Ahead of the UN Food System Summit to be held later this year, food systems stakeholders from around the world have been holding dialogues to share their insights on insuring food security in the face of uncertain times ahead, particularly in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis. While this input is essential, so too are the experiences and recommendations of the men and women who produce the food the world needs- farmers, ranchers and fishers.
Recognizing the importance of these perspectives, this week the Food Systems Summit leadership team sponsored a series of dialogues that were specifically designed to secure food producer insights and recommendations. SfL farmer leaders participated in the session that drew together producers from both North and South America, where they reinforced the need to expand farmer-to farmer knowledge sharing and embrace all forms of innovation to bring about positive changes in the world food systems and deliver progress on sustainable development goals.
On April 6, Solutions from the Land (SfL) and a group of collaborating agricultural organizations held a dialogue that drew together a diverse cross section of U.S. farmers, value chain partners, researchers and conservation partners. Participants explored and shared ideas around the sustainable practices taking place on their farms/ranches and in their commodity sectors, and discussed ways of further incorporating sustainable practices to reduce environmental impact and achieve outcomes that improve lives.
Last week, SfL filed an official feedback report on that April dialogue, sharing a wide range of solutions offered by dialogue participants to an assortment of food security challenges. Prominent among those recommendations are those that call for:
- Diversified and sustainable intensification of production strategies appropriate to different geographies, cultures and a wide variety of farm types and scales to produce high-quality protein, grains, and fruits and vegetables. Also, reconnect production processes that reintegrate livestock, aquaculture, and crop agriculture as systems to better recycle nutrients.
- Private activities and public policies that incentivize markets and food system distribution infrastructure – ensuring food access to low-income households and vulnerable, benefit all scales of production. and provide profitable agricultural livelihoods.
- Evidence-based and people-centric approaches that reflect the concerns of producers and multiple stakeholder groups to implement solutions and partnerships at landscape scale.
- Systems-based agricultural research that is energized and integrated with UN Sustainable Development Goals. Integrated research agendas should advance a systems approach to ensure health
Across a series of breakout groups held during the dialogue, common themes emerged in response to a series of questions posed to them. For example, participants agreed that – when keeping in mind the value of diverse food production for nutrition security (not just “food” security) – the sustainability, efficiency and adaptability of practices will vary across geographies and farming conditions.
Furthermore, they said sustainability, efficiency and adaptability of practices will vary across geographies and types of farms. They said animal agriculture should be viewed as a part of this broad, diversified system – and as a solution rather than a problem, both for its contributions as a unique source of high-quality protein and other critical nutrients, and for its role in land management.
Participants also agreed that increased investment in holistic agricultural research is needed and should include technical elements (like soil quality, water quality, air quality, renewable-energy generation), and research into changing tastes and variety relevant to specialty crops. They noted that technology and data, particularly in precision agriculture, are driving more and more of our food production. Technology and broadband access need to be scaled appropriately and made available and affordable to farms of all sizes, with continual outreach to keep farmers abreast of technology changes.
It is important to note that successful agriculture is a prerequisite to attaining food security and other sustainable development goals. And for agriculture to be successful, those who toil, assume risk and make investments to produce food are successful. Producers are at the center of our food systems. The decades of knowledge that they possess must be incorporated into the Food Systems Summit outcomes. That can only happen if growers have a place at the table where policymaking occurs.