Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture
Climate change is caused by the high concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in earth’s atmosphere. The overall impacts of climate change on agricultural sector are expected to be negative. Moreover, agriculture contributes to climate change. For instance, agriculture accounts for one-fifth (19%) of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Georgia.
Climate change has unfavorable effects on agricultural sector, in particular:
- leads to more frequent and devastating natural disasters (frosts, storms, hail, landslides, mudslides, floods);
- the average temperature is rising;
- the amount of atmospheric precipitation is decreasing;
- produces more frequent and more intense wildfires;
- area of glaciers and, consequently, water reserves are sharply reducing;
- speeds the spread of invasive alien species of pests/diseases and weeds;
- causes land degradation and desertification;
- decreases productivity that increases food security risks.
What are the key challenges for farmers and what are the solutions?
The above-mentioned factors, similar to other countries, are the challenges for farmers in Georgia. Special attention is paid to access to water and the use of contemporary, resource-saving and efficient technologies such as sprinkler or spray irrigation systems.
It is essential for farmers to use the climate-smart methods that are given below:
- Integrated crop protection that involves combining various methods to avoid pests and diseases or to suppress them;
- Growing the species or varieties adapted to the climatic conditions;
- Enriching soil with organic matter;
- Planting and care of windbreaks/shelterbelts;
- Increase agrobiodiversity and use natural farming approaches;
- Eco/Agri tourism development;
- Application of conservation agriculture practices: this includes zero tillage (no-till) or reduced (minimum) tillage, mulch, crop rotation;
- Promoting agrometeorological products on farms to make well-informed decisions (agrometeorological stations, satellite tracking; using various smart devices and applications to monitor environmental conditions).
The most vulnerable region in the country
Climate change is one of the most painful issues in Kakheti region not only because of hail, which destroys or severely damages farmers’ crop, but also in terms of land degradation. Saline soils are found at 22% of the total area of the region. Overgrazing of winter pastures is common challenge there. Land degradation and desertification have become more extreme because of windbreaks. Sagarejo, Sighnaghi, Tsnori and Dedoplistskaro municipalities are especially in difficult situations. It is worth mentioning that Kakheti is a leading region across the country that produces the most agricultural products such as grapes, peaches, cereals, watermelon and melons.
Primarily, it is necessary to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Here are the ways to achieve that: reforestation, restoring natural ecosystems, and reducing deep tillage. At the next stage, farmers residing in the Kakheti region should start using environmentally and climate-friendly practices. For instance, making use of conservation approaches: zero or minimum tillage, mulching, crop rotation, growing drought resistance varieties of crop and utilizing of sprinkler irrigation systems, avoiding overgrazing of pastures, using of hail netting, diversification of crops so that harvesting to be likely at different seasons throughout the year and active water consumption should also be distributed in time.
What are the main threats to food security?
Georgia is dependent on food imports to some degree, but also produces a variety of grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Climate change will lead to increased poverty, urban migration, and fewer people staying in the agricultural sector, making a precondition for the rise in commodity prices. Food shortages due to climate change are not expected in the short-term, however, a steady rise in the price of goods is unavoidable. In the long-run, for food security, it is fundamental to arrange irrigation systems to make the growing/processing of wheat and other grains/vegetables feasible.
What is being done to stop climate change in the world and in Georgia?
Climate change is an issue that is at the top of the world’s political agenda. A perfect example of this is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) platform, which serves as a guide or roadmap for the states. Additionally, there are global agreements, including most recently at the Glasgow Climate Conference, where some of the world leaders pledged to reduce use of coal – (which is responsible for 40% of annual CO2 emissions). The EU, for example, has launched the new “Farm to Fork” strategy, as part of the Green Deal, that assists farmers to cause less harm to the environment and, furthermore, avoid climate change by carbon sequestration.
Georgia, as a signatory to numerous international agreements, develops and submits reports to the respective councils on a regular basis; it has also approved the Climate Change Strategy 2030, the Action Plan for 2021-2023, etc.
It is important to note that the private sector is also actively participating in climate change mitigation activities. For example, the Georgian Farmers’ Association (GFA) has established a working group on climate change and environmental protection, which vigorously pursues the stated goals to ensure that our members sustainably and, definitely, increase productivity with minimum negative influence on the environment.