On 7th December 2015, The ceremony of “The Declaration of Agricultural Diversification” was held at Paris in conjunction with Paris COP21. The ceremony was graced by The Honourable Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia and YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah with an aim to address one of the most pressing issues to humanity – food security.
The event was a success and it was also graced by several honorable mentions including Dr. Sayed-Azam Ali, CEO of Crops for the Future (CFF); Dr. Trevor Nicholls, Chief Executive of Centre of Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI); Dr. David Molden, director general of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development; Dr. José Joaquín Campos A. Director General of Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) and Dr. Setta Tutundjian, Director of Partnerships & Knowledge Management, International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), UAE.
It was 11,500 thousand years ago, we were once the hunters and foragers of the earth. We evolved and moved to an agricultural way of living that lead us to industrialization and green revolution. All these advancement lead to the unprecedented growth of human population and global greenhouse emissions that were projected to increase beyond the “safe limit” of 2 degree celsius targeted by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Food security is a pressing issue when it comes with climate change. A hotter climate requires more resilient agriculture, food security, enhanced nutrition, environmental sustainability, shared knowledge and poverty alleviation.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda (SDA 2030) has provided a framework for sustainable development via 17 Sustainable Development Goals and many of which relate to agriculture. As yet, there is no plan on how agricultural diversification can contribute to the SDA 2030 for our future climate.
Today, Prof. Sayed Azam-Ali showed us how CFF helps to meet the needs of a hotter world and contribute to SDA which can be done via Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversification (GAPAD). The purpose of GAPAD is to address the following specific SDGs including:-
- SDG 2: Zero Hunger
- SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 15: Life on Land
- SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
As we learn that half of our diet comes from four major food crops including wheat, rice, maize and soybean, we also learn that these food crops are grown in a limited number of exporting countries which rely heavily on the high utilization of fertilizers and irrigation. Monoculture is not the solution to address food security, we need diversification.
In addition, when climate changes, people will look to mountains for food security and biodiversity. Animals and plants are migrating when the earth gets hotter. Mountain provides diverse physiology and endemic crops with huge amount of traditional knowledge. Sadly, these treasures are rapidly being replaced with major staple foods. Hence, there is a need of shifting to higher yields of mountain products starting now.
So far, we have identified half a million plant species on the planet and introduced a diversifying agricultural system that will help to strengthen the climate resilient platform for local markets, consumers and producers.
During the declaration, Dr. Trevor Nicholls has highlighted the importance of having agricultural diversification in Africa and South-East Asia regions as agriculture is their main source of income. The common challenges faced by farmers in these regions include lack of climate smart technologies to address new pests and diseases, and availability of fertile soil and water. For him, diversification is a risk mitigation measure. It diversifies one’s diet, and improves one’s income and reduces climate risks.
Dr. David Molden has also highlighted the importance of agricultural diversification in mountain regions especially Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and China. The highlands in these regions are the largest reserves of ice and snow which generate freshwater that helps to sustain 1.3 billion people living downstream. Notably, there are 3 to 4 billion people relying on these water sources for food production and diversification of agriculture shows to bring more opportunities for women in the mountains as a new source of income.
After listening to the experts, I wonder if we would still have any opportunity to choose in the future if we want to “Eat to Live or Live to Eat”?
“Today, agricultural diversification should not be seen as a choice but a necessity in the future. Climate resilient farming is the future.” – Dr. David Molden.
“Half of the species in the world have helped our ancestors to survive till now. Feeding the hotter world is very timely. We are convinced the benefits of this declaration, for the world” – Dr. Setta
In the end, I could not agree more with Dr. David Molden and Dr. Setta closing statements.
Written by: Jolene Journe T.