Innovation and technology have critical roles to play if smallholder farmers across the world are to become more productive and sustainable.
This year’s FAO International Symposium on Innovation for Family Farmers in Rome brought together innovators, farmers and policymakers to discuss how we can best combine farmers’ knowledge with the latest technology to meet these goals.
A side event co-hosted by Farming First, the International Agri-Food Network and Government of Nigeria, explored some of the best transformative technologies making farming more efficient and productive, while achieving agroecological outcomes.
The recent UN General Assembly Resolution on Agricultural Technology for Sustainable Development recognized “the need to further enhance the linkages between agricultural technology and agroecological principles, such as recycling, resource use efficiency, reducing external inputs, diversification, integration, soil health and synergies, in order to design sustainable farming systems that strengthen the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment for food security and nutrition, enhance productivity, improve nutrition, conserve the natural resource base and attain more sustainable and innovative food systems.”
Following a successful prior event at FAO during the Committee on World Food Security, this event brought together a global panel of experts to discuss how innovation and agroecology can work together hand in hand.
Jack Froese, President of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, spoke about the role technology can play in helping reducing waste and helping increase farmers’ incomes. He outlined how new plant breeding has helped to reduce post-harvest losses by keeping plant pods intact and seed ready for harvest.
Speakers addressed solutions that apply to farms of all sizes and regions. Thavy Chumni Un Staal of BASF spoke about the power digital technologies can have for small-scale farmers.
Paul Wagstaff, Senior Agriculture Advisor at Self Help Africa agreed, adding that farmers needed to have a range of appropriate technologies at their disposal to become sustainable farmers.
“Farmers need choices of innovations,” he commented.
He highlighted Self Help Africa’s work on conservation agriculture, in which farmers are supported to improve soil health through intercropping and minimum soil disturbance.
Shiv Kumar Agrawal, a lentil breeder at ICARDA, highlighted the importance innovation can play in helping to drive crop diversity and drive food systems change.
He highlighted ICARDA’s breeding work that has shortened the growing season for pulses and legumes, allowing them to fit into crop rotations with rice.
This innovation goes beyond simply increasing productivity. Agrawal added that innovation could bring other positive outcomes. ”This is good for the environment and for nutrition.”
The event also brought to the fore the role of next generation farmers in promoting the wider use of technology.
Agusdin Pulungan, President of the Indonesian Farmers’ Society Organisation, spoke about the important role young people have in accelerating the uptake of technology.
“As a farmers’ organisation, we have championed ecological farming, more direct marketing, and working with youth in cities,” Pulungan said, adding that young people as a generation are crucial in driving the partnerships that are needed to deliver systemic change.
“We need to boost acceleration, and boost partnerships, in order to accelerate innovation.”
Featured photo credit: Robynne Anderson