More and Better: Sign on to the letter about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and agriculture

o the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and all governments in the world

More support for small-scale agroecological and other forms of sustainable agriculture is the key to reach many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The organizations which have signed on to this letter urge all governments, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), other UN- and financial institutions to increase the support for agroecology and other forms of sustainable agriculture for small-scale farmers, and to underline the importance of such support to be able to reach several of the SDGs.

Increased support to small-scale sustainable farming is a key to reach:
SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
SDG 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

The World Bank World Development Report 2008, Agriculture for Development, states that “…GDP growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating outside agriculture… For China, aggregate growth originating in agriculture is estimated to have been 3.5 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth outside agriculture – and for Latin-America 2.7 times more.”
FAO also states the importance and efficiency of investments in agriculture: “Agriculture plays a vital role for economic growth and sustainable development. The evidence suggests that agriculture gross domestic product (GDP) growth in developing countries is on average 2.9 times more effective in reducing poverty relative to non-agriculture GDP growth…”

Support for small-scale sustainable agriculture is also a key to eradicate hunger, create jobs, improve the situation of women, to reduce climate change, and to make agriculture sustainable. Despite this, support for sustainable agriculture in developing countries has a low priority both in most developing countries and in development support from the OECD countries.
In 2003, Heads of State and Government of the members of the African Union (AU) agreed on the Maputo Declaration to adopt sound policies for agricultural and rural development, and committed themselves to allocating at least 10% of national budgetary resources for their implementation within five years. However, ten years later, only nine countries had reached to goal of 10%. 45 countries had not. In 2014, the members of the African Union re-committed to the 10% in the Malabo Declaration.
Support for agriculture is also low in the Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the OECD countries; only about 7,5% of the total ODA goes to agriculture.

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, in its report Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food Security (2013), stated that “Public investments in and for agriculture have fallen considerably since the 1980s. It is now widely recognized that agriculture has been neglected at both the national and international levels. Many agricultural banks (mostly linked to, and supported by, the state) have disappeared, and extension services, applied research and investment in infrastructure projects have declined since the mid-1980s.”

The small-scale farmers are the most important investors in their own farms, but they do not have sufficient access to the finances they need. Less than a quarter of the financial needs of small-scale farmers in developing countries are met, leaving an annual financing gap of more than US$ 150 billion according to Blending4AG – an initiative by CTA Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation which is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU).

A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems

In The state of Food and Agriculture (2016), FAO underline the need for “a profound transformation of food and agriculture systems worldwide.” The report from the International panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) has some of the same message, and it points out a way forward. One of the key messages in the report is:

“What is required is a fundamentally different model of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods, i.e. ‘diversified agroecological systems’.”

We, the organizations that have signed on to this letter, agree on the need for a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems. Such a shift combined with drastically increase of the support to small-scale agroecological and other forms of sustainable agriculture are necessary to reach many of the SDGs. We ask the governments in all countries to spend at least 10% of the national budgets for support of sustainable agriculture, primarily for small-scale farmers.

June/July 2017

To sign on the letter, please write us at [email protected]
The letter is available in English, Spanish and French.

Signatory Organizations (updated on 13th June 2017)

1. More and Better Network, Cameroun/International
2. Food Tank, USA / Global
3. Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience at Coventry University, UK
4. Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KESSFF), Kenya
5. Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN) Uganda
6. La Fédération Nationale pour l’Agriculture Biologique (FENAB), Sénégal
7. L’Association Sénégalaise pour la Promotion de l’Agriculture Biologique (ASPAB)
8. IFOAM Organic International
9. Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly, Nigeria ( EBAFOSA)
10. Manavodaya, Institute of Participatory Development, India
11. Voice of Wilderness Developmental Organization, Ethiopia
12. Church Aid Inc. Church Aid, Liberia
13. North East Chilli Producers Association, Uganda
14. Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First, USA / Global
15. Maendeleo Endelevu Action Program (MEAP)
16. S-PTA (Agroecology and Family Farming), Brazil
17. ANA (National Agroecological Network), Brazil
18. Local Matters, USA
19. Pesticide Action Network, International
20. Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA).
21. School and Colleges Permaculture Programme (SCOPE) Kenya
22. Le Centre d’Actions pour la Sécurité Alimentaire et le Développement Durable (CASAD) Bénin
23. SIANI, Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative
24. North East Chilli Producers Association (NECPA) LTD , Uganda
25. Société coopérative multifonctionnelle Alternatives de Développement Pour la Vie sur Terre, Mali
26. NGO SOL, Alternative agroecologiques et solidaires
27. ActionAid International
28. Kikandwa Environmental Association, Uganda
29. Asociación de Instituciones de Promoción y Educación, AIPE, red de ONG, Bolivia
30. USC Canada
31. The Oakland Institute, USA
32. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), USA / Global

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How to leave industrial agriculture behind – food systems experts urge global shift towards agroecology

(Brussels / Trondheim: 2nd June) Input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots must be consigned to the past in order to put global food systems onto sustainable footing, according to the world’s foremost experts on food security, agro-ecosystems and nutrition.

The solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming in the world’s poorest countries, the experts argued.

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), led by Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, released its findings today in a reportentitled ‘From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems’.

De Schutter said: “Many of the problems in food systems are linked specifically to the uniformity at the heart of industrial agriculture, and its reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Simply tweaking industrial agriculture will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple problems it generates.”

He added: “It is not a lack of evidence holding back the agroecological alternative. It is the mismatch between its huge potential to improve outcomes across food systems, and its much smaller potential to generate profits for agribusiness firms.”

The report was presented today at the 8th Trondheim Biodiversity Conference (Norway) by lead author Emile Frison, former Director General of Bioversity International.

The report reviews the latest evidence on the outcomes of the different production models, and identifies eight key reasons why industrial agriculture is locked in place despite its negative outcomes. It also maps out a series of steps to break these cycles and shift the centre of gravity in food systems.

Frison explained that some of the key obstacles to change are about who has the power to set the agenda. “The way we define food security and the way we measure success in food systems tend to reflect what industrial agriculture is designed to deliver – not what really matters in terms of building sustainable food systems,” Frison stated.

Based on a review of the latest evidence, the expert panel identified industrial agriculture as a key contributor to the most urgent problems in food systems:

  • Food systems contribute around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Around 20% of land on earth is now degraded;
  • More than 50% of human plant-derived foods now depend on three crops (rice, maize and wheat); 20% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction;
  • The extinction of wild species and the application of insecticides threaten the 35% of global crops dependent on pollination;
  • Around 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies; current food systems produce an abundance of energy-rich, nutrient-poor crops.

The experts concluded that a fundamental shift towards diversified agroecological farming* can deliver simultaneous benefits for productivity, the environment and society.

A growing body of evidence shows that diversified agroecological systems deliver strong and stable yields by building healthy ecosystems where different plants and species interact in ways that improve soil fertility and water retention. They perform particularly well under environmental stress and deliver production increases in the places where additional food is most needed.

Diversified agroecological systems have also shown major potential to keep carbon in the ground, increase resource efficiency and restore degraded land, turning agriculture into one of the key solutions to climate change.

Diversifed agriculture also holds the key to increasing dietary diversity at the local level, as well as reducing the multiple health risks from industrial agriculture (e.g. pesticide exposure, antibiotic resistance).

Some of the key findings:

  • Average organic yields equivalent to conventional agriculture, and 30% higher in drought years (30-year study);
  • Total outputs in diversified grassland systems 15%-79% higher than in monocultures;
  • 2-4x higher resource efficiency on small-scale agroecological farms;
  • 30% more species and 50% higher abundance of biodiversity on organic farms;
  • Around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in organic meat and milk.

The experts identified major promise in the burgeoning initiatives now forming around alternative food and farming systems, from new forms of political cooperation to the development of new market relationships that bypass conventional retail circuits.

“The challenge is to join up these initiatives,” Frison urged. “Farmers can only be expected to transform their practices when they are certain that they will find markets. And consumers will only shift towards healthy, sustainable food when it is accessible and affordable to them. These changes must lock each other in, just as current dynamics conspire to lock them out.”

De Schutter added: “We must change the way we set political priorities. The steps towards diversified agroecological farming are steps to democratize decision-making and to rebalance power in food systems.”

Read the executive summary

Read the full report

Read the key messages, also available in French and Spanish

*Diversified agroecological farming refers to models of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods. Organic agriculture often reflects these principles, but organic certification does not guarantee a holistic diversified approach.

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