Experts, practitioners, civil society, researchers and others gathered to discuss issues related to food security, climate change and rural development on 3 December at ALL-5 Day. The fifth edition of the event offered a mix of policy discussions, ‘Big Ideas’, and networking opportunities.
Discussions early in the day among the approximately 400 participants on site and 700 real-time online viewers looked at the progress made to date and the challenges ahead in terms of solutions, gaps and priorities for achieving food security in the face of climate change. While the global food supply and the livelihoods of millions of farmers depend on a sustainable agriculture system, climate change is gravely threatening both. The urgent need for more foresight was stressed, highlighting the critical impacts on food security, the environment and livelihoods of climate change. Yet, agriculture is significantly under-represented in the UNFCCC, with no dedicated work programme for agriculture as of yet.
Focus on integrating adaptation and mitigation
One of the reasons little negotiating progress has been made is linked to the ongoing debate about whether to focus more on climate change adaptation or mitigation. The notion that the two are dichotomous was debunked by panellists, who cited the synergies between, and interdependence of, mitigation and adaptation activities. Many practices such as improved water efficiency of crops and returning of organic matter to soils help farmers adjust to climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Adaptation and mitigation cannot be considered separately and synergies must be identified.
Numerous methods exist to address the dual goals of adaptation and mitigation. For example, bamboo charcoal represents a renewable source of energy that is more sustainable than wood charcoal and firewood. A key challenge is to scale-up these types of solutions. Public-private-people partnerships should be the new paradigm to increase the uptake of solutions among the agriculture community.
Farmers are making changes to address climate change and it is these actions that will make a difference. As a result, their voice must be heard in setting research and programming priorities – with particular consideration of the needs of women farmers, smallholders and other vulnerable populations.
Areas for further work
Extreme weather, water scarcity, and increased pest pressure were identified as key gaps in research. It was also evident that there is a strong need for gathering local data in a way that can be aggregated and shared to serve decision-making at the national level as well as at the farmer level. The on-line community following the event also demonstrated a thirst for information related to impacts of climate change.
Priorities for action
The roundtable sessions provided an opportunity to focus on several priorities for action, such as the need to build climate finance to support resilient agriculture in developing countries, including smart public subsidies; creating risk management tools that go beyond limiting damage and losses to build resilience; promote sustainable growth and adapt livelihoods to a changing climate. In all areas, investing in education, infrastructure, extension, national research systems and agronomic services was noted as essential to make research relevant and usable.
Focus on the drylands
Hosted in Qatar, the event had a strong focus on dryland agriculture. One third of the world’s population lives in drylands, where access to water is becoming even scarcer due to climate change. Many of the answers to the problems faced by people in dryland regions exist, but they cannot succeed without adequate policies that ensure that the most effective innovations are put into action and that long-term funding and investment is available. Approaches to land restoration, technologies like drip irrigation, and sustainable intensification of production were cited as solutions.
Looking at the whole landscape
Framing the discussion in the context of a total landscapes approach is a more holistic way to understand the impacts of climate change and tackle challenges like drylands. Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day marked a shift in discussions towards a combined consideration of agriculture, forestry and land use, and their impacts on society.
Big Ideas for transforming agriculture in a changing climate
Discussions showed there is much that is underway across a wide range of issues to ensure food and livelihood security in the face of climate change. Presentations in the ideas marketplace illustrated this and showed that there are clear commonalities in the ways challenges are being conceptualised and approached. Several highlighted the importance of information and data, as well as the necessity of engaging local communities and other stakeholders in planning, design and delivery. These activities are helping build into our knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate change and this is helping inform decisions and actions.
Pushing for policy progress
While participants did express frustration with the fact that agriculture remains unaddressed in the work programme at UNFCCC, they stressed the need for policy frameworks that would address the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of climate change. Already, there is increased attention on agriculture and climate change at other multilateral processes, notably the UN Committee on World Food Security which demonstrates the importance of the issue.
Speakers also noted that the extent to which agriculture is under discussion is a form of progress. The community around ALL-5 has played an important role in making this recognition happen but participants agreed that more must be done to get a dedicated space and avenue for concrete and pragmatic discussion on agriculture in the context of the UNFCCC. In conclusion, those present were urged to speak up inside their countries since it is time the negotiations looked at concrete issues and possible solutions under a SBSTA work programme.
Summary prepared by Isabelle Coche. Were you at ALL-5 Day? Let us know about your experience in the comments area below. Did you miss the event? Catch up on the latest blogs, news stories, video of the plenaries, photos, summaries from the roundtables, and the Ideas Marketplace.