Three international farmers warn of climate change impact

In Australia, climate extremes have been a constant issue for farmers - but it is getting worse
In Australia, climate extremes have been a constant issue for farmers - but it is getting worse

Three farmers from the UK, Australia and Tanzania have shared their experience of dealing with the effects of climate change and how they remain resilient despite it.

In the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow, the farmers joined an Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) event to highlight the harsh realities of climate change and its impact on the industry.

Martin Lines from Cambridgeshire, Ellen Litchfield from South Australia and Tumaini Elibariki from Tanzania each spoke about the day-to-day realities of dealing with adverse weather patterns.

Martin, who is Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) Chair and an arable farmer, said that there was a need to work with the landscape’s natural capacity to improve resilience.

“Climate change isn’t coming, it’s here now," he warned, "Within my arable business, I’m being greatly affected by the seasons changing and from being too dry, too wet with weather patterns disrupted and we only know that this is going to get worse.

“For me, my number one asset as a land manager and farmer is my soil. And if I can improve the soil quality, biodiversity and landscape around me, I can stay profitable and viable into the future.

"To do this, we’ve moved away from cultivations into direct drilling and cover crops. We’ve also welcomed back livestock to fertilise and feed off the cover crops.”

In Australia, Ellen Litchfield farms in the most rainfall volatile area of the country, on a sheep and cattle station that spans 600,000 hectares.

“For us, dealing with climate extremes has been a constant issue - but it’s getting worse," she warned.

"The 2019 drought saw some parts of the country experience the driest and hottest year on record. Rainfall was down 40% and average temp up 1.5 degrees.”

Despite the droughts and associated economic impact, Ellen said that productivity had significantly increased across livestock and cropping sectors.

This, she said, was because farmers on the front line of climate change could increase their resilience by investing in natural capital, climate adaptive breeds, solar energy and sharing their story to maintain social license.

“One thing that I think that is important is sharing our story and recognising that as farmers, we are going to have to speak up and tell the world what we are actually doing and how we are mitigating and adapting to climate change.”

Tumaini Elibariki has worked for Farm Africa since 2012 and has managed a number of their projects in northern Tanzania.

He supports farmers to identify issues they face, solutions and training, utilising his background in agricultural technology. He is also Programme Manager for the Sunflower Project, growing drought-tolerant varieties.

“In Tanzania we have a challenge where most farmers rely on small scale farming in rural areas, but around 35% of the population does not have enough nutritious food to eat," he said.

"Another challenge is deforestation with some of the population turning to selling timber products such as firewood and charcoal to make money, resulting in soil erosion."

In northern and central Tanzania, he said climate change was making weather patterns increasingly unpredictable, limiting smallholders’ ability to plan for the future.

"Farmers have been planting cover crops such as lablab beans to help improve moisture retention and in the event of floods soil erosion is limited due to the protection of the crop.”

The session, which was chaired by OFC Director Liz Bowles, was the second in a series of webinars that is being hosting in the lead up to the return of the physical event in January 2022.