Terra Preta: Forum on the Food Crisis, Climate Change, Agrofuels and Food
held in parallel to FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy
facilitated by the International NGO/CSO Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC)
Models of Production
Food sovereignty policies enable zero carbon production, collection and consumption of local
food and biomass for fuel. This can be achieved in ways that increase resilience and can enable
production to adapt to Climate Change. This model of production and harvesting is agroecological and
sequesters CO2 in soil organic matter and uses organic manures and nitrogen-fixing plants in place of
chemical fertilisers. It is smaller scale, people-centred with both women and men having decisive
roles. It is knowledge-intensive and maintains livelihoods. It depends on and provides locally-
developed crop varieties and livestock breeds that are adapted to local climatic conditions – such as
drought resistant seed varieties, crops that grow in wetlands and flood plains (although some practices
produce excessive methane), disease-resistant livestock etc. It is not dependent on agrochemicals.
This model of production sustains agroecosystems, working with and not against the environment and,
as a result, productivity is higher. It develops synergies with nature creating space for local
experimentation and building the store of knowledge that can be shared, without high costs. This
agroecological, locally-controlled model of production cannot be appropriated or ‘owned’ by an
individual but is responsive to democratic demands and respects collective rights.
In contrast, industrial crop and livestock production and intensive fisheries, and associated
processing, distribution and retailing systems, contribute around a quarter of GreenHouse Gas
emissions, the cause of Climate Change. This model of production is based on intensive energy
use and the mining of nature and favours production of agricultural commodities and agrofuels. It has
little resilience and cannot adapt to climate change. It harms people and the planet, increasing:
air and water pollution; negative impacts of disasters on poor people;
destruction of biodiversity, rural livelihoods and abuse of fundamental rights
communities; wars and conflicts.
Industrial crop and livestock production and intensive fisheries and aquaculture facilitate the rise of
consumerism and materialism with consequent increases in food waste and with negative impacts on
culture, nutrition and food sovereignty.
Fishery dependent communities are amongst the most at risk from actual and predicted
negative impacts of climate change. Fisheries, including capture of wild stocks and aquaculture, will
change dramatically. The industrial model of fisheries, with its high dependence on fossil fuel,
contributes to exacerbating the impacts of climate change by degrading fishery ecosystems and
impoverishing biodiversity. Intensive aquaculture practices, by destroying critical coastal and aquatic
environments, such as mangrove swamps, render coastal communities even more vulnerable to the
impacts of climate change and associated natural disasters.
The industrial model of production and harvesting is supported by public and private research
institutions and promoted for so-called ‘food security’. It undermines food sovereignty. It
enables capital concentration and corporate control, facilitated by trade liberalisation, intellectual
property rights systems and the neoliberal policies, agreements and institutions which support them
such as the World Trade Organisation, regional and bilateral Free Trade Agreements, as well as the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
It is capital intensive and is protected by patents, commercial contracts and trade rules that facilitate
corporations’ capture and control of markets for inputs and products, the capture of agroecosystems
and the overexploitation and degradation of these and other natural resources.
This industrial model of production enables control by unaccountable and remote corporations.
Producing food while cooling the planet
Food sovereignty: uses the contributions of nature in diverse, low external input agroecological
production and harvesting methods that maximise the contribution of ecosystems and improve
resilience and adaptation, especially in the face of climate change; it seeks to heal the planet so
that the planet may heal us; and, rejects methods that harm beneficial ecosystem functions,
that depend on energy intensive monocultures and livestock factories, destructive fishing
practices and other industrialised production methods, which damage the environment and
contribute to global warming.
Nyéléni 2007: Forum for Food Sovereignty www.nyeleni2007.org
Focus on livestock
Intensive livestock production is responsible for the majority of agriculture's contribution to
climate change. While deforestation/land use change, enteric fermentation, and manure have all
been identified as causes, land use change is by far the biggest contributor: land use change for
animal feed production alone contributes 7% of total global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). There
are important regional differences: in Brazil, for instance, the contribution of livestock to greenhouse
gases is estimated at 60% of the national total, if land use change related emissions are factored in.
Ruminant livestock (cattle, goats, sheep, camelids, yaks etc) produce methane that makes
proportionally a much higher contribution to GHGs than CO2. There are trade-offs between ruminant
methane production and livestock keepers’ contribution to climate change mitigation through the
sustainable management of their animals in rangelands and through retention and nutrient recycling of
nitrogen compounds (another contributor to GHGs) in well-composted manure for crop production.
Livestock production is especially crucial to the billion rural poor who are supported by livestock, a
significant number of whom depend on common property resources to sustain their animals. Livestock
are the world’s largest user of land (30 percent of the world’s land surface area). Commercial livestock
production contributes 40% of the world’s gross value of agricultural production.
Industrial livestock production, which threatens the livelihoods of small-scale producers, is responsible
for more and more of the livestock products that people consume – driven by a spiral of increased
levels of demand. These are the result of a combination of lower prices through the externalisation of
environmental, welfare and social costs and oversupply – a system favoured by international financing
institutions and aid agencies in their mission of implementing a development paradigm based on
economic growth. Since these increases in demand are an effect of unsustainable, increased supply,
they should not be used to justify the intensification of animal husbandry and aquaculture.
As intensive supply-driven livestock production is aggressively promoted – increasingly in developing
countries – there is increasing consumption that may cause health, environmental and social problems
This model of production is rapidly spreading to all countries with a shift away from grazing and higher
demand for feed and fodder crops. Cultivation of feed crops, e.g. soya, is a driver of deforestation of
tropical rainforest. According to one estimate about one third of the world's arable land is used for
growing crops to feed livestock, and this proportion could increase.
The industrial production of livestock is not only a major contributor to climate change; it also
destroys livelihoods, abuses rights and destroys diversity, thereby accelerating the food crisis.
Wilderswil Declaration on Livestock Diversity
More on this issue is covered in the Social Movements’ / CSO Declaration on Livestock Diversity, agreed
in Wilderswil in September 2007. It identifies the industrial livestock system as one of the main forces
behind this destruction of livelihoods, cultures and biodiversity and calls for a radical transformation of
livestock keeping to one that defends collective rights, the environment and food sovereignty.
Socially and environmentally sustainable, small-scale and family production must be supported in
order to enable humanity to adapt to and survive climate change and future food crises, including
Realising the right to food sovereignty
Policies that enable mobility of nomadic pastoralists instead of trying to sedenterise them
would allow them adapt to changes in climate by moving in search of water and food as they
have always done in the past.
A true agrarian and fisheries reform, that strengthens small-scale farming, livestock production
and fishing, promotes the production of food as the primary use of land and the aquatic
environment, and regards food as a basic human right that rather than a commodity.
Local food production to stop the unnecessary transport of food and ensure that what reaches
our tables is fresh, safe and nutritious.
Fair and adequate prices to allow small-scale producers to have long- term stability and invest
in adaptation to climate change.
Research to improve the resilience of small-scale production and harvesting to climate change
and to promote decentralised biomass energy systems.
1. How can we promote food sovereignty and protect peasant based agriculture, herding and
artisanal fisheries as part of the solution to the food and climate crises? How will the next
generation be able to adopt agroecological production and harvesting methods?
2. What positive experiences do you have of agroecological practices that have been part of the
solution to the climate change and
the food crises?
3. What negative impacts of industrial, corporate-led agriculture, livestock and fisheries
production are felt in your region through local, national or international actors – especially by
4. How should we react to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane from
ruminants and rice paddies?
5. How can we push for dismantling agribusiness corporations, removal of perverse subsidies
and the conversion of industrial production to agroecological production systems, the
protection of pastoral grazing areas and the outlawing of destructive fishing practices?
Nyeleni 2007: forum for food sovereignty – background papers, Declaration, Synthesis Report.
Seedling special issue on livestock www.grain.org/seedling/?type=71