Leading Agricultural Organisations Issue Joint Appeal to COP17 Climate Negotiators at All-Day Event in Durban

We call on COP17 climate negotiators to take concrete action to include agriculture in the text of the climate agreement. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)
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Release date

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Announcement highlights the need for long-term investment and support for improved food security, farmer resilience and climate mitigation efforts in agriculture

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA: A group of 16 of the world’s leading agricultural organisations (including three United Nations agencies, the World Bank, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), FANRPAN, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) and the World Farmers’ Organisation) has jointly endorsed a letter calling on COP17 climate negotiators to take concrete action to include agriculture in the text of the climate agreement.

The full text of the letter and list of endorsers can be viewed here.

Together, these organizations are hosting an all-day event called Agriculture and Rural Development Day in parallel with the COP17 negotiations in Durban. At the event, more than 500 agricultural experts – including policymakers and negotiators, journalists, farmers, and scientists – are discussing priorities to boost agricultural production while supporting mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Dr. Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) says, “It is astonishing that agriculture remains excluded from a global agreement on climate change. This year’s conference offers a unique opportunity for this omission to be addressed.”

Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive of the South Africa-based Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), adds, “With a united voice, African farmers have joined their counterparts around the world to put agriculture on the climate agenda.  They are calling on negotiators to unlock the continent’s agricultural potential to increase food productivity while helping them build resilience against the impacts of climate change.”

Specifically, these organizations are calling for a Work Programme on agriculture, which would result in a more coordinated and rigorous plan of action for the sector as a whole.   The Work Programme would be overseen by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), an official body within the broader UNFCCC negotiations framework.

Agriculture possesses huge untapped potential to both mitigate future greenhouse gas emissions while helping those most vulnerable adapt to its impacts and reduce pressure on natural resources. To realize this goal, long-term investment in “climate-smart” agricultural approaches must be supported, such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, sustainable land and water management, and soil carbon management.

Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank & Chair, CGIAR Fund Council, welcomed the efforts made by the organizers of Agriculture and Rural Development Day, noting, “No single government or organisation can meet this challenge alone. The new norm must be strong collaboration between business, government, research, and development organizations and between environmental, food security, and other agricultural specialists.”

Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) adds, “Smallholder farmers currently manage up to 80 percent of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, as well as providing up to 80 percent of the food in developing countries. We must scale up research and investments in sustainable agriculture approaches that have already succeeded in raising smallholders’ productivity while reducing their carbon emissions.”

High-level speakers at the event include:

  • Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa
  • Dr. Mary Robinson, Chair, The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice & Former President, Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Prof. Sir John Beddington, Chair, Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change
  • Caroline Spelman, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom & Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom

Currently, 97 percent of agricultural workers live in developing countries, and agriculture typically accounts for 50 percent of total GDP in the least developing countries. It is estimated that the world will require a 70 percent increase in food production by 2050, with climate change already threatening current yields of staple crops, especially in South Asia.

Global food prices are expected to increase on average by 10-20 percent over the next ten years with higher temperatures and more extreme weather seriously undermining farmers’ ability to feed their families and provide food for national and global markets.