By Dr Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International
Rio+20 is well under way and food security is in focus. From Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) to the CGIAR science for a food secure future event, to the Nordic Council of Ministers seminar, there were several common themes I took note of at all three events on Monday. I would like to thank the ARDD organizers and the Nordic Council of Ministers for inviting me as a panelist.
In no particular order, here are some of the important themes from yesterday’s side events:
• There needs to be a new approach to agriculture. We have to look at agricultural production in a holistic way beyond the creation of goods as we know them now. Bioversity International has noted that simplification of agriculture focusing on just a few crops isn’t working for poor smallholder farmers; diversity is key. At the Nordic Council of Ministers side event, Danish farmers and chefs described how a diversity strategy is working to build local economies and is much healthier for the communities.
• Landscapes and ecosystem services were part of many dialogues. For Bioversity International, the landscaped-based approach is one we are studying. We are looking at the whole sustainability of ecosystem services – from water to pollination to cultural dimensions, and I expect this will be a more prominent theme in future discussions.
• Resilience and stability are part of the dialogues, and risk management and risk taking was part of the discussion at an ARDD learning event in which I was a panelist. For Bioversity International, we are working with farmers to minimize dependency on single crops, the gap between harvests, and the stability of production. A diversity strategy can help with all of those aspects, allowing farmers to avoid putting all of their eggs in one basket. However, it’s important to note that biodiversity can be introduced without replacing other crops and this can further decrease risk aversion to using it.
• Another theme (though not as commonly discussed) was nutrition. Providing more calories is not the answer. We can’t rely on the medical approach of pills and supplements to be sustainable. We need healthy diets.
• The vital role of involving farmers from the outset was a part of many discussions. There is real opportunity of traditional knowledge marrying with modern science, and creating long-term sustainable change. From the concept stage of a research project, farmers and rural people should be part of the process.
• I noted that the important role of women came up in many discussions. As CGIAR CEO Frank Rijsberman noted, a gender component is in every programme of the new portfolio announced yesterday. Bioversity International has a strong role in many of these programmes, working with womens’ groups in Kenya, India and elsewhere. Women are major custodians of biodiversity and the decision makers around food choices.
• Governance is critical to all of these areas. Bioversity International works at multiple levels in research projects to involve all stakeholders, and that includes decision makers and enforcers of agriculture policies. Science on the ground needs government support, and we have seen this meet success with government-sponsored diversity fairs, intellectual property rights for new farmer-developed varieties and involvement in the International Treaty.
• Finally, the value of partnerships to agriculture came up repeatedly. We need to look at the whole value chain and an array of partners need to be involved at the outset to ensure success.
Today there is more in store about food security and biodiversity at Rio+20. I’m speaking at side events, including the Rome-based agencies event (of which Bioversity International is a partner with FAO, WFP and IFAD) and also the Indigenous Peoples’ International Conference on Sustainable Development and Self-Determination. Please join me for the dialogues by following our Bioversity Twitter account, where we are live tweeting side events related to food security and sustainability. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can make our world more sustainable and provide a food secure future.
Find out more:
Catch up on the day’s events at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day
Videos from the day
Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2012 – “Lessons in Sustainable Landscapes and Livelihoods” – FInal Communiqué
RIO+20 and sustainable agriculture: How to feed the world without wrecking the planet?
An interview with CGIAR CEO Frank Rijsberman
Rio+20 and sustainable agriculture: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
An interview with Micheal Halewood, Head of Policy Unit, Bioversity International