The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll across this country and in still too many places around the world. The sheer scope of the outbreak has confirmed the vulnerability of virtually every aspect of our lives, from food security to health care to commerce and beyond.
Even before the pandemic, the world’s systems were revealing their strain. Insights from the recently released UN State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report show that hunger was still rising before the pandemic. The 2020 update estimates that 10 million more people are going hungry, bringing the total to 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the world’s population.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, conditions have since escalated. Depending on which evolving pandemic outcome plays out, an additional 82-132 million people may be added to the count of the undernourished.
Given the breadth and multiple aspects of the threats our nation and the world face, it is critical that their broad spectrum and intertwined catalysts be addressed. A singular, silo-style solution to each of the tests posed to our well-being is unwieldy and impractical. Rather, an “all-tools-in-the-toolbox” approach is needed to address interrelated food system, nutrition, ecological, climate and public health challenges.
Solutions from the Land has long advocated a multi-faceted and coordinated approach to address the challenges posed by an ever-changing world that brings with it a myriad of environmental, economic and sustainability problems.
The multi-dimensional approach is nowhere more evident than in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which were adopted by the United Nation’s member states in 2015 with an eye towards achieving them by 2030. The 17 SDGs aim to shape national development plans over the next 15 years. From ending poverty and hunger, to improving livelihoods, to responding to climate change and sustaining natural resources, food and agriculture lie at the heart of the goals. While the goals are broad, they are also interdependent, requiring incentives and pathways that address all SDG objectives.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty adopted in 1992, is the authority by which delegates from the nations of the world meet and seek agreement on multiple, linked courses of action needed to address increasing and more variable climatic conditions. Addressing industrial, transportation-related and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, these negotiations seek a multi-platform approach to the addressing rising temperatures that generate often volatile weather patterns.
SfL holds “observer status” at the global talks and uses this platform to represent the contributions of the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA). The designation enables SfL to promote the multiple solutions to climate change that are offered by agricultural systems. It is critical that these solutions also contribute to the other SDGs, all while the sector sustainably produces food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystems services.
There are already a number of global forums in which this multi-faceted approach to problem-solving are playing out:
- The UN’s World Food Program, the largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security, provides food assistance to an average of 91.4 million people in 83 countries each year.
- The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a multilateral treaty that calls on nations to conserve biodiversity; promote the protection of water resources and soils; enable nutrient storage and recycling; break down and absorb pollution; contribute to climate stability; maintain ecosystems; and aid in the recovery from unpredictable events.
- The Convention to Combat Desertification – another multi-party treaty – enables participating nations to follow an assortment of pathways to stem the loss of biological productivity (i.e. fertile lands becoming increasingly more arid) that has occurred in areas affected by either natural processes or human activities.
All of these platforms are places where agriculture and how it uses and influences the land must have a front row seat. Next year, agriculture will have its spotlight at the first UN Food Systems Summit (on a date TBD) held in over a decade. Its intent will be to provide a platform for ambitious new actions, innovative solutions, and plans to transform food systems and leverage the shifts to deliver progress across all of the SDGs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vulnerability of our food and other systems and the need to transform our production capability to produce not just food, but a host of high value ecosystem services needed to achieve SDGs.
In this time of crisis and transformational change, the good news is that these conditions provide a unique opportunity to value agriculture for all of its contributions to mankind and the world. SfL is rising to meet these challenges and show how well managed farms, ranches and forests can bring solutions that benefit producers, the public and the planet. This is a once in a lifetime endeavor. We invite others to join us.