UN: Agroecology can Double Food Output in 10 years



Dear friends and colleagues, 

Re: Agroecology can double food output in 10 years, says UN report

A new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, demonstrates that agroecology, if sufficiently supported, can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.

The report, “Agro-ecology and the right to food”, was presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 8 March 2011. It drew on an extensive review of recent scientific literature to support its conclusions. According to de Schutter, “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live — especially in unfavorable environments.”

The Special Rapporteur thus called on States to implement a fundamental shift away from input-intensive conventional farming towards agroecology as a way for countries to feed themselves while addressing climate- and poverty challenges. He said, “We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

Scaling up these experiences is the main challenge and appropriate public policies are needed to create an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production.

We reproduce below the Summary and Recommendations of the report. The full report can be downloaded at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/docs/A-HRC-16-49.pdf or http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20110308_a-hrc-16-49_agroecology_en.pdf

With best wishes,

Lim Li Ching

Third World Network

131 Jalan Macalister

10400 Penang


Email: twnet@po.jaring.my

Websites: www.twnside.org.sg, www.biosafety-info.net

Item 1


The reinvestment in agriculture, triggered by the 2008 food price crisis, is essential to the concrete realization of the right to food. However, in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment is not how much, but how. This report explores how States can and must achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food.
Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur identifies agroecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding high- yielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development.

The report argues that the scaling up of these experiences is the main challenge today. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production. These policies include prioritizing the procurement of public goods in public spending rather than solely providing input subsidies; investing in knowledge by reinvesting in agricultural research and extension services; investing in forms of social organization that encourage partnerships, including farmer field schools and farmers’ movements innovation networks; investing in agricultural research and extension systems; empowering women; and creating a macro-economic enabling environment, including connecting sustainable farms to fair markets.


43.    Moving towards sustainability is vital for future food security and an essential component of the right to food. But in order to succeed in this transformation, consistency will be required across a variety of areas. States will need to invest in multi-year efforts, based on strategies identifying the measures that should be adopted in order to make this transition.

44.    As part of their obligation to devote the maximum of their available resources to the progressive realization of the right to food, States should implement public policies supporting the adoption of agroecological practices by:

* making reference to agroecology and sustainable agriculture in national strategies for the realisation of the right to food and by including measures adopted in the agricultural sector in national adaptation plans of action (NAPAs) and in the list of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) adopted by countries in their efforts to mitigate climate change;
* reorienting public spending in agriculture by prioritizing the provision of public goods, such as extension services, rural infrastructures and agricultural research, and by building on the complementary strengths of seeds-and-breeds and agroecological methods, allocating resources to both, and exploring the synergies, such as linking fertilizer subsidies directly to agroecological investments on the farm (“subsidy to sustainability”);
* supporting decentralized participatory research and the dissemination of knowledge about the best sustainable agricultural practices by relying on existing farmers’ organisations and networks, and including schemes designed specifically for women;
* improving the ability of producers practicing sustainable agriculture to access markets, using instruments such as public procurement, credit, farmers’ markets, and creating a supportive trade and macroeconomic framework.

45.     Donors should:

* engage in long-term relationships with partner countries, supporting ambitious programs and policies to scale up agroecological approaches for lasting change, including genuine multi-polar engagement with public authorities and experts and existing local organizations of food providers (farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers) and the networks they form, such as ROPPA, ESAFF, La Via Campesina, and PELUM, which have accumulated experience that could be the basis for rapid scaling-up of best practices;
* encourage South-South and North-South cooperation on the dissemination and adoption of agroecological practices;
* support agricultural development by investing in public goods rather than private goods, and encourage participatory approaches and co-construction in research, extension and public policies;
* fund regional and national knowledge platforms to gather and disseminate best practices in agroecology from the field to landscape levels.

46.    The research community, including centres of the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, should:

* increase the budget for agroecological research at the field level (design of sustainable and resilient agroecological systems), farm and community levels (impacts of various practices on incomes and livelihoods), and national and sub-national levels (impact on socio-economic development, participatory scaling-up strategies, and impacts of public policies), and develop research with the intended beneficiaries according to the principles of participation and co- construction;
* train scientists in the design of agroecological approaches, participatory research methods, and processes of co-inquiry with farmers, and ensure that their organizational culture is supportive of agroecological innovations and participatory research;
* assess projects on the basis of a comprehensive set of performance criteria (impacts on incomes, resource efficiency, impacts on hunger and malnutrition, empowerment    of beneficiaries,    etc.) with indicators appropriately disaggregated by population to allow monitoring improvements in the status of vulnerable populations, taking into account the requirements of the right to food, in addition to classical agronomical measures.

47.    At its 36th session, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) requested its High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) to examine the respective roles of large-scale plantations and small-scale farming, and to review existing assessments and initiatives on the effects of climate change on food security and nutrition, with a view to informing the 37th CFS session. The HLPE and the CFS should assess the potential of agroecology to meet the current challenges in the areas of food security and nutrition, with a view to informing the preparation of the Global Strategic Framework for Food and Nutrition Security (GSF) in 2012, and to strengthening the consistency between the international agendas in the areas of climate change and agricultural development respectively.

Item 2


8 March 2011

Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years, says new UN report

GENEVA – Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report* shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.

“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live — especially in unfavorable environments.”

Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.

“To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects,” De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”

“Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today,” De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agroecology on food production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation — and this this is what is needed in a world of limited resources. Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3 tons/ha.”

The report also points out that projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh recorded up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers. “Knowledge came to replace pesticides and fertilizers. This was a winning bet, and comparable results abound in other African, Asian and Latin American countries,” the independent expert notes.

“The approach is also gaining ground in developed countries such as United States, Germany or France,” he said. “However, despite its impressive potential in realizing the right to food for all, agroecology is still insufficiently backed by ambitious public policies and consequently hardly goes beyond the experimental stage.”

The report identifies a dozen of measures that States should implement to scale up agroecological practices.

“Agroecology is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies supporting
agricultural research and participative extension services,” De Schutter says. “States and donors have a key role to play here. Private companies will not invest time and money in
practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don’t open markets for chemical products or improved seeds.”

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food also urges States to support small-scale farmer’s organizations, which demonstrated a great ability to disseminate the best agroecological practices among their members. “Strengthening social organization proves to be as impactful as distributing fertilizers. Small-scale farmers and scientists can create innovative practices when they partner”, De Schutter explains.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

“If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report, we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some regions where the hungry live,” De Schutter says. “Whether or not we will succeed this transition will depend on our ability to learn faster from recent innovations. We need to go fast if we want to avoid repeated food and climate disasters in the 21st century.”

(*) The report “Agro-ecology and the right to food” was presented today before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This document is available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian at: www.srfood.org and http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/annual.htm


Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization.

For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur, visit: www.srfood.org or http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm

Press contacts:
Olivier De Schutter: Tel. +32.488 48 20 04 / E-mail: olivier.deschutter@uclouvain.be Ulrik Halsteen (OHCHR): Tel: +41 22 917 93 23 / E-mail: uhalsteen@ohchr.org


Item 3


Guardian UK
8 March 2011

Eco-farming could double food output of poor countries, says UN

A move by farmers in developing countries to ecological agriculture, away from chemical fertilisers and pesticides, could double food production within a decade, a UN report says.

Insect-trapping plants in Kenya and ducks eating weeds in Bangladesh’s rice paddies are among examples of recommendations for feeding the world’s 7 million people, which the UN says will become about 9 billion by 2050.

"Agriculture is at a crossroads," says the study by Olivier de Schutter, the UN special reporter on the right to food, in a drive to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model of industrial farming.

So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations demonstrated average crop yield gains of 80 per cent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests, it says.

Recent projects in 20 African countries resulted in a doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere, it adds.

"Sound ecological farming can signficantly boost production and in the long term be more effective than conventional farming," De Schutter said of steps such as more use of natural compost or high-canopy trees to shade coffee groves.

It is also believed "agroecology" could make farms more resilient to extreme weather conditions associated with climate change, including floods, droughts and a rise in sea levels that the report said was already making fresh water near some coasts too salty for use in irrigation.

Benefits would be greatest in "regions where too few efforts have been put in to agriculture, particularly sub-Saharan Africa," he said. "There are also a number of very promising experiences in parts of Latin America and parts of Asia.

"The cost of food production has been very closely following the cost of oil," he said. Upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia have been partly linked to discontent at soaring food prices. Oil prices were around $115 a barrel on Tuesday.

"If food prices are not kept under control and populations are unable to feed themselves … we will increasingly have states being disrupted and failed states developing," De Schutter said.

Examples of successful agroecology in Africa include the thousands of Kenyan farmers who planted insect-repelling desmodium or tick clover, used as animal fodder, within corn fields to keep damaging insects away and sowed small plots of napier grass nearby that excretes a sticky gum to trap pests.

The study also called for better research, training and use of local knowledge. "Farmer field schools" by rice growers in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh had led to cuts in insecticide use by between 35 and 92 percent, it said.

De Schutter also recommended a diversification in global farm output, from reliance on rice, wheat and maize.

Developed nations, however, would be unable to make a quick shift to agroecology because of what he called an "addiction" to an industrial, oil-based model of farming –
but a global long-term effort to shift to agroecology was needed.

It cited Cuba as an example of how change was possible, as the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to supplies of cheap pesticides and fertilisers being cut off. Yields had risen after a downturn in the 1990s as farmers adopted more eco-friendly methods.

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