodiversity loss”

Delegates also agreed to improve the rights of women, promote land restoration and reduce land-related carbon emissions, both from poor soil management and the destruction of trees. New ways of financing these schemes from government and private sources were proposed.

The scale of the problem is enormous. Close to a quarter of global land is almost unusable, and by the middle of the century humans will need to produce twice as much grain as they do today to keep up with global population growth, the UNCCD says.

At the closing session Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the UNCCD, said: “Land restoration is the cheapest solution to climate change and biodiversity loss; land restoration makes business sense if we have regulations and incentives to reward investment.”

In addition, he said, preparing for the increasing number of droughts and coping with them are critical in the face of climate change. He emphasised the need to involve young people and women and to secure land rights.

However, despite the adoption of the New Delhi Declaration, in which ministers and delegates expressed support for new initiatives or coalitions aiming to improve human health and well-being and the health of ecosystems, and to advance peace and security, there were dissenting voices at the conference.

Dilution and omissions

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said in a statement: “The New Delhi Declaration has diluted the role of international funding bodies in combating desertification. It has also sidestepped the contentious issue of tenure rights to land.”

The CSE said the statement had removed any mention of the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and the Adaptation Fund  from the Declaration and there were no mentions of specific measures that could be used for adaptation nor, in fact, the word “adaptation” itself. Countries were left to develop their own plans.

Local politics also plays an important part in creating the problem. For example, across South Asia severe drought areas are used for water-guzzling crops such as sugarcane, or for very large monoculture plantations for palm oil or rubber.

Some speakers felt it was going to be an uphill struggle for poorer countries to get funding for restoring degraded land.

Early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dry land agriculture, mangrove protection and investments in making water resources more resilient were all vital. Adapting to land degradation and climate change was in everyone’s strong economic self-interest, Thiaw said. − Climate News Network

EFRACOM to cross question SoS Theresa Villiers on preparations for a no-deal Brexit for food and farming Sept 9 2019

House of Commons  Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee

New Environment Secretary to appear before Committee on preparations for a No Deal Brexit

The new Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers will appear before the EFRA Select Committee for the first time on Monday 9 September to discuss DEFRA’s readiness for Brexit, including contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit. Issues the session may cover include the Government’s reported plans for emergency support to farmers in the event of a no-deal, and the impact on the price and availability of food.

This is the evidence session that was originally scheduled for Wednesday 4 September.

Witnesses

Monday 9 September, Room 8, at 3pm:

  • Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Tamara Finkelstein, Permanent Secretary, DEFRA

 

 

Increasing organic stocks in agricultural soils: Knowledge gaps and potential innovations

This from Soil and Tillage Research

 

Abstract as follows:

Recent initiatives, such as the United Nations declaring 2015 as the International Year of Soils and the French « 4 per 1000 » initiative call attention on soils and on the importance of maintaining and increasing soil organic matter stocks for soil fertility and food security, and for climate change adaptation and mitigation. We stress that soil organic carbon storage (i.e. an increase of soil organic carbon stocks) should be clearly differentiated from soil organic carbon sequestration, as the latter assumes a net removal of atmospheric CO2. Implementing management options that allow increasing soil organic carbon stocks at the local scale raises several questions, which are discussed in this article: how can we increase SOC stocks, at which rate and for how long; where do we prioritize SOC storage; how do we estimate the potential gain in C and which agricultural practices should we implement? We show that knowledge and tools are available to answer many of these questions, while further research remains necessary for others. A range of agricultural practices would require a re-assessment of their potential to store C and a better understanding of the underlying processes, such as no tillage and conservation agriculture, irrigation, practices increasing below ground inputs, organic amendments, and N fertilization. The vision emerging from the literature, showing the prominent role of soil microorganisms in the stabilization of soil organic matter, draw the attention to more exploratory potential levers, through changes in microbial physiology or soil biodiversity induced by agricultural practices, that require in-depth research.