Climate-wise solutions for the countryside

 

”Climate-wise solutions for the countryside” is a communication project in Finland, concentrating on farming and rural areas. The aim of the project is to bring scientific knowledge about climate change and climate-wise solutions closer to everyday life of farmers and rural stakeholders as well as hear their experiences and experiments and thoughts about possibilities and challenges for climate actions. The project is run by Natural Resources Institute Finland and taking place over 2016-2018. The funding comes from the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland and is allocated by The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) of Häme.

In the project communication is provided pragmatically about climate action, thus helping farmers to adapt to climate change and to be resilient in the face of changes. Project arranges several workshops and webinars for rural actors in Finland with the aim to provide information and facilitate co-designing of climate-smart solutions for rural sources of livelihood, with agriculture being one of the main ones. A network of climate-wise pilot farms has been set up to communicate about their experiences and experiments. Project maintains website and facebook-page as well as produces articles in agricultural magazines.

In this project climate-wise solutions are defined as solutions which enhance climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, they support ecological, social, cultural and economic sustainability and they are usable in local conditions.

Climate-wise solutions for the countryside -project builds on former Climate change and countryside-project, which was awareness raising project and implemented in 2011-2014.

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Climate Change and Countryside-project 2011-2014

Climate Change and Countryside-project brings implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation actions closer to everyday life of farmers and rural stakeholders. Climate change mitigation and adaptation are increasingly important for the future of farming and rural development. Rural areas play an important part in planning mitigation and proactive adaptation actions. Climate Change and Countryside –project brings awareness raising and adaptive capacity building and creates discussion forums on potential effects of climate change and how to prepare for them on rural areas and for agricultural production.

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How can greenhouse gas emissions on rural areas and in farming be decreased?

Climate change mitigation actions can be contributed to by using renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels, by implementing energy saving actions and by using energy efficiently Also planning of land use, livestock feeding and cropping practices and their timing carefully can reduce emissions. Rural areas have great potentials to implement renewable energy production technologies and to increase carbon sinks. By growing nitrogen-fixing-plants as part of crop rotation, the need of nitrogen fertilizers decreases as well as the amount of fossil energy needed to the fertilizer production. Efficient nutrient recycling and use enhance economic and environmental sustainability of the whole farming system. E.g. by improving manure utilization, valuable nutrients can be directed to fields instead of atmosphere and waterways. Whereas cultivation of cover crops on fields after the main crop, benefit cash crops by protecting the soil from erosion, adding organic matter and capturing nutrients.

kuva: Tapio Tuomela/MTT:n arkisto.

Photo: Tapio Tuomela/archive of Agrifood Research Finland

How can adaptation to effects of climate change on farms and on rural areas be improved?

Proactive adaptation to proceeding climate change has similar features as being well prepared for different kinds of uncertainties. Successful climate change adaptation demands not only case-specific, practical adaptation measures, but also building the adaptive capacity of farms to operate well under increasing uncertainty, be it weather changes or altered demand of food, feed or other bio-based products. Climate change appears through  many kinds of changes: not just through the changes in weather conditions (e.g. droughts or floods) but also through changes in policy and prices of energy and  inputs. Adaptive capacity can be built by raising tolerance to change and uncertainty, by learning more about risk management and by taking care of crop, income source or regional farm type diversity.

Photo: Karoliina Rimhanen/ archive of Agrifood Research Finland

Photo: Karoliina Rimhanen/ archive of Agrifood Research Finland

What can I do on my own farm to decrease greenhouse gas emissions?

Here are some examples of mitigation actions of farms:

  • find out if there are possibilities to produce and use renewable energy on your farm (renewable energy means heat and electricity produced by wood, wind, sun, biogas and micro-scale hydropower)
  • increase the carbon sinks of your fields, take good care of the structure and the fertility of soil
  • sow cover crops and green manures after the cash crops
  • grow perennial plants as part of crop rotation, e.g. grass
  • decrease ploughing on peat soils and favor grass instead
  • let swamps be swamps. Transforming them into fields produce big amounts of greenhouse gases
  • use fertilizers only the amount that crop plants can use
  • use manure according to good farming practices (proper storage, spread during the growing season, cultivate immediately after spreading on field)
  • feed your livestock properly, but do not overload of protein (if they can’t use it to their growth it just flows to manure)
  • take good care of drainage of the fields
  • use heating and lightning in buildings as sufficient for the well-being of your livestock, and only when necessary
  • take notice on how to use machines in an energy efficient way.

Are there win-win situations, when climate, farmers and farmers’ income would benefit?

Yes, win-win situations can be realized for example when increasing carbon sinks of field soils. Carbon sinks of agricultural lands are estimated to be one of the most important ways for agriculture to combat climate change. The amount of organic matter and humus in soils are important also for the fertility and structure and thus for the productivity of fields.  When fields are rich in organic matter and possess good soil structure, they perform better under varying weather conditions: if it is dry they can hold more humidity, and if it is wet they can hold nutrients in fields instead of nutrient leakage into waterways.

Another good example is enhancing biodiversity. Crop rotation, growing several crops on farms, and intercropping provide means to improve yield security under varying conditions. Diversity might function as a cheap insurance against many types of changes. Diverse soil microbes, pollinators and natural enemies for pests are farmers’ beneficial friends that diminish impacts or even prevent plant diseases and pest problems, secure successful pollination of crops, enable provision of nutrients from organic matter to plants and good crumby structure on fields.

Photo: ILMASOPU-project, Tuomas Marttila/ archive of Agrifood Research Finland

Photo: ILMASOPU-project, Tuomas Marttila/ archive of Agrifood Research Finland

What is Climate Change and Countryside –project?

“Climate Change and Countryside” is an awareness raising project in Finland, concentrating on farming and rural areas and taking place over 2011-2014. The aim of the project is to bring scientific knowledge about climate change closer to everyday life of farmers and rural stakeholders. The project is run by MTT Agrifood Research Finland. The funding comes from the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland and is allocated by The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) of Häme.

The project

  • surveys and reports information needs of farmers and rural stakeholders about climate change mitigation and adaptation actions
  • organizes workshops for farmers, farming teachers at vocational schools and at universities of applied sciences, rural developers, decision makers and researchers all over Finland
  • maintains the project website: www.ilmase.fi  where you can find info from project workshops and theme-specific information sheets
  • helps networking of people interested in climate chance mitigation and adaptation in rural areas of Finland
  • produces brochures on different themes linked to climate change, e.g. presenting concrete actions that farmers can do on their farms in favour of mitigating or adapting to climate change
  • produces articles to farmers’ professional magazines
  • shares information on climate change in events for farmers
  • organizes a final seminar in 2014.

Riitta Savikko, Sari Himanen, Karoliina Rimhanen, Hanna Mäkinen, Meri Saarnia, Heli Lehtinen

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