Placing Agriculture at the Heart of the Sustainable Development Goals Beyond 2015 – Reflections on the High Level Panel Report

As the global community increasingly focuses on the post-2015 development agenda, the recent Report from the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has underlined the central role that agriculture will play in achieving sustainable development and food and nutrition security.

Established by the UN Secretary General in May 2012, the High Level Panel is mandated with providing recommendations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The publication of its final report, “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development” on 30th May 2013, sets out “a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development”.

In this blog, we offer an overview of key outcomes of this critical High Level Panel Report and Farming First’s response to it, in line with our recently published position paper.

Report from the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The Report offers a clear outline of what should be expected for the future of sustainable development, outlining a set of 12 goals and 54 measurable targets. These goals and targets build on the framework set-out by the Millennium Development Goals and go beyond health, education and poverty to focus on areas now seen as central to achieving sustainable development: infrastructure, property rights, governance, personal safety, an end to violence and discrimination, and gender equality.

The Panel agreed that five “transformational shifts” would be needed to achieve these goals:
• Leave No One Behind: end poverty by 2030;
• Putting sustainable development at the core of action – no longer separating the environmental and development agendas;
• Transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth – putting focus on promoting jobs through business and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, education and skills, and trade;
• Building peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all through responsive and legitimate institutions;
• Forging a new Global Partnership that is not just about national governments but also includes businesses, community groups, donors, local governments and others, working together to eradicate extreme poverty.

Forging new partnerships is crucial to the effective role of agriculture and achieving sustainable development, with Farming First acting to bring together all stakeholders in the agricultural sector to lay the foundations for future development.

Recognising the role of agriculture

In our key messages for the post-2015 development agenda, Farming First has underlined the importance of agriculture and food and nutrition security as being central to realising the post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Farming First is encouraged to see that both the specific goals detailed in the Report and the transitional shifts underline the key role of agriculture in achieving Goal 5: Ensure Food Security and Good Nutrition, with specific targets:

• 5a. End hunger and protect the right of everyone to have access to sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food
• 5b. Reduce stunting by x%, wasting by y%, and anemia by z% for all children under five
• 5c. Increase agricultural productivity by x%, with a focus on sustainably increasing smallholder yields and access to irrigation
• 5d. Adopt sustainable agricultural, ocean and freshwater fishery practices and rebuild designated fish stocks to sustainable levels
• 5e. Reduce postharvest loss and food waste by x%

The Report acknowledges the need to invest in agriculture, stating:

“Moving to large-scale sustainable agriculture, while increasing the volume of food produced, is the great challenge we face. It can be done, but this will require a dramatic shift. Agriculture has for many years suffered from neglect. Too few policies are in place to improve rural livelihoods. Too little investment has been made in research…Specific investments, interventions and policies can deliver results. Agricultural investments reduce poverty more than investments in any other sector. In developed countries, agricultural research provides returns of 20 to 80 per cent – a great investment in any economy.”

Ensuring Food Security and Good Nutrition can only be achieved if agriculture becomes a part of the Sustainable Development Goals. As the report clearly states:

“Food security is not just about getting everyone enough nutritious food. It is also about access, ending waste, moving toward sustainable, efficient production and consumption.”

In other words, the sustainable production of enough nutritious food requires investing in agriculture.

Farming First Positioning Document on the Post-2015 agenda

In May, Farming First outlined its five key messages for the post-2015 development agenda and we are encouraged to see the movement towards recognition of the role of agriculture.

Before the Panel released its final report, Farming First published a positioning document on the post-2015 agenda highlighting that there should be two goals dealing with agriculture and nutrition:

Goal 1: SDG: Eradicating hunger and malnutrition
Why? Because “We can end hunger, extreme poverty and the worst impacts of malnutrition and food security within a generation” (Madrid Consultation FAO-WFP, 4 April 2013).

Goal 2: SDG: Adoption of sustainable agricultural practices
Why? Because this goal should recognise and support a wide diversity of agricultural systems, farming practices, technologies and farmers, as well as balanced diets. It should also recognise that sustainable agriculture differs by landscapes. Thus, countries and farmers need flexibility and a variety of solutions.

We also emphasised that:
• Agriculture and food and nutrition security are central to realising the post-2015 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals;
• Farmers in the developing world can become as productive as those in the developed world —while supporting continuous gains in sustainability for all;
• It is imperative to re-commit to empower farmers via support to knowledge sharing and deliver accessible, quality extension in farm management and marketing;
• Agriculture requires supportive frameworks for investment in infrastructure and inclusive markets;
• A greater focus is necessary on working with farmers and other actors across the value chain to address not just food waste but food loss.

Farming First aims to play an important role in the debates surrounding the post-2015 agenda and SDGs in order to bring together the collective voice of farmers, scientists and businesses working in agriculture. Farmers must be at the heart of solutions provided to achieve sustainable development, with investments in agriculture having no parallels with other sectors in terms of the potential to promote human development and sustainable economic growth.

To read our position statement in full, see here.