As the world prepares for COP26, due to be hosted in Glasgow, 1-12 November, farmers have been sharing their experiences ‘on the front line of climate change’ at a recent Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) Bitesize webinar.

In partnership with the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), Farming on the Frontline of Climate Change provided a forum in which farmers could discuss practices they are using to combat the effects of climate change while remaining resilient amid their own challenges.

The session was chaired by Liz Bowles, OFC director and associate director of farming and land use at the Soil Association, who commented: “We all must look at how we can change our farming practices to adapt to climate change both to remain competitive, but also to play our part in cooling down our planet.”

Joining the call was Tumaini Elibariki, who manages Farm Africa projects in Tanzania, supporting farmers to identify issues and solutions. “In Tanzania … most farmers rely on small scale farming in rural areas, but around 35% of the population does not have enough nutritious food to eat. Another challenge is deforestation with some of the population turning to selling timber … to make money, resulting in soil erosion.

“In northern and central Tanzania, climate change is 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.”

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

Martin Lines, arable farmer and NFFN chair, added: “Climate change isn’t coming, it’s here now. 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.”

Ellen Litchfield, who farms in the most rainfall volatile area of Australia, commented: “It’s getting worse. 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.” Litchfield believes farmers on the front line of climate change can become more resilient by investing in natural capital, solar energy and climate adaptive breeds, solar energy and sharing their story ‘to maintain social license’.

“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.”