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THE POTENTIAL OF AGROECOLOGY TO BUILD CLIMATE-RESILIENT LIVELIHOODS AND FOOD SYSTEMS

Climate change has severe negative impacts on livelihoods and food systems worldwide, with future projections, seriously undermining current efforts to improve the state of food security and nutrition, especially in sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) (Strohmaier et al., 2016). The 2018 report on the State of Food Insecurity raised an urgent appeal to accelerate and scale-up actions to strengthen resilience and enhance adaptive capacity in agricultural sectors. There is an urgent need for a transformational change of our food systems towards more sustainability and resilience. This was recently highlighted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (IPCC, 2018; IPCC, 2019), as well as by the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report (FAO, 2019a) and various other recent key publications on issues related to climate change. At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015, the Paris Agreement recognized “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change”. As a response two years later, at COP 23 in Bonn, the international community adopted a decision to have a workstream on agriculture through the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). Through their potential for adaptation, mitigation and building resilience ecological and sustainable agriculture and respective food systems are a fundamental part of the solution to tackle climate change. These approaches are uniquely placed to help countries deliver on climate goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The entry-point and focus of this study is climate change. Indeed, although both agroecology and climate change have complex and beneficial relationships, this fact is often insufficiently disseminated to and acknowledged by a broad audience. Thus hindering agroecology to be seen as an effective path to follow in order to set-up national climate targets (Côte et al., 2019). Since the very first international symposium on agroecology organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2014, followed by regional conferences and a second international symposium on agroecology in 2018, agroecology is better represented on the global agenda. In fact, at the 26th Session of the Committee on Agriculture and at the 40th Session of the FAO Conference in 2017, FAO’s governing bodies highlighted the importance of agroecology for a transition to sustainable food and agriculture. They further called for the need to strengthen normative and evidence-based work, as well as to foster research to the end of increasing the collection of evidence and qualitative data on agroecology. The launch of a global initiative1 on scaling up agroecological production systems in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2018 (FAO, 2018a), and the CFS HLPE (2019) report on “Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition”, are two additional affirmations that further illustrate the multilevel momentum of agroecology: from the field to the regional, national and international levels. Agroecology has an important role to play in transforming agriculture and food systems. Indeed, several sets of data, results, evidence and experiences exist from the field and from various countries. They are generally observed by farmers, CSOs, research institutions and supported by those governments that uphold agroecology. Such evidence resulted into a wide number of reports that present agroecology as a promising systemic approach to address climate change by unlocking adaptation and mitigation potentials in agriculture and food systems, that would ultimately build resilience and stimulate sustainable development (for an overview see e.g. Baker, et al., 2019). Despite this increased visibility in public debates and the presumably good performance of agroecology to transform agriculture towards increased sustainability, it has not been widely adopted by farmers yet. This is traced back to various reasons, such as the lack of enabling institutional and policy environments, the strong pressure from ongoing industrialization and commercialization processes or the lack of funds for research and education (Nicholls and Altieri, 2018). Agroecology existed long before climate change was seen as a major threat for the agriculture sectors, therefore it is not an approach specifically designed to address climate change. Thus, its climate resilience qualities which are examined in this study are rather an outcome of its systemic approach and underlying nature, mimicking natural, complex ecosystems. However, there is still insufficient comprehensive and structured evidence supporting the claim of its climate change adaptation potential. Furthermore there is little information available on the broader political and political-economic challenges and constraints that need to be addressed when building on the agroecology approach to hedge against climate change. Unlike food-system-focused fora, such as the 46th Session of the CFS (CFS 46) with the endorsement of the HLPE report (HLPE, 2019), which are increasingly highlighting the essential role of agroecology in food systems transformations, it does not yet get the same recognition and visibility in climate change discussions. Just recently, Sinclair et al. (2019) published a background report on “the contribution of agroecological approaches to realizing climate-resilient agriculture” for the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), which includes recommendations on the use of agroecological practices to build resilience of smallholder farms, and a commitment on the action track of agriculture and food security to enable access to agroecological practices for 60 million smallholders. It proposes adaptation and mitigation benefits derived from 13 agroecological principles identified by HLPE (2019), which occur at four scales: (1) f ield scale; (2) farm (or livelihood) scale; (3) landscape (or community) scale; and (4) food system scale. The transformation of agriculture and food systems to address the challenges of a changing climate will only transpire through collaboration of various actors of the food system which can build on their technical and policy-related experience. Following this logic, the study on “The potential of agroecology to build sustainable livelihoods and resilient food systems” is designed as a multi-stakeholder collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), research institutions such as the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL), the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA) and Bioversity International Kenya, together with civil society organizations (CSOs) including Biovision – Foundation for Ecological Development, the Association pour l’Environnement et Developpement Action pour une Protection Naturelle des Terroirs (Enda Pronat) and the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE).

source :

https://openknowledge.fao.org/items/aee4d6e5-1ac8-4b48-9fe5-a9d9b92622b4

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