Agriculture accounts for an estimated 14 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but also has significant potential to capture atmospheric carbon and store it in soils and plants. A number of suitable technologies and practices can sequester carbon in smallholder agriculture. About 70 percent of the GHG-reducing potential of agriculture can be realized in developing countries, according to an FAO policy brief prepared for the UN Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December 2009. A US$60 million multi-donor initiative launched by FAO in the context of the Copenhagen summit aims to promote sustainable, low-GHG agriculture in developing countries over the next five years. With initial funding of US$3.9 million from Finland, the programme will involve farmers in mitigation actions and build capacity at national, regional and local level. Pilot projects in five countries will test emission reduction and soil carbon sequestration in different farming systems and ecological zones, analyse the economics of mitigation for farm households and its effects on production and productivity. At present, there are no data on GHG emissions by agricultural commodity, country or region and the initiative will create a database on current and projected GHG emissions in land and agriculture for main agricultural commodities, countries and regions. Finance and credit arrangements will also be assessed to promote adoption of GHG reducing or removing agricultural practices and support the development of carbon measuring, reporting and verifying methodologies.
Global food prices rising again
World food prices have been rising in recent months with the FAO Food Price Index based on cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar increasing for four successive months, notes FAO's December 2009 Food Outlook report (http://www.fao.org/docrep/ 012/ak341e/ak341e00.htm). The average price index of 168 points in November 2009 was the highest since September 2008. The food price surge of two years ago was triggered by a combination of low global cereal stocks, production shortages, high oil prices, demand for crops for biofuel production and speculative investments in food commodities. While world cereal stocks are now far more comfortable and production prospects are good, macroeconomic factors such as exchange rates, volatile oil prices and low interest rates are creating uncertainty with nonfood economy events increasingly influencing food commodity markets.