By Cecilia Schubert
Food is essential for every living being. Without it, there won’t be any future at all. To achieve a world without hunger, we need to establish a new way of thinking about food and strengthen policy convergence and partnerships. These are some of the many important words given by Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in his introduction speech at the event ‘Aiming for a Food Secure Future: Think Global, Act Local’, which took place on 19 June alongside the UN Sustainable Development negotiations in Rio.
The event, which was jointly organized by the Rome-based agricultural agencies including IFAD, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and Bioversity International, aimed to engage key stakeholders in a discussion about the actions required to help communities and countries create a food-secure tomorrow, and to ensure that the Rio+20 negotiations view food as a core priority for achieving sustainable development.
Several ideas and actions were presented on how to create a more food-secure world. State Secretary Magnus Kindbom, Ministry of Rural Affairs Sweden, pointed to the need to strengthen local context specific safety nets, as recommended in the report Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, prepared by the UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability. Local solutions are key in this approach. Local communities know their own needs best. Kindbom also pointed to the need for early investments, where focus is on building long-term resilience, in contrast to only reacting to humanitarian crises such as drought and floods which isn’t sustainable.
We also need to reduce food waste. In Africa alone, post-harvest grain losses accounts for 4 billion USD every year. This lost grain production could meet the minimum annual food requirements of 48 million people (PDF). This year, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change produced a set of key actions on achieving a sustainable food system; one set of recommendations relates to reducing loss and waste in food systems, targeting infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits. [Read the Commission’s full recommendations.]
Brazil’s zero-hunger program, shows that societies can fundamentally change how they think about food. The country implemented the right for food into the constitution, and established a national plan on food security, ensuring that each and everyone in Brazil can claim their right to be healthy and food secure. Milton Rondó Filho, Coordinator-General of International Actions in the Fight Against Hunger, Ministry of Foreign Relations said that other countries can learn from Brazil’s approach, and also share their own experiences in transforming rights and societal mindsets related to food.
In the roundtable discussion, Bruce Campbell, who leads the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food (CCAFS), set out four priorities for how regional and community level experiences influence the global level discussions. In order for local experience to be heard at a global level, he said, we need to:
- Revolutionize the research that is being done through more participatory farmer-led research. This means embedding local knowledge into the ongoing research agenda. The CCAFS program is already doing this via innovative scenario-building exercises in West Africa, East Africa and South Asia.
- Ensure local voices are heard in international high-level meetings, and create a space where farmers and other relevant local voices can be heard.
- Include agriculture within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He cited several opportunities where this could be done, for example ensuring that farmers are compensated for losses and damages resulting from climatic shocks.
- Removal of perverse incentives that are contrary to sustainable agricultural principles. For example, reducing excessive use of nitrogen-based fertilizers. He explained that agricultural yields can be sustained with less nitrogen use, which reduces costs to farmers, and creates many environmental benefits. The excessive use of nitrogen-based fertilizers was also addressed by the World Bank’s Rachel Kyte during Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD). Watch her speech here.
At the moment the drafted final text for the Rio +20 outcome is being negotiated. The text mentions food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture explicitly and calls for an increase in agricultureal research a long side increase of extension services, trainings and empowerment of farmers, increased use and access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). In short farmers are seen as important actors in creating sustainable development and must be given access to participate in meetings that lead to decision-making. This momentum needs to be upheld all the way through the negotiations and onwards, post Rio +20 to ensure a food secure future, and not just aiming for it.
The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is covering the Rio+20 Conference live between 12 - 22 June. Read the latest stories related to agriculture and food security from the conference. To get the latest updates follow both CCAFS on Facebook and Twitter and Agriculture Day Facebook and Twitter. Join the conversation about agriculture and food security during at Rio+20 using #Rio4ag on Twitter.
Cecliia Schubert is a communications assistant at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).