Adding environment and biodiversity to the equasion

Climate & Natural resources,Food Security21 Dec 2010Alison Rosser
This blog is part of the blog series about the ‘It’s Down 2 Earth’ conference on agriculture, food security and climate change held in The Hague between 31 October and 5 November 2010. The participants discuss the future of agriculture; how it can contribute to food security and be placed at the heart of sustainable development and poverty eradication – and still be an instrument to challenge climate change?

Congratulations are due to the organizers of the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change on their initiative for the first global conference to bring together the agendas of agriculture, food security and climate change. The wide range of organizations, case studies and commitments to, or suggestions for, future action that are captured in the Conference Roadmap provides a rich synthesis of experience and potential for partnerships to move forwards and address the challenge.

Looking ahead, biodiversity, ecosystem services and the wider environment were mentioned by many delegates from the opening speakers onwards, but achieved less recognition in the headline outputs, potentially continuing the sectoral separation that many blame for the current degradation of the environment. In subsequent years, explicit inclusion of the environment is imperative, so that the next meeting addresses agriculture, food security climate change and environment, and will highlight the reliance of agricultural adaptation on environmental factors, acknowledging the inputs of many at this year’s conference. It could also help to mainstream agriculture, food security and climate into the environmental agenda and also to mainstream environment into the agriculture and food security agenda to develop the cross-sectoral linkages called for by governments in many international meetings.

Whilst the Conference road map refers to the “triple win of climate smart agriculture to face climate change and support agriculture and food security”, what about a quadruple win that also includes environmental sustainability and safeguards biodiversity?

In the Millennium Development Goals governments have signed up to reducing hunger AND delivering environmental sustainability, so agriculture and environment will need to work side by side to achieve these goals. There are already many areas of mutual interest between agriculture and environmental sectors, for example, both have been working increasingly to help secure tenure for local people; to support local communities in developing livelihood opportunities; to encourage sustainable landuse through an ecosystem approach; and to inform policy change at high levels that will deliver sustainable and equitable livelihoods and environments.

The commitments to landuse planning in the current road map provide an excellent opportunity to bring the agriculture and environment/ conservation sectors together, as the development that is so vital to Africa may involve further expansion of agricultural lands into natural areas (although there is also much opportunity to regenerate degraded lands in conjunction with existing landusers). Ensuring that any expansion is undertaken in a considered and planned manner that brings all sectors into the decision-making process and starts to recognize the many hitherto hidden values of land recognized in the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, should help to support sustainability. To aid the agricultural sector in this planning, FAO and donors have provided training in remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS) and harvest data collection. Similar work that develops capacity and brings the environment sector more fully into the planning process and takes account of the wealth of biodiversity that exists outside protected areas and contributes to the delivery of ecosystem services, should help to ensure the continued provision of ecosystem services on which all communities, from the global to local, depend.

Alison Rosser, PhD, is Senior Programme Officer: Biodiversity, Biomass and Food Security of UNEP-WCMC.