The COVID-19 pandemic is the world’s most immediate health crisis, but another crisis is quietly threatening long-term global health. Climate change has worsened in recent decades and, if left unchecked, farmers and consumers will bear the brunt of the consequences. Already, farmers are uncertain of the future, with climate change at the forefront of their concerns. About 72% of large-scale farmers in countries like the United States, France, China, Brazil, and India are worried about its effects on crop yields in the next five years, while 63% of farmers believe that climate change will have a greater impact on crops than COVID-19.
These effects aren’t lost on American farmers. Prior to the pandemic, farmers were already struggling with a loss of income due to weather-related challenges. COVID-19 has only further impacted their profits with restaurant closures and international trade disruptions, causing many to lose their jobs and close their businesses. These losses illustrate the fragility of the agriculture sector in the face of the pandemic and climate change—and its profound effect on global supply chains and the world’s economy.
Added to that, the global population is expected to grow to around 10 billion by 2050, increasing the global demand for food by 59 to 98 percent. However, recent studies anticipate crop yields will drop significantly without any new measures to mitigate climate change – not only threatening the livelihoods of millions of farmers globally, but also worsening the current global hunger crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the fragility of the agriculture ecosystem. Like a pandemic, climate change is an inevitable threat that we must address before it is too late. As the economy and agriculture begin to build back with the gradual easing of the Covid-19 restrictions, we need to support a recovery for farmers that puts the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss at its core. – Erik Fyrwald, Syngenta Group CEO
Syngenta is one of many organizations working to change the global agricultural industry for the better. Through its ‘Good Growth Plan,’ Syngenta promotes global sustainability and biodiversity—two major areas of concern for one of world’s largest agronomic developers and agricultural researchers.
First developed in 2013, the Good Growth Plan focused on driving agricultural innovation and protecting the welfare of farmers and other agricultural workers—with measurable successes including the completion of a 12.1 million acre forest restoration project, the education of 17.2 million farmers worldwide on labor safety and sustainability, and the implementation of the Fair Labor program in China, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay to create more sustainable working environments.
After achieving the 2020 goals, Syngenta looked ahead to 2025 and set new goals for the Good Growth Plan to meet the global challenges of the pandemic, while continuing to promote sustainability in the face of climate change. One of Syngenta’s goals is to promote agricultural innovation, keeping in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Through its investment of $2 billion over five years, Syngenta will develop new agricultural technologies that create breakthroughs in water-use efficiency, soil erosion, crop quality, and nutritional value, among others. All these efforts must meet the sustainability requirements of Syngenta and SDG 6 and 12 aimed at Zero Hunger and Responsible Consumption and Production, respectively.
Syngenta’s motivations behind supporting innovation are inspired by an urgent need for agricultural reform. Current agriculture practices place significant demands on water and other natural resources and accounted for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. Greenhouse gasses not only worsen climate change overall, but also affect livestock habitats and crop planting schedules, which can hinder farming practices and annual yields.
To help reach the goals of the Good Growth Plan, Syngenta partners with the public and private sector through the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) including organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and regional programs to help small-scale farmers produce higher yields of sustainable crops.
As one example, in partnership with USAID, the SFSA launched the Partnerships for Seed Technology Transfer in Africa (PASTTA) in 2017, which distributes new and improved seeds varieties for soybeans, potatoes, cassava, and other crops to farmers in Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Senegal and Uganda. These new seed varieties will yield more nutritious, drought-resistant and pest-resistant crops and allow farmers and their communities to more easily access high-quality food.
The Good Growth Plan’s large-scale efforts to promote biodiversity and sustainable agricultural practices promise a better and healthier future for farmers and consumers alike. By working to eradicate the harmful effects of climate change on agriculture, Syngenta is helping future generations of farmers to grow an abundance of higher-quality crops that will meet the demands of a growing world. With help from powerful partnerships, Syngenta is shifting the agriculture sector toward resilience in the face of climate change, pandemics, and other global challenges—ultimately helping to create a more sustainable world for generations to come.