The way forward

News05 Jan 2011Evert-jan Quak

The conference ‘It’s Down2Earth’ on agriculture, food security and climate change (November 2010) aimed to develop a roadmap with concrete actions linking agriculture-related investments, policies and measures with the transition to climate-smart growth. ‘However, nothing new was presented and the conference did not produce anything like a useful roadmap or a serious action plan,’ writes Hans Eenhoorn in his blog. The action plan is just a list of ideas and most of these ideas are not new, or are works in progress. ‘A roadmap needs clear milestones and for each milestone a clear commitment on finance and agreement about who is responsible for the necessary action – including a mandate – to achieve the milestone. Without milestones, no roadmap.’

It was the representative of Sudan who pointed out this severe shortcoming to the conference chair.

Will action now really take place? Alejandro R. Silva from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries in Argentina certainly hopes so. But for that to happen, coordinated intergovernmental action to start implementing and up-scaling some of the successful projects and programmes presented during the conference has to be established. ‘In this process farmers play a vital role,’ Silva writes. ‘In the end they manage soil, water, nutrients, crops and animals. No one has more interest in developing a climate-smart agriculture. If they receive the right economic incentives, more food will be produced with a lower impact for the environment.’

As soon as possible, a regional case study should be identified. Silva advises, ‘A project should be designed and implemented to have some results to present during the next conference in 2012. It could have a major demonstrative effect and be the driver for future actions.’ Silva wants a cross-section of nations to provide experts from different fields who can find ways to work together cooperatively and with a defined schedule to achieve results. ‘What is to be lost? The cost of inaction is too high to be neglected,’ he concludes.

Timo Anis, chief specialist of Agri-Environment Bureau Rural Development Department in Estonia, is more optimistic as the roadmap, which was presented by the chair of the conference was defined as a living document that could and should be changed as we move along. ‘It is important that a selection of well-willing countries have a clear overview about the actions and processes which are taking place as we speak. Sharing experiences and best practices is also vital for the developing countries to improve their resistance to climate change’, says Anis.

Eenhoorn is less optimistic as he gives some historic perspective. He refers to the World Conference in Rome of 1974, where the ‘Final declaration on the eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition’ was adopted by all 134 governments represented at the conference. This declaration promised to eliminate hunger by the end of the last century. At the World Food Conference in Rome in1996, a more modest target was introduced: halving hunger by 2015. This target became part of MDG 1, halving poverty and hunger by 2015, in the Millennium Declaration of 2000. The Food crisis of 2007/08 resulted in a flurry of conferences, statements and declarations of which the G-8 statement in 2009 in L’Aguila was notorious in not fulfilling its promises. Thirty billion dollars were promised, but two years later, only a fraction of that has been made available.

‘All these conferences had their roadmaps, action plans, goals and broken promises. This conference in The Hague will not be different, unless Governments and in particular African governments admit that they are poorly functioning and neglecting the rights of the poor in their countries. They have to promise, carved in stone, to take immediate remedial action to improve on that,’ Eenhoorn writes.

Richard Ewbank of Christian Aid agrees, and adds, ‘In terms of process, future roadmap-based activities need much greater involvement of developing countries small-scale farmers and herders and their representative organisations – this would greatly increase the value and legitimacy of its recommendations’. Furthermore he emphasizes the need for all donors to increase their ODA for sustainable agriculture to 10% and to prioritize climate-resilient sustainable agriculture in adaptation funding. ‘This Agricultural Adaptation Fund should be set up under the already-operational governance and management of the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund’, he says.

There are no excuses: the world can easily provide the knowledge and the money necessary to solve the problems of food security and climate change. The former Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) member of Parliament, Harm Evert Waalkens (who is also an organic dairy farmer), adds: ‘The time has come to categorize and prioritize all the actions which are mentioned in the roadmap and to link them with the best stakeholders.’

See also

Priorities for the smart-agriculture agenda

It´s Down 2 Earth