Global Forum for the Future of Agriculture calls for action & collaboration

This past week, the annual Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) met in Brussels and, like most such forums, issued statements calling for greater action and collaboration among participating nations and institutions.

This particular Forum, now in its 9th year of annual gatherings, has called on “the agri-food industry, governments and NGOs to innovate and collaborate like never before in order to meet the food and environment security challenges laid down by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

[Click here for a refresher on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals]

According to Forum media statements, the dominant themes of the conference revolved around three major areas: (1) reforming and transforming the agriculture model; (2) changing societal behaviors, including responsible consumption; and (3) disrupting and rethinking the current agricultural model to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

These themes certainly reflect our own thinking here at Faith, Food & the Environment. These emerged out of our own Symposium discussions and are incorporated into our current Reflections.

New economic and social models needed

Returning to statements coming out of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, the governmental, non-governmental and corporate agribusiness participants agreed that a collective effort which transforms the global economic and social models would be needed. That’s innovative thinking, and we hope and pray they can pull this off.

Many of the 1,500 delegates “believed that profound and lasting changes would be needed to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.” Otherwise, according to Forum statements, these goals “would remain aspirational unless governments, academia, business and NGOs learned how to better collaborate.”

We could not agree more, and indeed hope this push for collaboration allows for a dialogue with faith-based groups as well, including the Church herself. We discuss this in our Reflections under a section titled “Acting for the Common Good”.

Other key points made at the Forum:

In his opening speech to the meeting, Janez Potočnik, chairman of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, said:

“The Sustainable Development Goals represent a new global contract where we recognize the planet as our partner and benefactor. To achieve them will require an extraordinary effort of every society and economic actor; they represent nothing less than a change in the way we live and organize ourselves. Delivering on the SDGs is about delivering both food and environmental security at the same time. To do this, we must maximize our nutrient efficiency and move towards a circular economy that prevents waste and pollution throughout the food chain and in our societies.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commented in his address:

“True progress demands new food systems that focus on health, protect the environment, promote social justice, empower women and advance development in communities. These food systems should give opportunities to young people and support smallholder farmers.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director, UNEP, echoed Mr. Ban’s comments, saying:

“Rethinking agriculture is key in a world of nine billion consumers, with climate change and resource constraints becoming more present. Agriculture needs to be an integral part of the solutions for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which requires a systems approach.”

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University, said in his keynote address:

“The Forum for the Future of Agriculture is a unique and timely gathering of world leaders in agriculture and sustainable development to discuss the crucial issue of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Agriculture stands at the heart of the challenge of sustainable development. Yet the challenges are daunting. We must feed a growing world population with a nutritious diet; raise the living standards of smallholder farmers; make the food supply resilient to climate shocks; and lower the impact of the farm sector on land, water, and climate. This is a profound challenge that will require the best of science, policy, business, and civil society operating together in a bold and cooperative manner.”

One final note: Transforming agricultural policies to ensure sustainability

I would like to especially note this posting at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture site: “How can we transform agriculture policies to ensure sustainability and zero hunger?” (Feb 19 posting)

Here’s how it begins: Agriculture is the economic sector most affected by climate change. Global warming reduces soil moisture and water is becoming increasingly scarce. As a result, droughts will become more common and farmers will produce smaller yields.
It is projected that by 2030, nine out of ten major crops will see reduced or stagnant growth rates, but average prices will increase dramatically. Global water demand is expected to rise by 50% and the global population could increase to more than eight billion. As a result food demand will go up by 35%. These figures show how important it is that the agriculture sector can deliver safe, nutritious food for everybody while preserving our natural resources for future generations.

The precise sentiments of Faith, Food & the Environment project!