We are all concerned!

Acting to ensure food security and support the climate

24% of the world's soils are degraded to varying degrees, including almost half of the agricultural soils [source: Bai et al., 2013]

1500 billion tons of carbon in the organic matter of the world's soils, more than twice the carbon of atmospheric CO2 [source: IPCC, 2013]

1.2 billion tons of carbon per year could be stored in agricultural soils (crops and grasslands), i.e. an annual storage rate of about 4 per 1000 relative to the soil surface horizon (top 40 centimetres of soil) [source: IPCC, 2014]

24 to 40 million tons of additional cereals could be produced each year in Africa, Asia and South America by storing one additional ton of organic matter per hectare [Lal, 2006]

USD 1.2 billion in cereal economic loss due to land degradation [FAO, 2006]

Agriculture to support food security and climate

Supported by solid scientific foundations and practical measures in the field, the 4 per 1000 initiative intends to demonstrate that food security and the fight against climate change are complementary and to ensure that agriculture and forestry bring solutions to the table.

This initiative consists of a coalition of voluntary stakeholders under the framework of the Global Climate Action Plan (GCAA) supported by an ambitious research program.

How to do it?

Policy measures need to be put in place to:

  • Reduce deforestation
  • And encourage the agroecology practices that increase the amount of organic matter in soils and meet the goal of 4 per 1000 per year.

For example:

  • Do not leave soil bare in order to limit carbon losses.
  • Restore crops, pastures and degraded forests
  • Plant trees and legumes, which fix nitrogen contained in the atmosphere in soils
  • Nourish soils with manure and compost
  • Collect water at the foot of plants…

There are 570 million farms in the world and the more than 3 billion people who are living in rural areas could implement these practices.

Restoring agricultural soils would cost tens of dollars per hectare...

Agroforestry and forest restoration would require some important investments.

The carbon accumulation in soils would continue 20 to 30 years after the implementation of good practices, if they are maintained.

With the "4 per 1000" initiative, researchers are mobilising for food security and the climate, alongside farmers, associations, economic players, Regions and States.

Why soils are important for the climate

Major issues

1. Combating soil degradation

Soil degradation poses a threat to over 40% of the world’s dry land and the process is being accelerated by climate change. Such degradation has negative impacts on food security and family farming.

2. Helping to ensure food security

Our ability to feed 9.5 billion human beings in 2050 in the midst of climate change will notably depend on our ability to protect living soils. There is a strong correlation between agricultural production and soil health, for which the principal indicator is its organic matter content. Productive, stable soils are directly conducive to farms’ resilience in the face of climate change.

3. Adapting agriculture to climate change

Soils that are richer in carbon cope better with the impacts of climate change because they withstand erosion and retain water more effectively, especially during extreme events such as drought.

Examples of solutions

The “4 per 1,000” Initiative wants to demonstrate that agriculture can provide practical solutions to the challenge of climate disruption, while also meeting that posed by food security through the use of farming methods that match local conditions: e.g. agroecology, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, landscape management.

The high added value of the "4 per 1000" Initiative

The "4 for 1000" Initiative should allow concrete actions to be developed on the field, benefiting farmers and livestock breeders - the first affected by land degradation -, and, more broadly, to the entire world population.

It is a multi-stakeholder initiative built around two lines of actions:

  1. A multi-stakeholder (state and non-state) action program for improved soil carbon management to combat poverty and food insecurity, while contributing to the adaptation to/ and the mitigation of climate change
  2. An international research and scientific cooperation program

The governance of the "4 per 1000" Initiative

The International Initiative "4 per 1000" was launched on 1 December 2015 by Stéphane Le Foll, then Minister of Agriculture, AgriFood and Forestry, at COP 21 which was held in Paris.

Farmers, economic stakeholders, local Authorities and States then mobilised researchers around this initiative on the agenda of solutions at COP 21 in Paris.

The success of "4 per 1000" was confirmed at COP 22: bringing together civil society, countries, funds and international organisations around a table was a challenge. Bringing 200 together around the issue of soils and agriculture was quite a victory!

We talk about it at the following link: http://agriculture.gouv.fr/le-succes-du-4-pour-1000-la-cop22  

The governance of the "4 per 1000" initiative was launched in Marrakech and marks a strong commitment of the partners!

At COP 22, 80 of the 200 signatories wished to be part of the consortium, in order to take collective decisions, especially on the orientations, goals of the work program, the budget and to define indicators for the monitoring and evaluation of projects.

Today, 110 partner organisations (not-for-profit or non-commercial structures) have joined the Consortium and thus participate in the decision-making process.

From actors' involvement to concrete actions in the field

Interview with Paul Luu, Executive Secretary of the "4 per 1000" initiative

Interviewed in Marrakech, during the COP 22, Paul Luu gives an update on the stakes of the "4 per 1000" initiative, whose structure is now fully in place.

His goal: to enable the solutions proposed by farmers and researchers (agroforestry, composting, improvement of the soil fertilization, etc.) to be put in place at the international level:

Video of the interview

How to participate?

Every organisation can act at its own level, make itself known and share the experience of its project by joining the initiative "4 per 1000".

Projects, practical actions and results, in particular the results of research, can be exchanged on the collaborative platform allowing everyone to benefit from the experience of all.

Thus, States, representatives of farmers and agricultural sectors, international organisations, scientific and technical research institutes, local authorities, development banks, foundations, private enterprises, non-governmental organisations are invited to participate and sign the joint declaration.

This initiative is coherent with the other initiatives related to agriculture and climate and are not competing. It contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goal of a land-degradation neutral world.

 You have the opportunity to act within one or other of the sections of the initiative

A multi-actor action program

For improved soil carbon management to combat poverty and food insecurity while contributing to adaptation to climate change and mitigation thanks to:

1) Local management: the implementation, at the local level, of agricultural practices and management of environments favourable to soil restoration, increase of their organic carbon stock, protection of carbon-rich soils and biodiversity.

2) Training: the implementation of training and knowledge programs to promote these practices; the funding for projects to restore, improve and / or conserve carbon stocks in soils.

3) Public policies: the development and implementation of public policies and adapted tools

4) Supply chains: development of supply chains for agricultural products respecting the soil...

5) An international scientific research and cooperation program: "Carbon in soils": a food security challenge "covering four complementary scientific questions:

• The study of mechanisms and estimation of carbon storage potential in soils by regions and systems

• The assessment of the performance of virtuous agricultural practices and their consequences for sequestration and other production and regulatory services

• The accompaniment for innovations and their stimulation through appropriate policies

• The monitoring, reporting and verification of results (MRV - measuring, reporting and verification), in particular for farmers.

How to get involved?

The stakeholders of this initiative are committed to ensure that a maximum number of agricultural soils, through their actions, benefit from practices to maintain or improve their carbon content or to preserve carbon-rich soils.

Every participant giving such undertakings by signing the joint declaration of intention must state the goal it has set for itself, the types of action to be taken, the relevant timetable and the dedicated resources.

All the partners who joined the process and signed the Joint Declaration of Intent were invited to take part in the official launch of the operation during COP 21 on 1 December 2015 under the framework of the Action Plan Lima- Paris (LPAA).

Concretely, how to get involved?

Ongoing projets


CIRCASA project aims to strengthen the coordination and synergies in European and global research on SOC sequestration in agricultural soils, leading to an improved understanding and scientific basis to target ambitious practices required to preserve and enhance SOC.