Editorial | Island Voices Hawaii offers path for greening of agriculture By Danielle Nierenberg and Haibing Ma Aug. 14, 2011 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! STAR-ADVERTISER / 2010Organic produce at MA'O Organic Farms in Waianae helps support youth educational programs as well as feeds the community. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. As the world’s largest burner of coal and emitter of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2), China may not be the greenest of countries. A constant layer of smog in Beijing is a stark reminder that carbon emissions are affecting air quality. In China, this is largely due to the fact that coal accounts for nearly 70 percent of total energy consumption. But, just as Hawaii is starting to go green through initiatives that encourage local food production, efforts are under way to lessen the environmental impacts of China’s rapid industrialization and shift the economy toward one that favors sustainable development. According to a new Worldwatch Institute report, "Green Economy and Green Jobs in China," the three sectors of energy, transportation and forestry could provide at least 4.5 million green jobs in China in 2020. China’s wind power industry alone created an average of 40,000 direct green jobs annually from 2006 to 2010. But, according to the report, "greening can and should occur in all sectors of the economy." Agriculture, for example, can contribute significantly to the green economy. Small-scale, sustainable farming encourages job creation and reduces the environmental impact associated with energy intensive industrial farming. MA‘O Organic Farms in Waianae, for example, is a 16-acre farm that grows fruits and vegetables to improve community food security. In addition to sharing the produce through a community-supported agriculture program, the farm offers youth education programs, including an internship designed to give Waianae youth ages 17-24 real work experience co-managing an organic farm. In Honolulu, the Institute for Human Services (IHS) homeless shelter has implemented an urban farming initiative, which includes several vertical wall gardens that are providing fresh produce to feed the homeless, as well as a rooftop garden job training center. According to IHS, the urban farm project is "a constellation of efforts to promote food production for the purposes of feeding our urban shelter residents" and to provide "a venue for shelter residents to learn new skills that could prepare one for employment." Although agriculture contributes as much as one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, greening agriculture — by maintaining soil fertility and reducing soil erosion, increasing water use efficiency and decreasing deforestation, for example — could transform agriculture from being a major emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) to possibly being a GHG sink. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), green agriculture has the potential to substantially reduce agricultural GHG emissions by annually sequestering nearly 6 billion tons of atmospheric CO2. In addition to providing environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration, sustainable agriculture can provide significant economic opportunities and help reduce rural poverty. A vast majority of the 2.6 billion people worldwide who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods live in rural areas on less than $1 per day. According to UNEP, evidence shows that sustainable or green farming practices could increase yields between 54 percent and 179 percent. Increased crop yields mean that farmers not only have enough food to feed themselves and their families, but they also have a surplus that they can sell at local markets. Agriculture should be part of the equation in developing a new, green economy, both at home and abroad. As organic and urban farms begin to emerge in Hawaii, so, too, do new opportunities for job training and employment. And while China is starting to transition to a green economy, particularly in the areas of energy, transportation and forestry, green agriculture also has enormous potential to create jobs, reduce poverty, and protect the environment. Danielle Nierenberg is project director of the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project (www.NourishingthePlanet.org). Haibing Ma is the Worldwatch Institute’s China program manager. Previous Story Letters to the Editor Next Story Hawaii should aim for goal of 'zero waste'