It is an unprecedented and vital agreement that pledges to keep our planet’s temperature below 2 degrees Celsius over the course of this century. After two weeks of intense negotiation, 195 nations have formally adopted the Paris Agreement, committing to act so that our environment is spared a catastrophic escalation of warming.
Highlighting “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems”, negotiators at the COP 21 UN Climate change conference specifically recognized the susceptibility of agriculture—the guarantor of our global food security—to climate change.
GFAR Partner CCAFS recently published a study analyzing the country level climate plans submitted ahead of COP21. The analysis found that agriculture is now being considered a key strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation by the majority of governments. This says much about how close agriculture really is to breaking through in the wording of future international agreements, especially as countries will now have the opportunity (and duty) to regularly take stock of progress.
But is it going too far to say that agriculture is also part of the solution for safeguarding our planet’s future? GFAR Partners don’t think so—as long as we keep farmers’ concerns at the center of climate actions and continue to empower them to be agents of positive change.
The Paris Agreement is no overnight success: GFAR Partners have engaged for the last decade in raising awareness of the potential of agriculture in mitigating and adapting to climate change, ever since the Global Forum helped introduce the voices of farmers into the UNFCCC process in Poznan, in 2008. From 2009 to 2012, the Agriculture & Rural Development Days (ARDD) provided a unique opportunity to reach decision makers in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and inform them on the implications for agricultural research and innovation. The Global Forum’s support enabled Farmer and Civil Society representatives from around the world to take part in the ARDD, and, over successive years, the process has progressively built awareness of the significance of agriculture in regard to global warming.
The GFAR-organized ARDD session on Gender at Rio+20 helped bring important gender considerations into the discussion. Together with direct advocacy by partners in the GFAR-supported Gender in Agriculture Partnership (GAP) and UN Agencies, mention of gender and women farmers was secured in the final RIO+20 Declaration and G-20 intergovernmental discussions.
The Global Forum has directly sponsored and enabled Regional Fora in Asia-Pacific (APAARI) and Near East/North Africa (AARINENA) regions, to develop regional climate change strategies in agri-food research and innovation. International Conferences in Japan (2008) and Kuwait (2011) addressed the urgent need to improve the resilience of rural communities and minimize their vulnerability through adaptation and mitigation.
Partners in the Global Forum have found fertile soil for agriculture in high-level policy, too, especially in the last two years. GFAR was requested by its constituencies and some leading countries, the United Nations Secretary-General, multilateral agencies and the CGIAR, to help mobilize collective action in the agricultural sector. Through many partners working together, the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) was born, a voluntary alliance dedicated to addressing the challenges facing food security and agriculture in a changing climate. GACSA has the potential to become a real game changer, in scaling up climate smart agriculture (CSA) approaches, building on the concept originally developed by FAO.
GFAR is committed to ensuring that farmers’ organizations and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are fully engaged as equal partners in this Alliance, thereby enabling farmers and local communities to understand the implications of climate change, shape the futures they wish to see, and identify the approaches they wish to use to achieve these.
GFAR is also helping give voice to youth. The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) which developed out of the Agriculture & Rural Development Days, is held each year in parallel with COP21. This year, the GLF’s Youth in Landscapes Initiative brought together 50 young innovators to develop real-world solutions to land-use challenges. The GFAR-supported Young Professionals for Agricultural Development network co-organized the Initiative. An intensive leadership development and project accelerator workshop worked out possible solutions to the climate change challenge, and the youths then pitched their solutions to a dragon’s den of business, policy and science experts during the Forum.
As GFAR Partners create more capacity for farmers’ organizations and CSOs to strengthen the link between the fields and the fora, we will look for more political will, not only to set binding targets for mitigation, but also to encourage adaptive strategies and technologies that will improve the livelihoods of farmers and producers. And climate smart-agriculture delivered by farmers themselves holds much potential as a tool to help countries step up to the challenges in the coming years.
Time will tell. But one thing is more certain than ever: the Global Forum and all involved need to make time work for us in a climate that is changing fast. Let’s keep working together to empower and protect the farmers, for a food secure future.
Photo credit: ©FAO-Daniel Hayduk