Agriculture was not often explicitly mentioned in the meeting A.G. Kawamura recently attended with leaders representing different major groups of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). However, agriculture—and the fundamental need for it—underscored many of the conversations.

With the sixth session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA 6) coming to Kenya late next February, the major group leaders gathered earlier this month, July 4-5. Some attended the meeting in Morocco in person. Others, like Kawamura and Paul Temple, recently elected co-chairs of the Farmer Major Group, sat in virtually to provide consultation and review a draft of the ministerial declaration to be announced at the UNEA 6.

The focus of the upcoming UNEA 6 will be “effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.” Special attention will be given to pollution from plastics. It’s all part of a larger conversation led by the United Nations, framed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, a bold vision for how humankind might come together in collaboration to build a better world.

Solutions from the Land believes this vision is possible, but farmers, ranchers, foresters and all their partners in agriculture must be involved in the conversation, from beginning to end. The UN needs to hear about the innovative work of those whose livelihoods are tied to the land. They need to understand and be given the opportunity to build empathy toward farmers and their many roles, what it takes for them to be successful and for everyone on the planet to live and grow. And they need to hear directly from farmers. That’s why SfL is committed to showing up in—and bringing those farmer voices to— the places where the future of agriculture is being debated and shaped. The UNEP is the fourth UN platform to which SfL has earned the ability to contribute, as of June 2022. SfL also has standing in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Chane (UNFCCC) and the UN Water Conference. Now, as a UNEP leader, Kawamura, a California farmer and SfL co-chair, is getting a closer look at what UNEP is trying to achieve and how farmer voices can and should be included.

During the meeting, Kawamura and Temple, an English farmer and Global Farmers Network board member, noticed food security was top of mind. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened levels of anxiety over the many dimensions of food security slipping into food insecurity, and global leaders continue to raise concerns about how to feed the world while enjoying a clean, productive environment.

Kawamura shares additional observations in his recap of the Morocco meeting:

  • The role of UNEP to provide strategic foresight, horizon scanning and capacity building for member states is both a short- and long-term endeavor.
  • There is an upsurge of committed grassroots efforts by NGOs to move from “think tank” to “do tank” action mode.
  • Proof of concept activities that are delivering clear results and solutions in developed and developing countries, small island developing states, and others need to be shared and accelerated to showcase innovative opportunities to deliver ecosystem services and achieve biodiversity goals.
  • The draft ministerial declaration encourages UNEP to continue to anticipate trends and risks and better communicate, direct and prioritize scientific research and technological alignment.
  • An under-discussed area of concern affecting biodiversity decline and climate impact is challenges connected to invasive species and zoonotic diseases. The infrastructure for these and other framework imperatives needs funding and updating.

More than ever before, Kawamura saw a sensitivity around intergenerational equity and environmental justice.

“These interlinkages between social and economic and environmental issues attract multiple opinions, perspectives and agendas,” Kawamura says. “This requires attention to and support for science and evidence-based conclusions and proclamations.”

He and Temple look forward to providing agricultural insight to the UN Environment Programme.

 “It is encouraging to observe that systematic solutions to systemic issues exist and await replication and scalability to address, in real time, the drivers of three planetary threats: climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution,” Kawamura says. “It’s clear to us that agriculture has an essential, positive role, and we’re in a great position to be able to bring farmer voices and perspectives to the table.”

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