The decision by the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA) to join the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) last year was criticized by some civil society groups, but Chair Shimpei Murakami believes it’s better to be in than out and that more can be achieved by being part of the Alliance.
The Asian Farmers Association (AFA) consists of 17 farmers’ organizations from 13 countries. It supports sustainable rural development that is environmentally sound, economically viable and socially just, especially for smallholder farmers. Its Chair, Mr Shimpei Murakami, is passionate about farming and sustainable agriculture.
A farmer himself for more than 40 years, he has seen firsthand the fall-out from the “Green Revolution”, which he says has led to significant environmental problems, including soil degradation, pest outbreaks, erosion and diminishing production. “When the Green Revolution was launched in the early sixties, there was no opportunity for farmers’ organizations and civil society to be involved. All decisions were made top-down, by a few officials, scientists and donors. Now, with Climate-Smart Agriculture, we can – through GACSA – participate in decision making and share our experiences and knowledge.”
It was through GFAR that the Association came to hear about the building of a global Alliance on CSA and the concept of Climate Smart Agriculture. It’s how the Global Forum works, by seeking a voice for civil society in regional and international initiatives. Mr Murakami was intrigued by the concept of GACSA but wanted to know more. “When we were invited to the consultative meetings last year we set up a team to research Climate-Smart Agriculture, its background, practices, model cases and so on. We sent our members and staff to the meetings in June 2014 in Hanoi and the same year after in Den Haag to further investigate. And while we shared some of the concerns of our fellow CSOs, we could soon see there were positive aspects of Climate-Smart Agriculture and of being part of the Alliance too.”
Climate Smart agriculture is more an approach than a concept. It focuses on mobilizing a set of practices addressing food security primarily through adaptation and increasing resilience to the impact of climate change and sustainably increasing production before mitigation. CSA is about transforming conventional agriculture into sustainable systems. For instance, practices emphasize recycling organic matter to increase humus in soil, bio-diversity to create agro-ecological balance, soil protection and making the best use of sunlight and rainfall. The AFA was attracted by the concept and could see benefits in being involved. “These techniques and methods are those of sustainable and traditional agriculture. So learning about Climate-Smart Agriculture means borrowing from sustainable and traditional agricultural practices.”
However, Mr Murakami says AFA also continues to share the concerns expressed by a number of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in a recent open letter, particularly around how Climate-Smart Agriculture is defined. “The wording is very vague and under the present definition, any type of agriculture could be considered ‘climate smart’. There are no environmental or social criteria and no consideration is given to governance,” Mr Murakami explains. He believes, however, that AFA can play an important role not only in helping to clarify the definition of climate smart agriculture, but also in opening up dialogue between CSOs and GACSA.
“GACSA is a forum open to any organization – anyone who has the will has an equal chance to participate. While it was being established there were no real opportunities to openly discuss the issues and concerns of the CSOs, so many felt frustrated. We believe GACSA could now be working as a round table to discuss these issues and the future of agriculture with many stake holders.”
AFA is currently part of the GACSA Strategic Committee and also Facilitator of the Knowledge Action Group. Mr Murakami says AFA is keen to provide a conduit for CSO concerns, and to keep open the lines of communication between CSOs and GACSA. In the meantime AFA will continue to contribute to the Alliance by sharing its experiences and knowledge in sustainable agriculture and livelihoods.
“Ultimately, what GACSA can achieve comes down to the willingness and capabilities of it members. For CSOs who are serious about sustainable agriculture, GACSA is an opportunity to come together to share their ideas and their views and to influence the direction of the organization. That has got to be a better result for everyone than the current situation.”
The Asian Farmers Association is part of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research. For more information visit their website: www.asianfarmers.org
By Tanya St George, GFAR Correspondent
Photo: ©FAO_Hoang Dinh Nam