Stories tagged: UNCSD

Read the ‘Farming First’ Speech Given at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development

Presented Tuesday, May 12th
Dialogue with Major Groups

Madam Chair, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am Dr. Sarala Gopalan, a farmer from India. I am speaking on behalf of a multi-disciplinary team: Farmers, Science and Technology, and Business who have joined together calling for a new model for agriculture based on knowledge and people – Farming First.

After too many years of neglect of agriculture in national policies, Farming First returns farmers to the centre of policy decisions. Governments, businesses, scientists, engineers, and civil society groups must focus their attention and prioritize the source of global food security in all development efforts.

Farming First is not just words; it is a real partnership to enhance complementarities to achieve sustainable agriculture and a better livelihood in rural areas.

The six pillars of Farming First are about the inter-linkages and continuous cycle of resources, knowledge and tools for farmers to use sustainable agricultural practices.

As CSD-17 discusses inter-linkages, we would like to stress that Farming First promotes an integrated approach which is more than agriculture. We truly believe that focusing on farming is a key mechanism to foster economic and social development for millions of individuals and food security for all.

1) Safeguarding natural resources is the first pillar of the Farming First concept. It emphasizes the importance of land and water management, which should be improved through the widespread adoption of sustainable practices of land use, including conservation tillage and other techniques.  Our coalition agrees strongly with the need stated by the women’s major group to ensure proper land tenure rights for women in particular.

2) The second pillar is Sharing knowledge. We need to put in place an improved mechanism for  extension services – which are neither “top down” nor “bottom up” but truly collaborative.  Demonstration projects can harmonize global research and best practices with existing local knowledge, including that of indigenous people.

3) Building local access to ensure that farmers have access to resources to manage their production more efficiently with emphasis on capacity building, with the support of appropriate infrastructure – particularly roads, ports, and existing technology – to make supplies available in rural communities and to allow access to markets as highlighted during the side event held by the engineers.

We also wish to join with our colleagues in the trade unions to stress the importance of decent work and training for farmers and agricultural workers.

4) Protecting harvests is the fourth pillar of Farming First. In many of the poorest countries, 20 to 40% of crop yields are lost because of inadequate pre- and post-harvest support. One of the most important ways to improve productivity is to minimise losses through local storage capacities and transportation mechanisms as well as provision of  risk management tools to protect farmers in the face of climate variations and market failures. We are eager to explore with the Youth Major Group, the opportunities to change unsustainable consumption patterns.  Food spoilage in the developing world and food waste in the developed world are equally problems.

5) Farming First aims at helping subsistence farmers to become small-scale entrepreneurs. Linking farmers to markets is essential, should we want to make them become real entrepreneurs. Farmers need to be able to get their produce on to the market and receive equitable price treatments for it. Both NGOs and local authorities have outlined the importance of developing fair markets.

6) Once products have been sold, we need to continually improve the cycle. Prioritising research imperatives is Farming First’s sixth and last pillar. Achieving sustainable agriculture requires applied research and available, appropriate technology, prioritising locally relevant crops and farmers’ needs, stewardship techniques, and adaptation to climate change. This will ensure that farmers’ needs are taken into account and that they benefit from continuously updated and improved tools and knowledge to enable them to successfully achieve all the other steps of the process.

Madam Chair, Farming First is about a process of continual improvement that applies to ALL forms of agricultural systems including organic, conventional and others.  Every system must be made more sustainable, today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.

Please visit to lend your voice to our effort. In just a few weeks since we launched the site, 1300 individuals have already said they concur with the principles of Farming First.

Finally, Madam Chair, at the eve of the High Level Segment, we do not want the CSD to miss the opportunity to create a realistic, action-oriented text on agricultural and rural development.  With this is mind, we would like to ask the Ministers and Official country representatives what the prospects may be to achieve that goal, and what expectations you may have from Farming First partners for implementation following the negotiations?

‘Farming First’ Side Event at UN Headquarters: 5 May 2009

ff-event-nyc‘Farming First’ will be hosting a side event at the UN Headquarters on 5 May 2009, 1.15pm to 2.45pm.

The chairperson of the event will be Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit of the Agriculture Directorate General of the European Commission. Other speakers at the event include:

  • Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO, FANRPAN
  • Dr. James Hansen, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
  • Serge Benstrong, President, Farmers’ Association of Seychelles
  • Sarala Gopalan, Women’s Representative, National Institute of Agriculture of India
  • Julie Howard, Executive Director, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa
  • Antonio Galindez, Vice President Crop Platform, Dow AgroSciences
  • Thomas Rosswall, Chair, CGIAR-ESSP Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Challenge Programme

The event occurs at the start of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development final session, where UN policymakers will be finalising policy directions on the topics of: rural development, agriculture, land, drought, desertification, and Africa.

The event also includes a Q&A and a roundtable discussion with experts from various fields.

All UN delegates and UN-accredited journalists are invited to attend.

Download the invitation here:

Download the invitation (pdf)

G8 on the Right Track

3878838138_c08d786bb9The first ever meeting of G8 agriculture ministers in Italy last weekend recognised the real difficulties facing the world in feeding itself. But the G8 ministers admitted they are “very far from reaching” the UN target of halving the number of people experiencing chronic hunger by 2015. The UN told the G8 that the number of chronically hungry people is continuing to rise (bringing the number of malnourished people well above the one billion mark).

There is a need for a radical shift in thinking which places the farmer at the centre of a new approach. New investments, incentives and innovations are needed to achieve greater sustainability while delivering increased agricultural production. This needs to be backed-up by a stable policy framework and investment strategy which assists farmers – and particularly smallholder farmers – to sustain both themselves and the world’s growing population. The kind of change proposed in Farming First’s call to action which puts farmers at the heart of the solution.

As the G8 declaration has rightly recognised, “agriculture and food security are at the heart of the international agenda”. Commenting before the meeting, United States Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, said:

This is not just about food security, this is about national security, it is about environmental security…

I can figure out there are only three things that could happen if people do not have food: people could riot, that they have done; people migrate to places where there is food, which creates additional challenges; or people die.

Much of what was said in the G8 ministers’ final declaration echoes the call made by the coalition supporting Farming First. The Farming First plan is based on six principles: safeguarding natural resources; sharing knowledge; building local access; protecting harvests; enabling access to markets; and prioritising research imperatives.

The final declaration called for “enhanced support including investments in agricultural science, research, technology, education and innovation” as well as supporting “efforts against wastage along the food chain in developing countries” and identifiying “the necessity to provide smallholder farming access to land, credit, technical assistance, education and crop insurance, as well as allowing family farmers to have access to local and international markets was underlined.”

Host minister, Italy’s Luca Zaia, told the post-meeting press conference:

Food security requires targeted policies to guarantee effective management and sustainable utilization of natural resources involving local communities in accordance with their identities… We commit ourselves to increasingly share technology, processes and ideas with other countries.

China’s vice minister of agriculture, Niu Dun, told the G8 meeting that the international community:

should build up capacity in monitoring and conducting early-warning on global food security. Developing countries should intensify cooperation in food security, making it a critical platform for common response to food insecurity and financial crisis.

Further more detailed discussions will take place at the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in May and the full G8 summit in Italy in July. Hopefully, these meetings will culminate in what the world requires: real, financed commitments.

Experts Brainstorm Key Challenges in Achieving ‘Farming First’ Plan

At a recent side event at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development’s Intergovernmental Preparatory Session (IPM), over 85 people gathered together to brainstorm key challenges to achieving the Farming First plan.

Here are some of the top issues, organised according to each of the Farming First principles:

1. Safeguard natural resources

Key challenges:

– Lack of education/awareness – The public needs to be educated on what sustainable agriculture is. The education of farmers on the sound use of resources also needs to see improvements.
– Framing the issue – Common definitions for “sustainability”, “natural resources” and other terms need to be reassessed.
– Lack of economic incentives – There is a need to incentivize farmers to use sustainable farming techniques, without adding additional costs which cut into their livelihoods.

2. Share knowledge

Key challenges:

– Application of knowledge – knowledge is not applicable to different regions or contexts.
– Dissemination of knowledge – the way in which knowledge is shared or passed on is not appropriate to some context or acts as a restriction
– Access to knowledge – availability of and access to resources, particularly the internet as a major resource for information, is limited.
– Agribusiness and local farmer competition – competition between agri-businesses and local farmers for resources and knowledge can be an impediment. Participants stressed the need for greater coordination among related, overlapping sectors and fields of study within agriculture, business, and science and technology to provide a more holistic approach to agriculture.
– The role of governments – Bureaucracy is a major challenge to the dissemination of knowledge, constituting a strong disincentive for farmers and other stakeholders.  Additionally, food production and agriculture are often not priorities for governments, which limits the number of opportunities for knowledge sharing. Farmer-to-farmer learning should be strengthened in order to cope with this.
– Public image of agriculture – Agriculture does not generally have a positive image as an occupation, yet, as urbanization remains a growing trend, dependence on the remaining farmers is increasing.  The public perception of agriculture needs to be improved and its importance shared with policy-makers and urban populations so that food production and food security are fully understood and made a priority for policy makers and investors.  Agriculture as an industry also needs to coordinate with the technology sector in order to reach and educate younger generations with regards to this challenge

3. Build local access

Key challenges:

– Access to Microcredit/finance – is insufficient and limits farmers capacity to invest, grow and create real opportunities for themselves
– Access to knowledge – lack of access to education and/or research/knowledge is an impediment for farmers and impedes the adoption of best practices.
– Governance – poor governance, excessive bureaucracy and corruption are all major problems for farmers and limit their access to resources and to markets.

4. Protect harvests

Key challenges:

– A lack of education/knowledge among farmers – including inadequate knowledge post-production on food safety and on food storage
– A lack of local farmer coordination on crop growth –  As markets are flooded with particular goods in each season or if sales do not occur rapidly enough, large parts of the crop can be damaged and farmers face adverse conditions because of the glut.

5. Enable access to markets

Key challenges:

– Improving infrastructure – Insufficient transportation and poor infrastructure were common themes as to why farmers were unable to sell their crops once harvested.
– Trade barriers and access to foreign markets – Contributors agreed that constraints on access to markets were one of the most important challenges faced by farmer. It was agreed that farmers would gain far greater access to markets if tariff and trade barriers were eliminated, and they were able to compete on common ground in the global marketplace.  Farmers have goods to sell – they just need the policy and practical supports to buttress their efforts.

6. Prioritise research imperatives

Key challenges:

– Participatory setting – greater participation is required in research activities.  Despite the presence of integrated teams of researchers, it is believed that practitioners are being left out.  Research should include more groups and start from a bottom up approach where more information is collected from farmers.
– Dissemination of research – information should be more widely spread so that the international community can benefit from it.  More joint projects might encourage the sharing of research from advanced countries.
– Needs and resources of scientists and farmers – these two groups should play a bigger role in identifying research needs.  A global source of funding should be established for use by scientists and farmers.

Farming First Speaks to the BBC World Service’s Focus on Africa programme

bbc_focus-on-africa-logoAjay Vashee spoke to the BBC World Service’s ‘Focus on Africa’ programme to discuss how the Farming First plan can positively contribute to African development priorities.

Vashee, President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) and a practicing farmer in Zambia, discusses Farming First’s six core principles and the recent work that the group had been doing to present their priorities to policymakers at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development policy session.

Listen to the the audio file of the Farming First interview here:


Or, go to another recent blog post with a video of Ajay Vashee discussing the Farming First plan at a press conference.

Farmers Speak out in Favour of Farming First

Ajay Vashee, the President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, describes the ‘Farming First’ framework at a press conference in New York on 24 February 2009.

He discusses the many challenges that the world’s farmers face in the 21st century and warns the policymakers of the world that new emphasis needs to be placed on how agriculture affects sustainable development: