Q. What about agriculture? Current conventional practices often lead to land degradation and massive deforestation. What is happening to address non-sustainable agriculture on a global scale?
A. The environmental pressures from global agriculture are indeed enormous.
The demand for food is rising, in large part because of population growth and rising incomes that give millions of once-low income people the means to eat richer diets. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down huge chunks of the Amazon rain forest.
Efforts are being made to tackle the problems, and a slew of announcements are coming this week at the Paris climate conference.
The biggest success has arguably been in Brazil, which adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.
Last year, scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.
Many forest experts at the Paris conference see the pledge as ambitious, but possible. And they say it is crucial that consumers keep up the pressure on companies from whom they buy products, from soap to ice cream.
Although only 5% of South Africa’s beef is produced away from feedlots, getting official “grass-fed” certification for small holder farmers is a struggle with the Department of Agriculture. So says Mpumelelo Ncwadi, co-founder of the Indwe Trust; an organisation working to strengthen smallholder farmers in South Africa.
According to Ncwadi, 95% of South Africa’s beef is produced on feedlots where animals are fattened with maize-based food (unnatural to cows whose natural diets should be grass-only) and antibiotics.
Here’s why gaining a “grass-fed” certification from the Department of Agriculture is a struggle for small holder farmers.
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