Stories tagged: sustainable agriculture

FAO at Rio+20: A Sustainable Future Must Be Hunger Free

In preparation for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at the end of this month, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released a new policy document outlining how sustainable development cannot be achieved unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, and that better governance of agriculture and food systems is key to achieving both targets.

Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva said:

The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens.

Food has already been outlined as one of the seven priority areas for the Rio+20 negotiations. The global food and agriculture system requires a complete transformation if we are to nourish the one billion estimated to be hungry, as well as the extra two billion people that will inhabit our planet but 2050.

In this new policy document, FAO outlines three key messages:

1. The Rio vision of sustainable development cannot be achieved unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated

FAO asserts that reducing hunger and malnutrition starts with fair access to resources, employment and income in rural areas where people directly depend on agriculture, fisheries or forestry for their incomes as well as their food supply. Growth in the agriculture sectors of low-income and highly agriculture-dependent economies is twice as effective as that of other sectors in reducing hunger and poverty, creating employment and incomes. However to make sure this becomes reality FAO argues that improved policies, investment and governance are crucial.

FAO also advocates for the implementation of social protection programmes, such as the Fome Zero programme in Brazil, that can address hunger in the short-term, thus supporting longer-term growth in the form of a healthier, more productive workforce.

2. The Rio vision requires that both food consumption and production systems achieve more with less 

If agricultural output is to be intensified, FAO argues we must improve current practices to ensure that negative impacts to the environment are reduced. These avoidable impacts include soil, water and nutrient depletion, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and degradation of natural ecosystems. The implementation of sustainable and climate-smart systems already in practice can help significantly reduce these impacts.

It is also essential to reduce waste and losses of food. FAO research shows that global losses and waste are estimated at roughly 30 percent for cereals, 40–50 percent for root crops, fruits and vegetables; 20 percent for oil seeds; and 30 percent for fish.

3. The transition to a sustainable future requires fundamental changes in the governance of food and agriculture and an equitable sharing of the transition costs and benefits

Priority areas for policy action identified by FAO in this policy paper include:

  • Establish and protect rights to resources, especially for the most vulnerable
  • Incorporate incentives for sustainable consumption and production into food systems
  • Promote fair and well-functioning agricultural and food markets
  • Reduce risk and increase the resilience of the most vulnerable
  • Invest public resources in essential public goods, including innovation and infrastructure

The challenge for participants at Rio+20 and beyond is to support better decisions by building more inclusive and effective governance for agricultural and food systems.

Click here to read the full paper.

Farming First reaches 10,000 Twitter Followers

Today we are celebrating Farming First reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter! As a thank you to all our dedicated and valued followers, we wanted to share with you our top ten tweet moments. In the first blog, we share with you the first five.

1.    Our first Tweet

Our first ever tweet was on 27th April 2009 when Farming First’s Twitter account was first launched.  It announced Farming First’s campaign video:


Needless to say, Farming First has come a long way since then, with many more videos, infographics, guides and policy papers to help further sustainable agricultural development worldwide.


 2.    Launch of “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy” Infographic

Back in May 2011, we launched a six-part interactive infographic called “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy” which uses data from leading research organisations to tell the story of agriculture’s potential to help build a green economy. It consists of 17 individually designed graphics, each of which can be tweeted and/or embedded into websites.

The green economy is a focus area for Farming First in the build up to Rio+20 in June this year. Farming First has created a new page on its website to host this infographic, alongside other information related to agriculture and the green economy.

The reaction to the infographic online and over Twitter was fantastic, with many agricultural organisations, media and members of the public tweeting about it and embedding it on their websites. Farming First has since received awards for the infographic from The Gates Foundation and the Digital Communications Awards.

View the full infographic here.

#greeneconomy #RioPlus20

3. International Conference on Asian Food Security

Back in August 2011, Farming First attended the International Conference on Asian Food Security (IACSFS) where leading policymakers and influencers from around Asia met to discuss the region’s food security imperatives for the future. As part of this conference, these leaders met at a Farming First sponsored dinner to discuss the six principles of the Farming First action plan and how these should be put into action in Asia.


The three day conference was opened by Shenggen Fan of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), addressed the four basic dimensions of food security: availability, physical access, economic access and utilisation.

Farming First live tweeted from the conference to help share the key learnings from each session, including quotes from speakers such as Shenggen Fan, Dr Mohamed Maliki bin Osman and Dr. Franz Fischler. Topics discussed during sessions included sustainable growth in agricultural production, resilient food supply chains, the impacts of trade policies, and humanitarian food aid strategies.

Read our previous blog post about the conference here.

#Asia #foodsecurity

4. Annual UN Climate Talks

Since Farming First’s Twitter account first launched, we have been bringing our followers up-to-date news from the annual UN climate change negotiations. The first was at COP15 in Copenhagen, the second at COP16 in Cancun and the most recent was COP17 in Durban. COP17 saw the most significant steps made yet for agriculture, as for the first time the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to consider adopting a framework for sectoral approaches, which includes agriculture. The UNFCCC also requested the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to consider issues related to agriculture at its 36th session in May 2012.

For the past three years, Farming First has attended Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) during COP – a major one day event which brings together hundreds of policy makers, farmers, scientists and development experts to discuss the urgent need for rural people in developing countries to play a greater role and receive stronger support in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

At COP17, Farming First endorsed an open letter alongside the world’s leading agricultural organisations, calling on negotiators to recognise the important role of agriculture in addressing climate change and asking them to approve a Work Programme for agriculture under SBSTA.

Farming First has been live-tweeting from the annual climate negotiations and ARDD, bringing our followers updates on the negotiations in relation to agriculture. We hope you will be following us during COP18 in Qatar!

Read our previous blog, summarising the outcomes of ARDD 2011.

#COP15 #COP16 #COP17 #AgClimate

 5. OECD/FAO event in Paris 

Farming First attended the FAO/OECD Expert Meeting on Greening the Economy with Agriculture in September 2011 in Paris. In conjunction with this event, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) hosted a side-event in the form of a luncheon panel discussion on the role of innovation in greening the economy with agriculture. The panel discussion, moderated by Caroline Henshaw, journalist for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, focused on the role of science and technology in helping farmers in both developed and developing countries to increase production sustainably while adapting to climate change and other challenges.

Farming First live tweeted from the event in Paris, including quotes from panel speakers Sir Gordon Conway (Professor of International Development, Imperial College London), Alice Kachere (Malawian farmer) and Mike Bushell (Principal Scientific Advisor, Syngenta).

Wall Street journal coverage from the panel discussion and a video can be seen here.


Look out for our next blog post which will feature the final five of our top ten tweet moments. If you aren’t already a follower, then you can follow us @FarmingFirst – please Tweet us, we enjoy hearing from our followers. 

Investing in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a term that has been coined to position agriculture as vital in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our previous blog post on the subject reported that agriculture is currently responsible for 70 percent of water use globally, as well as up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. As demand for food and thus farming is rapidly increasing due to growing populations, it is essential to not only increase agricultural productivity, but to ensure that the environmental impact of agriculture is minimal. It is equally important to adapt existing agricultural practices so they are able to withstand the extreme weather conditions climate change will bring.

A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published last month, entitled “Identifying opportunities for climate-smart agriculture investments in Africa” looks at how CSA is being applied to Africa. Africa’s population has just passed 1 billion and is due to double by 2050. As a consequence, the FAO has estimated that Africa will need to provide adequate food supplies for over 20 million additional people each year and improve the nutritional status of  more than 239 million people. Increasing food production in Africa is essential, but are current farming processes in Africa climate smart?

The governments of 14 African countries (Benin, Ethopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda) have put into place “National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans” (NAFSIPs) in order to adapt to slow-onset climatic change and extreme events, and mitigate climate change. The report has assessed these plans to identify investment needs and options for climate-smart agriculture financing in Africa.

Key findings of the report:

Of the National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans in African countries examined…

  • 60 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of slow-onset climate change
  • 18 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of adaptation to extreme events
  • 19 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of climate change mitigation

Gambia and Malawi lead the African countries in terms of number of projects that address slow onset climate change as well as climate change mitigation, whereas Liberia and Niger ranked higher in terms of number of projects that address adaptation to extreme events.

In an assessment of the potential for quick deployment of climate-smart agricultural practices, Ghana and Kenya were both ranked as having a high potential, whereas Senegal, and Benin were ranked as low.

The results of the analysis highlight that NAFSIPs already include many climate-smart activities, however there is the need to consolidate and integrate these findings by providing country-specific inputs such as:

  • analyzing the most promising CSA agricultural investment options and estimating their cost-effectiveness also considering the expected climate benefits
  • outlining investments needed to transform ongoing and planned programmes, activities and  projects into proper climate-smart interventions, also identifying the corresponding (public and private) financing sources
  • analyzing the profitability of the investments in order to determine the type of finance required
  • leveraging existing financing instruments in agriculture with innovative climate financing mechanisms
  • designing result-based monitoring and accounting procedures and national registries related to identified financing option

To read the full report click here

Find out more about Farming First’s principles on climate change

The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus: Solutions for the Green Economy

A paper titled “Understanding the Nexus” has been published ahead of the Bonn2011 Conference ‘The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus: Solutions for the Green Economy’ which will be taking place later next week.

As we have previously written, the Water, Energy and Food nexus refers to the interlinked risks of water security, food security and energy security. With the current combined challenges of degraded ecosystems, a rapidly increasing demand for resources, climate change, growing urbanization and globalization, there is a threat that social-ecological systems at all levels will be driven across critical thresholds.

This new paper presents initial evidence for how a nexus approach can enhance water, energy and food security by increasing efficiency, reducing trade-offs, building synergies and improving governance across sectors.

The paper claims that:

“A nexus approach can support a transition to sustainability, by reducing trade-offs and generating additional benefits that outweigh the transaction costs associated with stronger integration across sectors.”

The authors argue that a nexus approach can create a number of opportunities, including:

–       Increased productivity of resources. The nexus focus is on system efficiency rather than on the productivity of isolated sectors.

–       Waste as a resource in muti-use systems. Cross-sectoral management can boost overall resource use efficiency. Waste can be turned into a resource for other products.

–       Stimulating development through economic incentives. A nexus approach can help to avoid investments that lock development into non-sustainable pathways.

–       Governance, institutions and policy coherence. Enabling conditions for horizontal and vertical policy coherence include institutional capacity building, political will, change agents and capacity building.

–       Benefiting from productive ecosystems. Green agriculture can provide benefits such as carbon sequestration and resilience to climate risks while improving food security.

–       Integrated poverty alleviation and green growth. Green agriculture can generate more rural jobs and increase diversity and resilience of production systems.

–       Capacity building and awareness raising. This can help to deal with the complexity of cross-sectoral approaches, and to promote sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns.

–       Moving towards a green economy. As the green economy approach seeks “to unite under a single banner the entire suite of economic policies of relevance to sustainable development”, it is the nexus approach par excellence.

You can read the paper in full here:


To read more about Farming First’s position on the green economy, watch our animated video or view our infographic please see the page on our website on agriculture and the green economy.

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.

The political role of water: Water Management and Food Production

The Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) of the CGIAR has released a new report on water resources, drawing on five years of research in 30 countries around the world.

The report, titled Major River Basins Have Enough Water to Sustainably Double Food Production in the Coming Decades, says that whilst water-related conflicts and shortages abound around the globe, there is sufficient water to sustain food, energy, industrial and environmental needs during the 21st century.

The reports author’s claim that the biggest challenge facing water is not scarcity, but the inefficient use and inequitable distribution of the water flowing through key river basins such as the Nile, Ganges, Andes, Yellow, Niger and Volta.

Alain Vidal, the director of the CPWF, said:

“…the problem overall is a failure to make efficient and fair use of the water available in these river basins. This is ultimately a political challenge, not a resource concern.”

Researchers identified large areas of arable land in Asia and Latin America where production could potentially rise by at least 10 per cent.

Dr. Simon Cook, the leader of the CPWF’s Basin Focal Research Project, said:

“…there are relatively straightforward opportunities to satisfy our development needs and alleviate poverty for millions of people without exhausting our most precious natural resource… With a major push to intensify rainfed agriculture, we could feed the world without increasing the strain on river basins systems.”

The report states that if donors and government ministries put more emphasis on supporting rain-fed agriculture, food production could increase rapidly and sustainably.

The authors of the report also note that policies often ignore the role of livestock and fisheries in local livelihoods and diets, which play a vital role in certain communities, such as the 40 million in the Mekong who depend on fisheries for at least half the year.