June 15, 2012

Building Alliances for People, Food, and Nature

Increasing food production, boosting rural incomes, improving human health, and restoring degraded land, rivers and habitats – these are critical needs that must be addressed in the upcoming Rio+20 UNCSD. The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative has released a new report presenting an innovative approach involving building alliances between groups competing for limited land and water resources. The global coalition of leading research, advocacy and multilateral organizations warns, however, that world leaders must use Rio+20 as a launch point to dramatically scale up the “whole landscape” approach—if planet-wide food and environmental crises are to be averted.

“Today, the world is stuck in a vicious cycle that locks farmers, governments, companies and communities in the pursuit of short-term, narrowly defined solutions to food, energy, and water conflicts as they emerge,” said Sara Scherr, president and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners, a co-organizer of the Initiative. “We are often solving one problem while exacerbating another, using blinkered crisis management approaches.” Landscape approaches will figure prominently in discussions at Rio+20, including at Agriculture and Rural Development Day on June 18th, along with events planned by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Feeding an additional two billion people by 2050 will require an increase in food production of 100 percent in developing countries, under increasingly challenging environmental conditions. The percent annual increase in crop yields has slowed in recent years, while climate change is predicted to lead to more variable weather, more frequent extreme events, and reduced water availability in many areas. In much of the tropics, these changes could decrease maize and wheat yields by 10-25 percent.

In this new report, “Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature: The Vision, the Evidence, and Next Steps,” more than 300 landscape-oriented initiatives have been identified, where alliances are being built among farmers, ranchers, pastoralists, tourism operators, forest owners, conservation managers and private industry. Many of these stakeholders were adversaries in the past.

The coalition seeks to catapult landscape partnerships into the center of agricultural and environmental policies and programs, starting with Rio+20. It is calling on governments, funders, farmers, land managers and businesses to adopt and strengthen whole landscape approaches; design supportive in-country policies; encourage businesses seeking sustainability options to incorporate landscape approaches; develop new forms of financing;  improve the quality of research on landscape approaches; and create links among stakeholder groups.

For additional information, including a press release, the new report, impacts of landscape initiatives outlined in the report, and a new Rio+20 Landscapes Initiative information brief, please visit the Landscapes Initiative Website.

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