Officials cite sustainable agriculture as key to UN Green Economy Initiative

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By Amanda Strickler

Global officials from the United Nations and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) met in New York on June 1st to discuss the critical connection between sustainable farming and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Green Economy initiative.  Among those present were UNEP President Achim Steiner and IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze, both of whom advocated mobilizing investment for sustainable agriculture among smallholder farmers.  “Agriculture is at the centre of a transition to a resource-efficient, low-carbon Green Economy,” said Steiner.

Smallholder farmers are the key interface between the environment and global agricultural development. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Rural farmers worldwide rely on the earth’s land, forests, and water resources to contribute to the global food supply. Working in challenging environments, on degraded land, or with little agricultural technology, the rural poor still produce 60 percent of the world’s food, according to UNEP.

This means smallholder farmers are a key interface between the environment and agriculture–supporting these farmers can lead to both economic and environmental benefits. “Well-managed, sustainable agriculture can not only overcome hunger and poverty, but can address other challenges from climate change to the loss of biodiversity,” said Steiner. “Its value and its contribution to multiple economic, environmental and societal goals needs to be recognized in the income and employment prospects for the half a million smallholdings across the globe.”

Officials from IFAD stated, however, that programs to increase market access, improve infrastructure, and institutional reforms must accompany global financial support for smallholder agriculture. Systemic programs are necessary to generate the greatest improvements for farmers at the grassroots level.

“The challenge is to feed a growing global population without pushing humanity’s footprint beyond planetary boundaries,” stated Steiner. With the global population projected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, the role of smallholder farmers in maintaining a path towards a Green Economy will only increase in importance.

Amanda Strickler is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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