“No agriculture, no deal” was the mantra coming out the fifth Agriculture, Landscapes, and Livelihoods (ALL, formerly Agriculture and Rural Development) Day on Monday. Yet it appears as though the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) will not make any sort of recommendation regarding agriculture to the UNFCCC at COP18, due to difficulties in reaching consensus. And while according to Mahmoud Sohl (ICARDA), one of the speakers on the high level panel at ALL Day, “if they don’t put agriculture on the agenda, then they are not serious” about dealing with climate change, clearly participants at this year’s ALL Day felt strongly that agriculture needed to be part of the solution to climate change.
However, ALL Day also demonstrated that agriculture poses a unique challenge; there is such a diversity of interests, priorities, and stakeholders that underlie a more general agreement around issues and urgency. Whereas some like Sohl stressed a need for research into technology and sustainable intensification, others placed emphasis on institutions to strengthen gender considerations and integration of adaptation and mitigation.
A High-Level Panel that kick-started ALL Day reflected this diversity, composed of representatives in farming, research, and policy. But the session was not all about talking heads, as Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda (CEO, FANRPAN) called 0n the audience for feedback and questions. Through the farmers who voiced their concerns and opinions, it became increasingly apparent that these stakeholders felt as though their experiences and hurdles with climate change were not being heard in high-level policy.
The challenge for the agriculture community within UNFCCC processes is to find a unifying voice. As Dr. Sibanda said during the opening panel, “let’s all speak with one voice – it’s all about the food.” And regardless of whether or not something comes to fruition at COP18 or beyond, the message is clear that all of these different voices – particularly those without much access – need to come to the table to deal with climate change in a context-specific and meaningful manner.