The family farm system has to be protected – and young farmers have to be able to earn a good living through food production and restoring the natural world, according to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Eamon Ryan.

Minister Ryan was speaking at the Leaders Climate Summit yesterday (Thursday, April 22) to mark Earth Day.

Addressing the summit – organised by US President Joe Biden – Minister Ryan highlighted the recent climate legislation introduced in Ireland, committing to climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Commenting on agriculture, the minister said: “We must continue to support local communities, including especially small-scale farmers.

To use land sustainable, to protect and regenerate local ecosystems, which has both biodiversity as well as climate – the two crises go together. The solutions come together. This has relevance for my own country.

We have to protect our family farm system and also allow a new generation of young farmers earn a good living by restoring the natural world as well as providing food for our people. Paying people, our farmers, properly for that is probably the first, most important thing we need to do.

“That lesson equally applies to the least developed countries and small island developing states where Ireland focuses its adaptation support.

“To give you an example, we’ve worked with small scale farmers in Malawi over the last five years to develop over 20 new varieties of sorghum, millet and groundnuts, where 304,000ha of land have been cultivated using climate smart agricultural practices, including nitrogen fixing trees and conservation agricultural techniques.

“We seek the same nature-based solutions in our work with small island developing states, including through our support with the Asian Development Bank,” the minister added.

“We look forward to working with many of you for a strong focus on nature-based solutions in the food systems summit due later this year.

“And we also hope to see progress on food systems transformations with small-scale farmers and the rural poor being put front and centre, not just in Glasgow this November but also in future COP events.”