5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

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Soils and agriculture in the face of climate change: Challenges of the 4P1000 initiative

Soils and agriculture in the face of climate change: Challenges of the 4P1000 initiative

Knowledge and innovation gaps

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 13:30 to 14:45

Key points

  • Soil degradation poses a threat to more than 40 % of the earth’s land surfaces, a process accelerated by climate change. The 4P1000 (four parts per 1000) initiative will increase the growth rate of carbon stored in the soil, which helps slow the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Farmers in eastern Burkina Faso are working on an agro-ecology programme to improve soil quality and receive training on elements of agro-ecological agriculture.
  • The EU is a key player in climate change-related programmes, and DG Devco will mobilise 29 % of its development cooperation envelope on agriculture and climate change activities.
  • The private sector is increasing its investment in new forms of agriculture, but needs to include social and environmental safeguards. The European Commission is keen to work with the private sector to aid research.


Soil degradation, which poses a threat to more than 40 % of the earth’s land surfaces, is being accelerated by climate change, with disastrous consequences for food security and small farmers, particularly in developing countries. The 4P1000 (4 parts per 1,000) programme to improve the carbon load in the soil was launched by France’s Institut de Recherche pour le Développement during the Paris 2015 climate talks. This aims to reduce carbon emissions, improve farming and combat the increasing drought in the soil.

4P1000 has two objectives: improving carbon sequestration in soil will enrich the soil and improve agriculture; storing carbon produced by industrial emissions will reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere and potentially slow climate change.

The programme is run by a partnership of government and non-state actors and is based on a research and scientific programme of 11 countries.

A related African initiative to improve soil yields and support local farmers is bearing fruit in Burkina Faso. The Association for Training and Research in Agro-Ecology is working with farmers, local NGOs and agricultural researchers to develop agro-ecological farming practices that restore the soil’s fertility and increase food production. Farmers build on traditional practices to conserve water and improve the soil. In addition, they use animal and other organic compost to enrich the soil, carry out strategic tree planting, and develop short-cycle seeds.

The programme helps farmers to experiment in comparing costs and benefits in relation to other practices, as well as offering technical training sessions in agro-ecology innovation. It also has a social aspect: boosting gender and economic equity by setting up women’s savings and credit groups; encouraging dry-season vegetable gardening for consumption and sale at local markets; improving practices for raising livestock; and building agricultural capacity.

Combatting climate change is a main concern for the European Union, which was a key player at the Paris climate talks in 2015, where it helped leverage the final agreement. In keeping with this commitment, DG Devco has increased the share of its budget line for sustainable agriculture to 29 % for actions relating to climate change programmes, and is on track to increase this to 40 %. DG Research is also supporting 4P1000 to ‘the last mile’, and the EU continues to be a leader in combatting climate change.

The private sector is getting on board to support new agricultural developments in the face of climate change, and participants agreed that research cannot survive without private sector support, and in many cases public-private partnerships are an excellent vehicle for joint cooperation.

The European Commission is producing an agro-biodiversity index to measure sustainability in agriculture, which can be used by the private sector. It was suggested that when designing research programmes the private sector should build in social and environmental safeguards, even if this might reduce production levels.


There was a suggestion that the 4P1000 could be a pretext for Europe to continue to produce carbon emissions at the same level, while hoping that developing countries could sequestrate these in its soil. However, IRD confirmed that this programme is being rolled out in both industrialised and developing countries, so such fears are not grounded.

Organised by

    Dorothée Fischer
    Mathieu Savadogo
    Association for research and training in agroecology
    Emmanuel Torquebiau
    Senior researcher and Climate Change Officer
    Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement
    Jean-Luc Chotte
    Head of research and Deputy Director of ECOBIO
    Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
    Bernard Rey
    Deputy Head of Unit, Rural development, food security, nutrition
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
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