Stories tagged: Farming First

A new programme could mitigate climate change and adapt food production for the future. Tracy Gerstle reports.

Blog originally posted on the Global Food Security blog

Tracy Gerstle

Climate change is at the top of the United Nations agenda from 26 Nov to 7 Dec in negotiations at the Eighteenth Conference of the Parties (COP18) in Doha, Qatar.   Since 1995, the annual climate talks of theUN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have served as an important platform to focus global attention on identifying and starting to address the causes and impacts of climate change.

Increasingly in the talks, countries are recognizing the unique role of agriculture in the global climate change response as well as the importance of securing future food security and the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of farming families, despite climate-induced pressures on productivity. In addition, agriculture can be part of the climate solution providing mitigation co-benefits.

Progress on addressing agriculture is slowed by the lack of a cohesive approach and under representation of the sector in the talks. Currently, agriculture is tangentially discussed in various processes including Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), the Nairobi Work Programme and the Adaptation Fund.

Countries should agree at COP18 to set up a work programme on agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technology Advice(SBSTA) to put a cohesive approach to agriculture on the road map of the UNFCCC.

A SBSTA work programme would facilitate better understanding and use of scientific and technological methodologies needed to underpin action and international support for agricultural mitigation and adaptation. It would also help to identify win-wins and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation strategies.

For instance, there is a growing body of research on farming practices and technologies that can assist farmers to adapt, but this knowledge needs to be synthesized, identifying proven methods and knowledge gaps—particularly as the potential solutions are very contextual.  For example, no-till agriculture (no ploughing) has been hailed by many as a good means of assisting farmers to conserve moisture in soil and therefore reducing water requirements while conserving organic matter which leads to healthier andmore productive soils. However, no-till is not suitable for all agro-environments and indeed in countries such as Malawi , India and Zambia recent research has shown that no-till actually reduces productivity.

A work programme that assesses each strategy and determines its viability in different contexts would go a long way to safeguard our global food supply amidst amounting climate pressures. It would also open up opportunities for increased private investments in the means for adaptation and mitigation, as the Green Climate Fund and the Technology Executive Committee will look to this process for recommendations and a base of public-private partnerships on which to build.

The agricultural community convenes

Farmers around the world are experiencing the impacts of climate change today. Productivity is shifting due to changing and more volatile weather conditions and temperatures. By 2050, if farmers are not assisted to meet these changes, agriculture yields will decrease with impacts projected to be the most severe in Africa and South Asia, with productivity decreasing by 15% and 18% (PDF), respectively.

We urgently need to safeguard our food supply and to ensure continued growth in economies where agriculture is an important sector. In addition, while prioritizing the adaptation challenges, we should not overlook agriculture’s significant as part of the solution to climate change. For example, every dollar ($1 USD) invested in agriculture results in 68kgC fewer emissions (PDF).

This is the fifth occasion on which the agriculture community will convene on the sidelines of the meeting to call attention to the sector. In Doha, farmers, scientists, businesses and NGOs will unite at Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day (ALL-5) to share solutions for protecting our food supply and the livelihoods of farmers across the globe in the face of climate change.

At the opening of ALL-5, a new infographic produced by Farming First, in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCFAS), was launched.  Entitled ‘The Story of Agriculture and Climate Change: The Road We’ve Travelled’, it highlights significant events leading up discussions on the future of agriculture at COP18, including the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the first discussions of the impacts of climate change on agriculture in IPCC studies in 2001, the initiation of REDD in 2005 and the first ever agriculture day in 2009.

Nineteen of the of the world’s leading agricultural organisations, including the World Farmers organisation (WF), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres, have issued a joint call-to-action to urge negotiators to approve this SBSTA programme.

The momentum for this programme to be approved is there. Let’s make 2012 the year that a cohesive, holistic approach to agriculture is put on the UNFCCC’s road map.

To find out more visit the Global Food Security Blog

About Tracy Gerstle

Tracy is the Director for Global Public Policy at CropLife International, the trade association for the plant sciences industry. Tracy leads industry engagement on issues in food security, climate change and sustainability to the United Nations, the OECD and the CGIAR. Prior to joining CropLife, she served for over a decade with leading international NGOs including Mercy Corps and CARE as an advisor on economic and rural development, working in over 25 countries. Tracy also served as the lead facilitator on the Economic Recovery Standards for the Sphere Project and the SEEP Network, and has assisted a number of multinationals looking at social, economic, environmental issues in food and agricultural supply chains, including Cargill, the Starbucks Coffee Company, and Kraft.

How on Earth Can we Feed Nine Billion? Live Online Chat hosted by Farming First Panelists

The Guardian Sustainable Business hosted a live online discussion this week on how to feed the world’s expanding population, called “Feeding the World: How on Earth Can We Feed 9 Billion People?”

The world’s resources are under more strain than ever before as global demand for water, energy and food increases. It is now crucial that the world adapts to create a more sustainable and secure food system whist using fewer resources.

A number of Farming First spokespeople were on the panel, including Robynne Anderson, the UN representative for the World Farmers Organisation, Santiago del Solar, an agronomist and farmer from the north west of Buenos Aires Province, and Dawn Rittenhouse, director of sustainability at the DuPont Company.

The issues around the global food crisis that were up for discussion were varied, and included food waste, choice editing (where retailers remove products that are harmful to the environment from their shelves), rising obesity and population rates, food production, diminishing resources, and climate change.

With the above challenges in mind, the panel discussion today aimed to focus specifically on:

  1. Changing consumer behaviour: looking at how to shift attitudes so that food is valued and not wasted
  2. Business response: the role of companies in aiding this change in behaviour and what it can do to help create a sustainable food system
  3. Innovative and efficient farming techniques

As the live discussion got under way, panel members were asked the question “why aren’t we feeding the world?”

Louise: Louise Fresco is a professor at the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international development, agriculture and food, replied:

 “Well, we are feeding the world in some sense. In quantitative terms we produce more calories already than are strictly needed for today’s 7 billion. Hunger is not a matter of production but of purchasing power. The areas of chronic hunger are those of failing states (North Korea, Horn of Africa, Great Lakes), or areas of massive natural disaster (Myanmar) or of persistent inequality (rural India)….”

The chat then moved on to discuss the benefits of local food purchasing. In response to a question about the effectiveness of the ‘locavore’ movement (where one eats exclusively local food), Dawn Rittenhouse replied:

“Our belief is that to accomplish food security, many food systems are going to be needed and we won’t be able to rely on any one approach. Locavore is one component and when local food is available then it makes a lot of sense to eat local, but trying to grow everything everywhere isn’t the right approach to accomplishing food security.”

Robynne Anderson added:

“Attachment to food is always an emotive question, and it is also health related with the need for diets that are diverse and healthy. Local food definitely has a role in production and can make the most of seasonal goodness. It is also key to maximize the impact of natural climate and geography. For instance, the efficiency of production of New Zealand lamb, for instance, is well researched and takes advantage of the available rainfall, food and water, that then allows it to be exported around the world.”

On the topic of scaling-up sustainable solutions for agriculture in an effort to create smarter systems to help address the multifaceted challenges of the food crisis, Robynne comments:

“There are very different audiences which may need to be reached. Scaling-up in a farmer context is often best done through farmer organisations and extension services. …Also key are community demonstration sites and risk insurance. Scaling up at a consumer level often requires retailer support or very different communications projects.”

When asked what the panellists would suggest be done to get the best and brightest talent running the farm businesses of the future, Dawn commented:

 “Engagement of youth is so important – this came out a lot in Rio+20 as people were talking about sustainable intensification. We need to provide the tools and the training and the ultimate markets so youth see farming as a viable career option.”

On consumer behaviour and food purchasing, Jan Kees Vis, global director sustainable sourcing development at Unilever in The Netherlands said:

“What Unilever finds in market research is that consumers are interested in topics like sustainability, but their purchasing decisions are not driven by it. Which means that we can and should make it part of our marketing (more for some brands than for others), but it will (most likely) not become a Unique Selling Point for any brand.” 

Finally, participants challenged panellists for some ‘out of box’ ideas to solve the food crisis, apart from technology and ‘consume less’. First, Dawn suggested:

Technology is important- I think that out of the box examples will be how technology can be used to sustainably increase yields and reduce waste. Just the ability to be able to get your product to market and be paid for it can be facilitated by use of technologies like mobile phones, mobile payments, etc.”

Richard Perkins, senior commodities adviser at WWF, added:

“There was a great out of the box solution provided in the comments on the original article. Educate women and girls. This is the best and most humane way to bring down the population side driver. We are getting on top of the global population problem and more control for women over their own fertility will help more, but tackling this head-on in male-dominated societies may not be the best way forward.”

Robynne Anderson continued on the theme of education for women and added:

“… Richard’s point regarding integrating women farmers in Africa into the solutions, it couldn’t be more important and thanks for raising it. World Farmers Organisation has many members who are female farmers in Africa. In working with them, I have been struck by the extent to which the solutions start on their small farms. Really it means breaking the poverty cycle. They need access to productive resources like the ability to own land; better knowledge sharing; and inputs such as tools and seeds to grow a crop….”

In the closing ten minutes of the discussion, panel members were invited to share a short comment on what they consider to be the most urgent steps for the next ten years.

Santiago del Solar contributed his first-hand experience as a farmer:

As far as I can see, agriculture is getting better, if we measure the impact of pesticide uses 20 years ago vs. the ones that we use today, or the soil erosion I saw when I was a kid, just to mention few examples. Of course we can do things better, but we are trying and learning. New tools like no till or biotech are helping a lot.”

In closing, Robynne Anderson outlined her five most urgent priorities:

  1. “address access to productive resources for women farmers
  2.  encourage young people into farming and improve intergenerational transfer
  3.  tackle post harvest losses and food waste
  4.  recognize and support a diversity of farming systems
  5.  increase the power of farmers in the food chain”

Finally, Dawn Rittenhouse closed with:

“Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this discussion…it has been great to read all the thoughts from the wide ranging conversation.
Food security is one of the most important issues that we need to tackle as a society and it will require that we find solutions for all the challenges along the value chain- from enhancing output from farms, educating youth so they want to choose farming as a career to reducing waste and improving the nutritional value of food. We look forward to being part of the solution.”

To view the full discussion click here.

Farming First collaborates on fourth Agriculture and Rural Development Day

Ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), Farming First is co-organising the fourth Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Rio de Janeiro, which takes place on 18th June. The UNSCD (or Rio+20) marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro and will bring together world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection to get to “the future we want.”

Agriculture and Rural Development Day is organised by a consortium of global agricultural organisations, including Farming First, the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to name a few. Policymakers, farmers, scientists and development organisations are all represented within the ARDD consortium, embodying their vision for collaboration as a solution to food security.

In previous years, Agriculture and Rural Development Day has been held annually in conjunction with the United Nations climate negotiations (COP 15, 16 and 17 in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban respectively) and seeks to ensure that sustainable agriculture, which is inextricably linked to both climate change and a green economy, features prominently in discussions as well as the outcome documents of the conference. Following the last Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Durban, the UNFCCC agreed to consider the adoption of a work plan to support research on climate change mitigation and adaptation science and policy in agriculture, as well as country level readiness and capacity planning. Back in March, Farming First submitted its views to the UNFCCC Secretariat on how these agriculture-related issues might be prioritised, to be discussed by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) at its 36th Session later this month.

The goal for ARDD at Rio+20 is to ensure that the vision for a sustainable green economy includes clear steps for building a sustainable food system, as sustainable intensification of food production as been highlighted as a priority area in the zero draft for the conference.

During the morning session of Agriculture and Rural Development Day, entitled “Lessons in Sustainable Landscapes and Livelihoods”, attendees will see keynote presentations from leaders in sustainable agriculture, as well as a panel discussion on how agriculture will address the Rio+20 challenges. A number of Learning events will also take place in the morning, sharing successful, concrete examples of best agricultural practices from around the world.  These include:

  • Livestock Plus. How can sustainable intensification of livestock production through improved feeding practices help realize livelihood AND environmental benefits?
  • How can developing countries advance towards a more sustainable agriculture? A concrete experience on development of a science-based tropical agriculture in Brazil
  • Achieving and measuring sustainable intensification: the role of technology, best practices and partnerships

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) will host an afternoon programme, entitled “Science of a Food Secure Future”. During the afternoon, groups will hold parallel events on a range of issues such as addressing gender equity in access to natural resources, household nutrition security, sustainable intensification of small scale farming and strategic partnership.

Register for the event here:

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag: #rio4ag

Farming First and FAO launch Interactive Infographic: ‘The Female Face of Farming”

Farming First and The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have jointly launched a new interactive infographic entitled “The Female Face of Farming”.

The infographic is a striking visual representation of the statistics that underlie the urgent need to invest in rural women. You can view the full infographic at:

Women are the backbone of the green economy, especially in the developing world where (on average) they comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labor force. Yet they receive only a fraction of the land, credit, inputs (such as improved seeds and fertilizers), agricultural training and information compared to men.

The impacts of the gender gap in agriculture are significant. Women farmers typically achieve yields that are 20-30 percent lower than men. Yet the vast majority of literature reviewed confirms that women are just as efficient as men and would achieve the same yields if they had equal access to productive resources and services.

If women were given equal access to resources as men, they would achieve the same yield levels, boosting total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 – 4 percent.

This additional yield could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100-150 million or 12–17 percent. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa alone, that would reduce the numbers of malnourished children by 13.4 and 1.7 million respectively.

As we strive to meet the global food security challenge and produce enough food to feed an estimated population of 9 billion people by 2050 then empowering and investing in rural women will be instrumental in meeting this demand. Not only will this help significantly increase productivity, but also it will help reduce hunger and malnutrition and improve rural livelihoods. And not only for women, but for everyone.

The infographic consists of 17 individually-designed graphics, each of which tells a part of this important story.  Each graphic can be Tweeted and/or embedded for use in presentations or blog posts.

Key questions addressed in the infographic are:

  • Why are women so important to agriculture?
  • Where does the gender gap exist in agriculture?
  • What are the impacts of the gender gap in agriculture?

The infographic has been launched in parallel with the ongoing UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and International Women’s Day on 8th March.


The Water, Food and Energy Nexus : Tackling the Challenge

A recent paper “Considering the Energy, Water, and Food Nexus: Towards an Integrated Modelling Approach” has just been published by Morgan Bazilian, Holger Rogner et al.

In the paper, the authors argue that the areas of energy, water and food policy are interlinked, and have shared concerns ranging from environmental impacts to price volatility.

The Water-Food-Energy nexus, a term developed by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risks 2011 series, refers to the risks of water security, food security and energy security. Population growth and rising economic prosperity are expected to increase demand for energy, food and water, which in turn puts pressure on natural resources. This, combined with global governance failures, economic disparity and geopolitical conflict, could result in food shortages, struggles over water and hamper economic development. The three issues are deeply linked – food production requires water, water extraction and distribution require energy, which in turn requires water, and food prices depend on energy inputs. Climate change and growing populations also exacerbate this nexus.

The authors claim that identifying the interrelationships between these three areas is of great importance to help avoid potential tensions, and that ‘systems thinking’ – the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole – is required to address such a wide range of possible topics.

The paper states that while environmental issues are the core link between all three areas, other factors suggest that economic and security-related issues may be stronger motivators of change. The authors conclude that understanding of the complex interactions between the areas of energy, water and food will require new institutional capacity both in industrialised and developing countries.

The Farming First coalition advocates a six-point action plan for enhancing sustainable development through agriculture. In line with these six principles, Farming First encourages stakeholders to pursue policies that achieve long-term global sustainability goals through proven techniques, including specific actions in the area of water use and management, and around food security.

These principles are:

1. Safeguard natural resources
2. Share knowledge
3. Build local access and capacity
4. Protect harvests
5. Enable access to markets
6. Prioritise research imperatives

You can read more about the Farming First principles here, download our policy paper on food security here, read about our water policy here or find our section on the green economy here.

New Farming First Video – The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy

We have created a new animated video called “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy”. The video aims to share knowledge on the green economy and the role Agriculture has to play in ensuring its success. The informative video highlights the importance of sustainable agricultural infrastructure as a core aspect of agriculture’s role within the green economy.

The video communicates a key message – that the future of our world depends on addressing global challenges now.

A transition to a green economy is already underway but the challenge is to build on this momentum. Currently, there is no international consensus on the problem of global food security or on possible solutions for how to nourish a population of nine billion people by 2050.

We need to create sustainable livelihoods, feed a growing population and safeguard the environment, and agriculture has a large role to play in making this happen. Agriculture currently accounts for 37% of employment globally, 34% of land use, 70% of water use and up to 30% of greenhouse gases.

Growth from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty than any other sectors, and it has one of the highest potentials for mitigating carbon emissions.

Thus, we are calling for:

  • a reversal of the decline in government spending and foreign aid to agriculture that has been happening since the 1980’s
  • investment in agricultural research and science-based policies that give farmers a variety of innovative solutions
  • acknowledgement of agriculture’s ability to stimulate employment and the economy

If you liked our video, then please share it on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook or email it to friends and family, and engage in conversation around the green economy. We want as many people as possible to “agvocate” with us, sharing the message that agriculture is vital for a green economy, and that there is an urgent need to put farming first.

You can watch more Farming First videos here on Farming First TV.

The creation of this video builds on previous work we have done on the green economy, including our award-winning infographic. Click here for our page on Agriculture and the Green Economy where you can watch the video, view the infographic, or download our policy paper or our guide to Green Economy Initiatives on Agriculture.

You can follow Farming First on Twitter here.