To Solve Hunger, Listen to Farmers

May 24, 2023

A.G. Kawamura has grown food in a lot of places in urban Orange County, California. The third-generation farmer has tended to fields of 3 to 4 acres all the way up to 300 to 600 acres, on vacant lots, school properties, an abandoned military base—anywhere he can find an open space. He’s used both organic and conventional practices at Orange County Produce, and his harvests—from cabbage and celery to strawberries and green beans—have ended up in chain grocery stores, farmers markets and local food banks.

“We believe in edible landscapes everywhere so there’s hunger nowhere,” says Kawamura, co-chair of Solutions from the Land, who has recently been elected to serve as co-chair of the United Nations Environment Program’s Farmers Major Group.

Solutions from the Land joined the UNEP as an official observer in June 2022, opening doors for participation in international events and conversations on climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution.

“The UNEP farmers constituency will be well served by A.G.,” says Ernie Shea, Solutions from the Land president. “He brings a breadth of knowledge, experience and leadership capacity to the table, and a true passion for agriculture, farmers and ranchers, and the people they serve through the delivery of abundant, nutrient-dense food, a healthy environment, and a full range of other goods and services.”  

Kawamura has always hoped to be involved in bringing an end to hunger, whether in his own backyard or globally. He believes agriculture has the capacity to feed everyone on the planet and to achieve additional Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. But, to do so, the international community needs imagination and willpower, he says. It needs to partner with—and not create additional burdens for—farmers.

“If agriculture does poorly, you create scarcity,” Kawamura says.

In order for farmers to be successful and sustainable, they need good ground, good water, an ability to grow a good crop consistently, and access to markets. Farmers must be profitable in order to be able to stay on, and take good care of, the land, where they produce food, fiber and fuel, as well as essential ecosystem services.

Most importantly, farmers need to be heard—especially as climate change makes the world ripe for disruptions of all kinds, from unpredictable weather that yields unpredictable harvests to those seen when supply chain issues left grocery store shelves bare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The voices of producers seem to be lost within the policy world,” Kawamura says. “That’s why Solutions from the Land stays involved. That’s why I like to be engaged. We believe the voice of the farmer, the rancher, the fisherman, the forester must be heard, especially when we start talking about these big policy areas. We need to show policymakers what’s possible.”

In his role as co-chair of the UNEP Farmers Major Group, Kawamura wants to “share the enthusiasm that comes from Solutions from the Land, that agriculture holds the keys to much of what is possible in terms of achieving the SDGs,” he says.

He will continue to advocate for farmers to be brought into policy discussions and to leverage the Solutions from the Land network to shine the light on agricultural producers already doing good work on the land.

“Abundance can only be maintained when we invest in and create the capacity to move forward with agriculture, whether it’s through research, infrastructure for clean water, or moving waste into energy and other new products through circular economies,” Kawamura says. “Out of the examples of 21st century thinking comes solutions for allowing us to thrive in the future.”

Kawamura will share the UNEP Farmers Major Group co-chair position with Paul Temple, a farmer from the United Kingdom who is involved in the Global Farmer Network. They will attend the Major Groups and Stakeholders Consultations in Morocco on July 4-5.

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An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.