May 22, 2012

CGIAR and Rio+20

The UNCSD Rio+20 presents an unparalleled opportunity to further the goals of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative – as poverty alleviation, food security, and environmental protection are all key themes of the meeting. With Rio+20 less than a month away, we are seeing many organizations expand their coverage of relevant activities, publications, and events. We highlighted a video interview with UNEP’s Executive Director last week. Today, we take a look at what the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers has on their plate, and what is in the CGIAR’s call to action (from which the following is adapted).

CGIAR calls for a focus on the entire agricultural landscape as an integrated system, which recognizes that isolated solutions will not reduce risks or achieve required progress in the same way as integrated approaches will.

CGIAR calls for a focus on harmonizing food security and environmental sustainability through agricultural research and development.  This will require us to minimize the harmful effects of agriculture on the environment through more efficient management of water, soils and agricultural inputs.

CGIAR calls for the sustainable management of complex agricultural systems while maximizing agricultural productivity and improving the livelihoods and food/nutrition security of the poor.

To achieve these objectives at Rio+20 and beyond, CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly-funded global research partnership that advances science to reduce global poverty and hunger by addressing issues related to climate change, farming, forestry, environment and natural resources management, among others, has outlined a seven-point plan for how agricultural research for development can contribute to a more sustainable, food-secure future. Rio+20 actors (including government decision-makers; farm, land, and livestock managers; civil society organizations; and the private sector) should:

  1. Adopt cross-sectoral approaches which facilitate broader partnerships, coordinated regulatory frameworks and appropriate economic incentives.
  2. Address the unequal sharing of natural resources and their benefits through improved governance, land rights, and technology dissemination.
  3. Support knowledge sharing systems that engage with smallholder farmers to improve the management of their crops, livestock, and natural resources in order to increase production as well as minimize negative environmental impacts.
  4. Support the wide range of options, including community-designed programs, currently available to restore and better manage degraded environments and ecosystems.
  5. Strengthen and support local food production groups, livestock herders, and smallholder farmers by investing in  agricultural research, strengthening land and water rights, increasing access to markets, finance, and insurance, and enhancing local capacity.
  6. Endorse the full implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).
  7. Commit to sustainable agricultural systems that prioritize food and nutrition security in order to lessen the need for emergency responses.

Check out the CGIAR at Rio+20 website for related articles and upcoming events.

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  • rfriedman
    May 24, 2012 at 7:35am

    David, thank you for your comment, and excellent points. It is understandable that as research institutions, the CG Consortium would put forth recommendations on research priorities. But these are not made in a vacuum, and we have to remember the other organizations adding to the overall discussion and actions.

    Attention has been growing on the issue of waste: last year FAO published a report on food losses and waste (from which your statistic likely originated); the UN-DESA report (which we highlighted on May 8) focuses on the entirety of the “food system” where tackling food wastes is one of the primary key areas of opportunity; and UNEP has called for a food waste revolution (back in 2009!).

    Beyond the UN organizations, many of the food industry companies are seeking to reduce waste along their value chains (in consultation with organizations like sustainable food lab), largely because it makes economic sense. In Africa, there is increasing investment in village, regional, and urban warehousing infrastructure to mitigate post-harvest losses. Of courses, there is also the huge waste in homes, grocery stores, and restaurants in developed countries, which still needs to be addressed.

    Your point is well taken, though. We will seek some bloggers to write about this in future, and agree wholeheartedly that more attention needs to be paid to reducing waste within agricultural landscapes.

  • David Williams
    May 23, 2012 at 3:00pm

    Once again, I feel that CGIAR are somewhat missing the point. They recommend more agricultural research – which of course is the core business of CGIAR – to increase food supplies and therefore food security. But what about the massive quantities of food that are produced by farmers right now, but never get to the consumer because of inadequate storage facilities, trucks and roads, lack of training in crop storage techniques, sloppy management and lack of electricity, water and transport infrastructure. Or even because the supermarket’s buyer’s feel that the perfectly edible carrots are just a little curved, or that delicious apple is just a little smaller than its neighbour. Or even worse, where farmers are forced to plant extra areas as “insurance crops”, in the full knowledge they will almost certainly never be harvested, or that the shopper, who has been enticed to buy more than he or she needs by the buy one get one free offer, just tosses perfectly good food in the garbage.

    Currently between 30% and 50% of the entire food supply never makes it onto the plate. That is between 1.3 and 2 BILLION tons every year. All of this has been grown using fossil fuels, fertilisers, pesticides, water, electricity and land. What a ridiculous and terrible waste.

    It’s very easy to reduce food security problems. Stop the incredible levels of wastage.

    Sorry, I’m not a scientist or a researcher. I’m just a simple engineer who keeps his eyes open, and what I see every day is thousands of tons of foodstuffs being wasted.