Violeta Gevorkjan is an expert with 20 years of experience in the international food supply chain. Soil and Climate Change Mitigation advocate, Nature-Based Solutions GHG project lead.
Violeta works towards the implementation of carbon farming projects where farmers are given incentives to apply less intrusive farming practices in order to restore our soils. Agronomic practices that result in rapid soil carbon sequestration not only enhance farm resilience and provide other ecosystem benefits but also play a significant role in the mitigation of the impacts of climate change in agriculture and beyond.
Food philosophy: ”Do not take food for granted; it is a natural resource that can be depleted if we do not act responsibly. It is our decision how to use it – drastically and destructively or carefully and holistically.”
Unfortunately, for the last 70 years, humanity has had a very wrong approach to the food supply chain, and this is because of our limited knowledge about natural cycles. Our food supply is in danger now, but only we are responsible for that because of our consumers’ mindset. Human activity accelerates climate change, and human activity depletes natural resources. It is time to change habits and start to care not only about ourselves but also about nature, which provides us with everything we have around us.
Industrial agriculture is destabilising the Earth system and is a major driver in exceeding planetary boundaries. It has been estimated that 6 out of 9 identified planetary boundaries have already been surpassed, meaning we are operating in a danger zone, according to climate scientists.
To reduce the negative impact of conventional agriculture in transgressing planetary boundaries, many interventions will be needed, including those in broader food systems. Violeta is working to shift the industrial mindset when it comes to farming and enables farmers to adopt more environmentally friendly farming practices, where the big part of it is Lithuanian lands.
“All begins with our soils beneath our feet, and our farmers, who are the main stewards of their land.”
Violeta emphasised the role of farmers in ensuring sustainable food supply not only nutrition-wise but also taking into account the health of our planet. Farmers need support in transitioning to more sustainable farming practices as the old ‘productivist’ farming approach is still applied worldwide for the most part. The current challenge and objective are to showcase to the mainstream that sustainable farming practices can create a much more resilient agri-food system and work better for the planet and for the people.
In reality, contrary to popular belief, food grown conventionally is actually more expensive. The price goes down due to the volumes, of course, but in order to grow food conventionally, farmer relies on external inputs every single year. Another part of the cost takes the environmental damage conventional agriculture is causing; the third part also takes a toll on society’s health long-term.
Opportunities: Towards more holistic agriculture
“Farmers need to do less, not more, in order to steward their land and restore our soils.”
Violeta has reminded us of a “Triple bottom line” concept, where economic, social, and environmental aspects all have equal weight in production value. Farmers should be economically viable, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible in order to be able to grow food sustainably. And we need to find ways on how to collaboratively support farmers in mindset change and transitioning to a more just and environmentally-friendly agriculture.
Why transition to more sustainable farming practices?
- It has been estimated that if we restore all of the degraded soils in the world, decarbonization would happen in 6 years.
- More regenerative farming practices in the long run will reduce external inputs and decrease farmers’ reliance on excessive synthetic fertiliser use. This will result in healthy soil, more nutritious produce, and less money spent on fertilisers over time
There are multiple barriers associated with shifting to more holistic and responsible agriculture. Besides systematic legal and financial barriers, a collective mindset is a great challenge as well. We have been operating in a productivist short-term gain system for decades now, and it is no easy task to shift people’s perception to start thinking more long-term.
When it comes to legal and financial issues, some structural changes that incentivize farmers to do the right thing should be introduced. The EU strategic plan is in place and looks promising – but why is it not going forward? Incentives are not in place – farmers are being rewarded for their efforts rather than results. This only introduces the idea but lacks on the execution and result part. Farmers need to work together with other actors to find realistic ways to transition from conventional agriculture to more regenerative farming practices.