Innovation in skills and training is essential if we’re going to protect and restore the UK landscape – one of our strongest defences against climate change. Intensive farming and other negative practices have destroyed or degraded many of our fields, rivers and forests, putting us all at risk.
Positive changes to land use could deliver up to 30% of the emissions reductions needed for the UK’s 2050 net zero target. Regenerative processes – such as growing a range of food types on one patch of land, and disturbing the ground as little as possible – improve soil health and biodiversity, make crops more resilient and offer farmers a more sustainable livelihood.
But few people currently working on the land have been trained to use these approaches. When colleges, businesses and non-profit organisations give more people the skills to work in this way, they lay the foundations for a more sustainable future. This year Ashden will reward trailblazers with the 2023 Ashden Award for Sustainable Land Management. Entries are open now.
New policies demand new skills
Change is urgently needed – the Committee on Climate Change has said the UK’s land-use is ‘unsustainable’ and in need of ‘urgent reform’. Intensive farming for food production in the UK has negatively impacted soil fertility and peatlands, whilst also directly reducing biodiversity. Nitrous oxides and methane livestock, as well as peatland emissions, are contributing to the worsening impacts of climate change.
Last month the UK government shared details of its new farm payment scheme, whereby landowners and farmers will be paid for environmental work and producing food sustainably. But doing this effectively and at scale will be impossible without massively boosting skills in more positive farming methods up and down the UK.
A new vision for UK farming
The average age of UK farmers is 58. New approaches can encourage more people into the sector – lowering that average age, and increasing diversity. With a growing number of shoppers interested in food sustainability, a shift to regenerative farming matches the changing tastes of the UK’s food consumers.
Climate change impacts such as more extreme weather are already being felt across the country – with farmers among the most affected. Sustainably managed land can tackle growing problems such as flooding and heatwaves, with benefits for farmers and their neighbours.
Calling all trailblazers
The 2023 Ashden Award for Skills in Sustainable Land Management will give trailblazers the chance to win a cash prize, publicity, and connection to funders and investors. Entry is free, and closes on 8 March. Organisations with an inclusive approach – creating support and opportunities for marginalised groups – are particularly encouraged to apply.