“One of the biggest challenges facing this planet isn’t simply feeding a growing population — perhaps as many as 10 billion by the year 2100. The challenge is feeding all those people as the climate changes in ways we can barely project. A new report called “Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change” illustrates the complexity of the problem and makes clear that action must be taken soon to address it.”
PARIS, FRANCE (5 avril 2012) – Le Consortium du CGIAR, qui représente le plus large partenariat dans le domaine de la recherche agricole mondiale visant à réduire la pauvreté rurale et la faim, vient d’obtenir la première signature d’un pays africain.
Le siège du Consortium des 15 centres internationaux de recherche agricole du CGIAR est hébergé depuis 2011 au cœur du campus agronomique Agropolis International de Montpellier, proche d’autres acteurs importants de la recherche pour le développement comme le CIRAD et l’IRD.
« La signature du Bénin est une avancée majeure qui réaffirme les liens entre l’Afrique et le CGIAR. Plus de la moitié des investissements du CGIAR sont réalisés en Afrique » a déclaré M. Carlos Perez del Castillo, Président du Conseil d’Administration du Consortium du CGIAR.
« Ce partenariat stratégique assure l’impact de notre recherche pour le développement, essentielle à la vie de millions de petits paysans du Sud » a-t-il ajouté.
Depuis quatre décennies, le CGIAR a prouvé qu’investir dans la recherche agricole contribue efficacement au combat contre la faim et la malnutrition. Tout ceci a été rendu possible grâce au soutien et à la confiance manifestés au CGIAR par ses partenaires, au rang desquels le Bénin joue un rôle essentiel.
Le Bénin est l’un des 24 pays africains membres d’AfricaRice en tant qu’association de recherche intergouvernementale. En sus d’AfricaRice, le Centre du Riz pour l’Afrique, le Bénin accueille deux autres Centres du CGIAR : IITA, le centre international pour l’agriculture tropicale et Bioversity International, le centre pour la recherche sur la biodiversité.
Le soutien actif du Bénin a permis à la recherche rizicole en Afrique d’améliorer ses performances. Au cours de ces 25 dernières années, le riz est devenu un élément essentiel de l’alimentation au Bénin mais aussi ailleurs en Afrique puisqu’il constitue la source principale d’énergie diététique en Afrique de l’Ouest et la troisième en Afrique sub-saharienne.
Au Bénin, on estime que la consommation de riz s’est accrue de 17 % entre 2001 et 2010 alors que la production, elle, n’a augmenté que de 12.3 % sur la même période. La conséquence pour le Bénin était l’obligation d’importer des quantités considérables de riz, ce qui le rendait vulnérable à la volatilité des prix sur le marché. Grâce à son partenariat avec AfricaRice et à l’aide technique apportée par ce Centre, le Bénin a dès lors mis en place un système de soutien de sa production rizicole. Le résultat fut un accroissement de 36 % de la productivité nationale entre 2007 et 2008 et la mise en place d’une stratégie efficace pour permettre l’expansion de la production.
C’est grâce au travail des Centres de recherche du CGIAR aidés de leurs partenaires en Afrique, que les riziculteurs africains peuvent aujourd’hui choisir entre plus de 200 variétés améliorées homologuées au cours des 25 dernières années. Parmi ces variétés : NERICA, the NEw RIce for Africa.
Les NERICA sont cultivés sur plus de 700 000 ha en Afrique et ont des impacts positifs sur la productivité du riz et les moyens d’existence des paysans.
Sur le terrain, AfricaRice conduit plusieurs projets de recherche en étroite collaboration avec l’Institut national des recherches agricoles du Bénin (INRAB).
« La collaboration entre le Bénin et le CGIAR permet l’amélioration concrète et durable des conditions de vie des personnes pauvres vivant en milieu rural. Nul doute que ce jour marquera l’histoire du CGIAR en Afrique » a conclu M. del Castillo.
Colin Chartres, Director General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), talks about groundwater management
Farmers everywhere have used underground aquifers as a convenient source of water for centuries, but the recent availability of cheap water pumps (diesel and electric) and cheap energy has made on-farm wells a reality for an increasing number of India’s smallholders. Pumps allow them to dig deeper and withdraw greater volumes of water, which in turn enable them to irrigate high-value crops.
It is estimated that a million new tube wells are sunk in India every year, which has given rise to fears that over-exploitation could irreversibly deplete water tables, increase the demand for more and more energy to extract water from ever-deeper wells, and increase the risk of reduced water quality. However, research by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows a more nuanced picture. While groundwater use in some of India’s drier areas needs to be regulated if it is to be sustainable, other wetter areas could help poor farmers boost their incomes through improved groundwater access. Evidence from Gujarat in the semi-arid east, and West Bengal in the monsoon-soaked west, demonstrates that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in groundwater management – and India’s policy makers are taking notice.
Gujarat: Lighting up villages
Gujarat, one of India’s driest states, has a long history of groundwater over-exploitation. Due to limited public irrigation, the government encouraged groundwater irrigation by subsidizing the supply of electricity to farms. However, by the 1990s, this policy had bankrupted the state’s electric utility and severely depleted Gujarat’s aquifer.
Donors and power experts recommended that the state meter all tube wells and charge farmers a consumption-linked tariff, a proposal that met with strong opposition from powerful farmer lobbies. As a result, researchers, including a team from IWMI, recommended a practical solution with three components: the intelligent rationing of farm power supply to match the irrigation needs of farmers; a power supply roster for the villages involved; and the supply of full voltage, uninterrupted power to agriculture during the rationing hours – to overcome farmer resistance.
Under the new scheme, dubbed Jyotigram Yojana or ‘lighted village’, US$ 260 million was invested in separating electricity feeder lines for agricultural and non-agricultural users. By providing regular and reliable full-voltage power, Jyotigram Yojana made it possible for farmers to keep to their irrigation schedules, conserve water, save on pump maintenance costs and use labor more efficiently. While the gross domestic product from agriculture grew at just under 3 per cent per annum for India as a whole, Gujarat recorded growth of nearly 10 per cent in the seven years from the project’s inception – the highest in India. Reducing some of the risk involved in farming helped boost on-farm incomes, and also resulted in a decrease in the number of farmers migrating to cities in search of work.
The Government of India has now accepted Gujarat’s Jyotigram initiative as a flagship scheme for its 12th five-year plan for the power sector (2012-17).
West Bengal: A contrasting scenario
A stark contrast to the Gujarat experience can be found in West Bengal, eastern India’s most populous state. To sustain the state’s population of 91 million, farmers need to harvest two to three crops a year. However, water tanks and ponds in the state are often dry by January, leaving little surface water available for crops until the monsoon rain starts in June. This makes groundwater a vital resource during the dry season.
In 2005, the state government made it compulsory for farmers to apply for permits for tube well pumps. The intention was to achieve sustainable groundwater use and maintain an inventory of wells. But applying for a permit was costly and time-consuming. As a result, most poor farmers were forced to hire expensive diesel pumps for irrigation, and agricultural growth in the state slumped from 6 per cent per annum in the 1990s to less than 2 per cent after the introduction of the permits.
Using data collected during several years of fieldwork (funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), an IWMI research team conducted a detailed analysis of the situation and suggested that the authorities abolish the permit system, because groundwater aquifers in the state are regularly replenished by monsoon rains.
Researchers also proposed the introduction of a fixed fee for connecting a tube well to the electricity grid. Previously farmers had to bear the full cost of wires, poles and transformers; which was prohibitively expensive for many smallholders, especially those living far from existing supply lines.
Within two months of the recommendations being made in September 2011, the state government had accepted both propositions, scrapped small pump permits and introduced a flat connection fee.
The way ahead
As climate change and population growth put more pressure on agricultural systems, groundwater will become an increasingly important resource. Used wisely, it is a priceless water storage option than can keep crops watered throughout the year. This can only happen, however, if policy decisions are underpinned by careful research that puts both equity and sustainable use center stage.
Carlos Pérez del Castillo, the CGIAR Consortium Board Chair,
speaks at the headquarters of IDRC in Ottawa (webcast recording)
According to current food security projections, there will be nine billion people on the planet by 2050. And agricultural production will have to increase by at least 70 per cent, 100 per cent in developing countries, to feed the world’s burgeoning population.
How can such a gap between supply and demand be filled in a world that is undergoing a crisis in terms of natural resources?
This is just one of the questions posed by Carlos Pérez del Castillo, the CGIAR Consortium Board Chair, during a speech he gave at the headquarters of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa, Canada, recently.
Before answering the question, he painted a picture of a planet facing tremendous challenges in the near future. A planet where land is fully utilized in many countries, where water is scarce, with agriculture having to compete more and more with urban users, and where ground water in many places is approaching depletion point. Such challenges require immediate and decisive action.
“The challenge,” he said, “is to fill that gap in supply and demand, to increase productivity.”
Thus, under the current situation, productivity enhancement is the best way (maybe the only way) to produce sufficient food in the long term without posing serious threats to sustainability
He also talked about the challenges posed by climate change and how it could result in significant declines in agricultural production in many areas of the world, particularly in developing countries. “We have to face that challenge and see how, through adaptation and mitigation, we can deal with this problem,” he said.
He then went onto to talk about the price volatility crisis that is affecting agricultural production, the ongoing dietary changes in major developing countries, the energy crisis that sees a lot of the food staples being abandoned in favor of biofuels in many countries, and the financial crisis.
Regarding the latter, he highlighted that during a financial crisis, governments have to look carefully at how they will spend their aid money, so they will be looking for impact and value for money. This is something CGIAR has to take into account, if it wants to receive the continued support that it has been getting from the international community.
With respect to price volatility, Mr. Pérez del Castillo stressed that consumers and producers from both developed and developing countries face severe negative impacts with regard to future actions during periods of such unpredictability. However, high food prices represent a serious threat to the poorest countries. Nonetheless, the current extreme price volatility in world agricultural markets demands further research efforts to introduce technological innovations specially designed to deal with the situation. Such innovations would enable an increase in agricultural production worldwide and feed the expected global population of nine billion in 2050. The global social and economic benefits coming from investment in CGIAR would spread to producers and consumers in both developing and developed countries.
Addressing the challenges
The new CGIAR now has one strategy, which replaced the 15 individual Center strategies that were in place before the CGIAR reform process. It has a set of coherent Research Programs that tackle the crucial elements of food security and agriculture research for development, which have already led to some tangible outputs.
“We cannot continue with business as usual, as in the past; we cannot continue with fifteen Centers doing their individual jobs or research without looking into synergies among them,” said Mr. Pérez del Castillo. “The essence of the reform was basically to bring through collective action, through the expertise that the different Centers can provide on commodities, resource management, on gender, on institutions, on markets, to bring them all together and to change the center of our research, from the Center-focused research into a Program-centered research. We are now working with one single strategy. And the strategy is very simple. We need impact on the ground on four (system) level outcomes: poverty reduction, improvements in world food security, sustainability of natural resource management, and nutrition and health. All our projects will be measured in relation to these outcomes.”
He talked about the high importance of partnerships and the increased focus on gender issues. “A recent FAO study has shown that if women were given the same access to land, to credit, to technologies, to best practices, as men have had in the past,” he said, “this would increase production by up to 17 per cent in developing countries.”
“There is a global recognition at present that international agricultural research is part of the solution to world food security problem,” said Mr. Pérez del Castillo, mostly referring to recent declarations to that effect from the G20 and various international organizations. “I’m not saying it’s the whole solution, but it’s certainly part of the solution. And if you look back at the record of CGIAR, you will find that it has delivered value for money. It is often cited that for every dollar that you invest in agricultural research in the CGIAR, you get nine dollars of productivity in the developing countries.”
After delivering his speech, Mr. Pérez del Castillo participated in a discussion session with members of the audience. Issues covered included the perverse affects of the Green Revolution and what CGIAR is doing to avoid similar repercussions from its current research; land grabs in Africa; and what CGIAR is doing to ensure that scientific advances are given greater sustainability in the future, to name just a few.
“Canadian support (through IDRC and the Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA]) has been extremely important for us,” said Mr. Pérez del Castillo, after thanking Jean Lebel, IDRC’s Director of Agriculture and Environment, for hosting the event, “and we hope you will accompany us on the journey that is still ahead. Through your professionalism and your commitment, you have shown that positive results can be obtained.”
The IDRC was a CGIAR founding father and continues to support CGIAR research by providing funding for CGIAR Research Programs in which Centers and national partners are applying science to strengthen food security, enhance the management of natural resources, mainstream gender analysis, and reduce poverty through research for development. IDRC’s most recent contribution is a three-year grant to support the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems.
After the IDRC event, Mr. Pérez del Castillo participated in discussions at CIDA headquarters with CIDA’s President, Margaret Biggs, Vice President, Diane Jacovella, and senior management.
In addition to core financial support to CGIAR research, CIDA currently provides direct funding for two CGIAR Research Programs: Improved Nutrition via Harvest Plus (US$33 mil) and Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) – (US$5.5 mil). Both these Programs have received these funds under Canada’s L’Aquila Commitment.
Watch the speech by Carlos Pérez del Castillo at the IDRC in French via this webcast
Farmers should be aware of climate changes to adapt their agricultural practices: this sounds simple. Yet in developing countries, an extra effort is needed to make sure that farmers can easily access critical information on evolving weather conditions.
Basically, these tools translate complex climate data into information that can allow decision-makers to assess the impact of different decisions on agricultural systems and livelihoods.
The applications on offer include the country-specific climate information and decision support system (IDSS) from Uruguay, which “integrates monitoring of weather and vegetation conditions, seasonal climate forecasts, soil water and water stress estimates within an internet-based GIS platform (www.inia.org.uy/gras/), informing climate risk management decisions from farm to national level.”; also available is the regional Africa RiskView, which takes a amalgamation of information including “globally-available rainfall data, crop parameters and livelihood information” and simplifies them into easily used “food security outlooks.”
The above examples clearly demonstrate that the major differentiation. For farmers, these software tools are easy to use and can help filter through large quantities of data so that the required climate information can be extracted and “climate-smart agriculture” can be properly implemented
James Clarke (International Water Management Institute – IWMI) reports from the session on “Reconciling food security, biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes” at the “Planet under Pressure” conference:
We can feed the world without expanding industrial agriculture according to Ivette Perfecto of the University of Michigan. Addressing a packed session at the Planet Under Pressure conference, Professor Perfecto outlined the land sharing and land sparing approach to sustainable agriculture (explored here by CIFOR’s Terry Sunderland) which seeks to promote wildlife friendly farming.
There is a widely held view that we have to bring more land into production in order to provide enough food for the world’s population. But Perfecto argued that by expanding agro-ecosystems farming rather than pursuing a more industrial approach, we could not only spare natural habitat, but deliver global food security as well.
“Ideology underpins this debate” she said. “The best options depend on our initial assumptions.”
“The first important fact to establish is that global food security is not linked to global food production. In fact food production is actually sufficient just now. Enough calories are grown for everyone on the planet to have an adequate diet, but 1 billion are still hungry and this number is increasing.”
This is not simply a question of income and resources. Food usage is inefficient and wastage is high. Agricultural policies and trade also have a huge impact, as the recent debate over biofuels has shown. Commodity speculation is now a major influence on food security. 60% of food commodity markets are currently controlled by speculators compared with just 12% 10 years ago. The result of all this activity has been an increase in “land grabs” and inequity.
But policymakers can at least agree that we need to feed the hungry and malnourished. Can this be done sustainably? Already agriculture is viewed as the main culprit responsible for global biodiversity loss. Increasing yields, however, doesn’t necessarily have to lead habitat destruction.
“The key point is that we don’t need to depend on industrial agriculture,” said Perfecto. “Yields in organic systems can be increased by 50% from current levels. Looking at agriculture in the west it would be easy to assume that large scale farming is efficient and delivers the highest yields per hectare. In fact small and medium scale can be more productive on per area basis.”
One of the arguments often deployed by proponents of industrialised agricultural intensification is that it results in land sparing. In other words, if farms can grow more food on the same amount of land, there will be no need to encroach on natural areas. The facts suggest otherwise. Intensifying agriculture in many regions has been clearly shown to directly lead to more deforestation. Even if land is spared, ecological systems are not static and biodiversity loss can still be a risk. Local extinctions can occur in isolated pockets of land habitats
“We should support diverse systems,” said Perfecto. “That way we can preserve biodiversity and increase yields at the same time.”
“Are we just talking to ourselves?”
(Nishai Pillai, facilitator at Planet Under Pressure)
A major stream of discussion at Planet under Pressure (PUP) has been how we communicate science. Many of the challenges facing the planet are not about technical solutions but rather how we communicate and negotiate science into political debates.
The CGIAR Consortium Office and its 15 research centers have been aggressively using social media in the last few years to ‘get the message out’. There has been much debate about the effectiveness of social media to ‘get the messages out’, but maybe we are not using these new tools to their full potential. Maybe we need to reflect further on how we can best use social media to have greater impact. It is not just a matter of making noise. How do we convince our scientists that investing in social media makes a difference to their work, that is not an additional burden, but integral part of their work?
At the session on “The digital age and tipping points in social networks: opportunities for planetary stewardship”, some new ways of thinking about social media were discussed. Dr. Amy Luers of the “Skoll Global Threats Fund”, presented some new ideas of how we should link science to on-going social networks. One point she raised resonated with CGIAR’s current strategy to promote and use social media. She showed the evolution of communication over the last century. On one side were our traditional communication tools: 1) the telephone (one-to-one communication) and 2) the mass-media (one-to-many). These help us tell a story and get our message out.
CGIAR is a scientific organization. With scientific publications we build evidence. With traditional communication tools we tell the story. But is this enough?
On the other side of Luers’ graph there are the new social media tools – they are about moving to many-to-many conversations and even more to many-among-many conversations. These tools are about engaging, joining a conversation and being part of a dialogue.
Dr. Leurs continued and called for ‘network spanning mechanisms’ which linked science to the social discussions going on in different areas. This is not about providing our messages to these groups but collaborating together in such areas such as ‘citizen science’ and resource assessments.
Another way of looking at it is: ‘Can we afford the risk of not engaging?’Can we afford to be isolated when we have committed ourselves to engage in meaningful partnerships? When it is our fundamental mandate to deliver on science that is applicable?
We have a number of empirical cases to support our assertion that you are better off engaging in conversations in all stages of a research program. From identifying your research question all the way to delivering your results.
But we need to hear from you… tell us your story, your story of success or frustration alike in regards to using social media to engage with others. These stories will help us refine our strategy and plans to support the work of our scientists.
Report offers roadmap for action by global leaders to create a sustainable food system
Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished, while millions suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption. Global demand is growing for agricultural products and food prices are rising, yet roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Climate change threatens more frequent drought, flooding and pest outbreaks, and the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation. Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution on the planet.
To address these alarming patterns, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released today a detailed set of recommendations to policy makers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.
“Food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate,” said Sir John Beddington, chair of the Commission. “Decisive policy action is required if we are to preserve the planet’s capacity to produce adequate food in the future.” The report was released at the Planet Under Pressure conference where scientists from around the world are honing solutions for global sustainability challenges targeted to the Rio Summit, which will be held on 20-22 June in Brazil.
Make global food security and climate stabilization a reality
The Commission has outlined seven recommendations designed to be implemented concurrently by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. They call for changes in policy, finance, agriculture, development aid, diet choices and food waste as well as revitalized investment in the knowledge systems to support these changes.
Professor Judi Wakhungu, executive director of the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS), said, “As a Commission, we were charged with harvesting the wealth of scientific knowledge and practical solutions that have been accumulated by recent assessment reports on food security and climate change. Together, we carefully distilled the seven most important ways for policy makers to make global food security and climate stabilization a reality.”
The Commission’s recommendations encourage significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade; sustainably intensifying agricultural production on the existing land base while reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and reducing losses and waste in the food system. “It’s past time to realize that farms of every size all over the world are fundamental to human nutrition and economic well-being, but they are also facing critical choices with significant implications for the way we manage the planet for long term sufficiency,” according to U.S. Commissioner Professor Molly Jahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mobilize science and policy for sustainable agricultural practices
Alternative agricultural practices have the potential to deliver benefits for both adaptation and mitigation of climate change and the Commission has urged the UNFCCC to establish a work program that addresses these issues together under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). “Without an integrated SBSTA work program for agriculture, we risk crafting fragmented global climate policy,” says Commission Vice-Chair Dr. Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Research Director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies. “Countries like Bangladesh clearly need support for climate-resilient agriculture, but we also need a serious global commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including in the agriculture sector.” Sea level rise threatens major areas of Bangladesh, which already experiences significant environmental migration.
The Commission’s report cites recent evidence that closing the gap between potential and actual yields for 16 major crops could increase productivity by more than 50 percent. “To produce enough food for our rapidly growing population, much greater investment is needed to dramatically increase agricultural yields now and in the long-term,” Commissioner Dr. Nguyen Van Bo, president of the Viet Nam Academy of Agricultural Science. “In Viet Nam, we have established model programs to boost rice productivity and quality, mitigate greenhouse gases and increase income for farmers.”
Sustainably intensifying agricultural production on existing land, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, is one of the seven Commission recommendations. “There have been some impressive successes in sustainably boosting agricultural production, but there is a lot more to be done,” says Commissioner Dr. Carlos Nobre of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. “Brazil has made strides in reducing poverty while protecting rainforests in the last seven years, but if we do not advance the science and practice of sustainable intensification, our forests and our farming economies will be at risk.”
In China, nearly 400 kilograms of chemical fertilizer are used on every hectare of farmland. “We have an opportunity and a plan to stop unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions from inefficient farming practices,” said Commissioner Professor Lin Erda, director of the Research Centre of Agriculture and Climate Change at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “We are mobilizing public policies and budgets towards low-emission crop breeds and conservation of land, water and energy.”
In Mexico, agriculture accounts for 77 percent of domestic water use, in part due to substantial subsidies applied to the price of water and electricity for irrigation. “We must redirect public subsidies to promote economically and environmentally sound farming practices that conserve finite natural resources,” says Commissioner Dr. Adrian Fernández of the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico.
A comprehensive approach to reshaping food systems
In addition to tackling agriculture, the Commission’s recommendations explicitly recognize the “demand side” of food insecurity. “If we don’t start to make use of the tools at our disposal to encourage eating choices that are good for people and the planet, we must resign ourselves to a growing diet-related disease burden,” cautions Commissioner Dr. Marion Guillou, president of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).
The Commission also calls for policies and programs explicitly designed to empower vulnerable populations. “Enabling smallholder farmers to invest in the productive capacity of their land has been shown to create economic and environmental resilience,” reports Commissioner Professor Tekalign Mamo, state minister and advisor to the Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture. “We must build on what we’ve learned by expanding such programs, otherwise communities will remain vulnerable to a downward spiral of lost productivity, poverty and food insecurity.”
“Recent legislation in India has shown that poverty alleviation programs can also address environmental sustainability objectives,” says Indian Commissioner Dr. Rita Sharma, secretary of the National Advisory Council in India. “The 2006 Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act helps rural farmers and households to manage risk while delivering climate change resilience and mitigation through projects that recharge groundwater, enhance soil fertility and increase biomass.”
The need for improved data and decision support for land managers and policy makers is underscored by the Commission. “Smart, sustainable food production requires that we upgrade our knowledge of water, soils, energy, meteorology, emissions, agricultural production and forests, and that we understand how these elements work together as a system,” says Australian Commissioner Dr. Megan Clark, chief executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). “In Australia, researchers, farmers and data managers are working together to build an integrated capacity to deal with the inevitable trade-offs embedded in our decisions.”
Decisive action to ensure a safe operating space for current and future generations The Commission’s report presents a stark picture of the challenges ahead and calls for significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade. For example, it urges stronger follow-through on the 2009 G8 L’Aquila commitments to provide USD 20 billion for agricultural development in poor countries and incorporating food security and sustainable agriculture programs into UNFCCC “Fast Start” funding. But it also provides examples of important progress, pointing to major investments such as the Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto Protocol and the €5.3 million climate-smart agriculture project in Malawi, Viet Nam and Zambia funded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Commission.
The report points to opportunities across the whole food supply chain to protect the environment and the bottom line. “Many public and private sector leaders are already taking steps to overcome technical, social, financial and political barriers to a sustainable food system,” says Dr. Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, which convened the Commission in February 2011. “The Commission’s work spells out who needs to do what to take these early efforts to the next level.”
The report encourages continued progress under the G20 on 2011 agreements, including design of rapid response and insurance strategies to protect very poor populations from rising food prices or meager harvests, as well as improved market transparency through a new agriculture and energy database. At the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Commissioners urge governments to make financial commitments for regionally-based research, implementation, capacity building and monitoring to improve agriculture and food systems. The report also points to global agreements, such as World Trade Organization trade treaties, and initiatives, such as the United Nation’s High-Level Taskforce on the Global Food Security Crisis, and also emphasizes the critical role of farmers and agribusinesses.
The Commission has created an animated video to illustrate why and how humanity must transform the way food is produced, distributed and consumed in response to changes in climate, global population, eating patterns and the environment. “To operate within a ‘safe space’ for people and the planet, we need to balance how much food we produce, how much we consume and waste and how much agriculture contributes to further climate change,” explains South African Commission Professor Bob Scholes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The Commission is launching the video describing the intersection of these limits at the Planet Under Press Conference: http://bit.ly/SafeSpaceClimateFood
Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies
Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade
Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture
Target populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity
Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide
Reduce loss and waste in food systems, particularly from infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits
Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change is an initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (www.ccafs.cgiar.org), with additional support from the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. The Commission brings together senior natural and social scientists working in agriculture, climate, food and nutrition, economics, and natural resources from Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Viet Nam to identify the policy changes and actions needed now to help the world achieve sustainable agriculture that contributes to food security and poverty reduction, and helps respond to climate change adaptation and mitigation goals.
James Clarke (International Water Management Institute – IWMI) reports from the session on “Options And Opportunities – Intensifying Agriculture Within Planetary Boundaries” at the “Planet under Pressure” conference:
There are plenty of opportunities for intensifying agriculture without destroying the natural environment, according to Kate Brauman of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Recent revolutions in data acquisition and processing have enabled us to clearly identify where intensification can be implemented without significantly impacting water or nitrogen supplies, or encroaching on natural ecosystems. Even though nearly all available agricultural land is currently used for cultivation, the prospects for increasing production on this land are good.
But boosting productivity is only part of the solution. 30-40% of all food grown is wasted. It developing countries it often rots before it can get to market. In richer societies much is thrown away by consumers. Add to that the fact that only two thirds of all crops grown are directly consumable, the rest being used for animal feed or biofuels, and the potential to improve food security without increasing crop production is clear.
Brauman emphasised that all solutions need to be on the table for this transformation to take place. “It is not about organic versus conventional or local versus global,” she said. “We need to be open to all ideas”
Development will occur, said Cook, but the question will be whether it is good or bad, going on to define “bad” development as “individualistic, short term and non-adaptive.” Good development, which promotes sustainability and equity, is achievable but only if we look at river basins holistically.
Each region, however, has its own unique set of circumstances, so we need to understand how water, land and ecosystems work together if we want to identify the best development paths to follow. For instance the Ganges basin there is intense population pressure, but many areas with very low agricultural water productivity. This contrasts starkly with parts of China where there have been massive improvements in land productivity. Indonesia on the other hand does not seem to be intensifying its agriculture to any significant degree, it is just expanding the area on which farming takes place.
Cook ended on a call for a more “collaborative politics” arguing that the changes that are required are behavioural and political rather than technical.
At the Planet Under Pressure‘s “World Cafe”, the question was asked: “How can science and business work together to create a sustainable world?” While the solution warrants some merit, it doesn’t get to the question that comes before communication even begins. What value is there in a nexus between science and business to answer the sustainable development question?
I had the pleasure of working with two groups that took a step back and attempted to answer this question. The first round involved some common themes:
the need to establish trust between the scientific and business sectors
the opportunity for visionary science to forecast conditions and drive stability for business
the idea that public sector science cannot be anti-profit
the idea that business must be long-term in thinking
and lastly that we must move the conversation from pure Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to that of core business for it to be sustainable.
Each of these messages points to assumptions made on either side about the goals and intentions of the other. Pointing this out was crucial to deciding how then do we go about building relationships between the two sectors that provide innovative contributions for a more sustainable world. The next round of discussion bought about a more contentious but necessary debate.
“Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) an effective place to begin the relationship?” , “Can scientists effectively communicate to external audiences?”, “Is stressing communication enough?” were just a few of the questions that sparked challenges among those in the 2nd part of the session. Some felt that CSR was inherent in company strategy and planning while others argued that CSR was simply a way for companies to receive a pat on the back from consumers.
I personally felt that the CSR strategy can help an organization determine the interests of a particular company but a discussion with those within the business line at the same time enables long-term partnerships with the most innovative solutions. On the communications side some felt that scientists could and were bestows intoned to communicate effectively while others felt that communication to external, non-scientific audiences should be left to those in communications professions. All interesting nonetheless.
Stressing communication is important but certainly not enough. As CIMMYT‘s link to the private sector, the most challenging part of my job is understanding and translating our research into something of value to a prospective partner or supporter. Pulling out the right set of data, stories, and themes that align with the interests of any given partner is challenging. Add to that the need to demonstrate impact, often a new concept in research organizations, or the desire of businesses to see the results of their investment in less than 3 years and you see a practical example of where our wires can get crossed.
However, as the host of the discussion said…we need each other. Business is the ultimate driver, the locomotive so to speak, in development. Science provides facts and direction while policy provides the enabling environments to make it all come together. The roles ad responsibilities of each of us are important to understand as we seek ways to address the next phase of human and planetary development. As scientists our best bet is to make sure the pieces we provide are clear, understandable and linked to the goals of the whole.