First year at UNEA Successful for SfL

March 28, 2024

February 2024 marked a significant milestone for the Solutions from the Land (SfL) team. For the first time, four SfL team members, President Ernie Shea, Co-Chairs A.G. Kawamura and Fred Yoder, and Board member Dr. Lois Morton intervened in one of the world’s most influential environmental gatherings – the 6th Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEA-6) in Nairobi, Kenya. The assembly addressed the triple threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

“It has been a steep learning curve engaging with UNEP,” reflected Kawamura, who also served as a Co-Facilitator of the Farmers Major Group (FMG) for the assembly. “During the week-long event, there were assignments, deadlines and seminars going on all the time. We had a lot of catching up to do to read through multiple resolutions and draft statements as they were presented. Our task was to determine whether the various documents were factually accurate and supported by sound science. Another priority for us was to introduce the concept of agricultural solutions that could be enabled with the correct policies, programs, partnerships and markets.” 

The farmers that made up the Farmer Major Group as well as SfL representatives were just a portion of the 5,600 participants in attendance competing for their voices to be heard. By the end of the assembly, finalized resolutions called for the 190 countries in attendance to act.

While discussions unfolded and resolutions were deliberated, SfL and other accredited Farmer non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were at the forefront, actively engaging in the policy development process and pursuing mutual objectives while introducing ongoing agricultural solutions. Their interventions spanned a wide range of critical issues including invasive species, agricultural plastics, highly hazardous pesticides, sustainable biomass production, water management and renewable fuels as climate change solutions.

“There were about a dozen resolutions discussed and debated throughout the week,” Shea said. “The Farmers Major Group filed comments in ten resolutions and we were able to voice additional key narratives during special forums and official side events. A.G.’s formal statements to the entire attending body called on the assembly to recognize the key role farmers around the world can play in delivering solutions to environmental and other Sustainable Development Goals.

One resolution where Kawamura said the team of farmers had an impact was UNEAP/EA.6/RES.1 – the circularity of a resilient and low-carbon sugar cane agro-industry.

“Cuba introduced the resolution to embrace sugarcane as a support source of food, raw materials, biomaterials and bioenergy providing opportunities for climate mitigation actions, biodiversity protection and a reduction of pollution,” Kawamura said. “We (FMG) took up the opportunity to comment that there are all kinds of different products you can grow and turn into fuel. There are also all kinds of products that you can turn from waste into fuel. And so that was an excellent opportunity to plant the seed and introduce circular system approaches and  sustainable biomass production.”

SfL’s side event, “Agricultural Circular Bioeconomy Systems for Concurrently Delivering Solutions to Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Pollution and Food Security,” on Feb. 28, showcased practical solutions and innovative approaches from around the world.

“During our UNEA-6 Circular Bioeconomy Systems (CBS) side event, where the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and the Alliance for Modernizing African Agrifood Systems joined us as co-organizers, we walked the attendees through three farmers’ first-hand experiences with CBS, and how fellow farmers, ranchers, foresters and fisherfolk across the globe are on the path to building a CBS movement,” Shea said.

Moving forward, Shea and Kawamura look forward to increased inclusion of agriculture at future UNEP assemblies – similar to the growth they’ve seen during their participation in other UN fora including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, FAO and the UN Water Conference. Kawamura also hopes to build a “larger constituency group” to ensure a sizable pool of Farmer voices are actively engaged in discussions that go on and ultimately affect the industry worldwide.

“The role of agriculture in a world of over 8 billion people is increasingly complex and challenging,” Kawamura concluded. “Agriculture is impacted directly by the triple threats of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. But for some, it is simply an industry to be regulated. The success of agriculture in all its dimensions is the key to a world of abundance and sustainable resilience.  The agricultural struggles of the past cannot be ignored as Farmers plan and prepare for the challenges of the present and future.  We must continue to build upon the collaborative innovations that deliver solutions from the land that unlock the immense potential of humanity’s agricultural endeavor. “

For more information about UNEA-6 or how you can become involved in SfL’s efforts, contact Ernie Shea at eshea@solutionsfromtheland.org.

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