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If Mozambique reduces net emissions from farming, will the poor suffer?

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Steve Wiggins

If global warming is to be held to no more than 2°C this century, then greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have to be reduced. Agriculture is responsible for between 11% and 35% of total emissions of GHG, the higher figure applying when the effects of converting forest, peat and wet lands to farming are included. Technically, there are ways to reduce emissions from agriculture and forestry at relatively low cost. Indeed, through carbon capture in soils and plants, agriculture could — for at least some time — drastically reduce its net emissions, perhaps getting close to zero.

Yet, by 2050 the world population is expected to rise to nine billion. Feeding every-one will mean expanding agricultural output by 70% or more. Given the limited land that can be used, much of this increase must come from intensified production, with the danger of increased GHG emissions.

Most poor people in the world live in rural areas and many work on farms. If agricultural systems are changed to reduce emissions and capture carbon, will this reduce their production and earnings?

This study addresses these issues, examining a low-income country where agriculture is the mainstay of most livelihoods: Mozambique. Three questions are posed:

  • What might be done to reduce emissions from Mozambican farming?
  • What would happen to the economy in terms of output, employment and, above all, the incomes and food security of poor people in Mozambique?
  • What are the implications for policy-makers trying to mitigate emissions in agriculture, while promoting agricultural development to relieve poverty and hunger?
Steve Wiggins, Lindsay Chant, Scott McDonald and Julia Wright