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The meat of the issue

04 December 2012, The Zimbabwean

In an interview during the Agriculture Day held on the side-lines of COP18 in Doha, Qatar, Carison said farmers in Africa produce their cattle in a way that emits less methane and reduces the contribution of beef production to climate change.

“High intensity farming practised in developed countries is the major contributor to methane emissions and the farmers that are in Africa, mostly use open land grazing,” he said.

Worldwide, it is said that cattle are a major source of greenhouse gases, belching two gigatonnes each year. “I am still doubtful of this figureact and I think researchers need to look at the facts right. They must also go to Africa when in some countries 99% are small holders with only one cow to five cows,” Carison added.

He said farmers on the other hand are also trying to improve their breeds in order to make use sure that they save their environment. “Genetic improvement is a known technology. It has a history of being accessible and traits from elite sires can be quickly spread via artificial insemination. It is our hope as farmers that “low-methane” will be included in cattle's estimated breeding values, the profit indices used to describe the genetic merit of cattle,” he added .

According to Carison, people who make a living off the land are no strangers to risk, whether dictated by mother nature .

"The longer term raises a much more vexing question," he said. "What climate scientists really tell us is not so much that it'll be drier and hotter as it'll be dramatically more variable.”

Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) agreed that climate change will up the ante considerably by bringing more extreme weather gyrations searing drought one year, followed by torrential storms that can wash away cracked soil and destroy crops rather than quench their thirst.

Dr Solh said farmers may not call it climate change, or attribute it to human activity, but many are scrambling to adapt or make themselves more resilient to a future of greater uncertainty and risk. “Their survival kit consists of a mixture of emerging cattle-breeding technology, sustainable rangeland and farmland practices, and new business plans,” he added.

He called on for more money to be put in place for research that will assist farmers in both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Carison added that if a solution is not found soon to save agriculture, then food security for Africa and Asia will remain an immediate global challenge.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food insecurity is a major global concern today as 1 billion people are suffering from starvation, under nutrition and malnutrition, and we are still far from reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

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