Issue 18: June 2012 (Special Edition)

Special Issue on ICRAF at RIO+20, 28 June 2012 | Feedback
The World Agroforestry Centre’s participation at RIO+20 has focused on integrated and sustainable intensification of agricultural production to deliver consistent food, nutrition and energy and to address and overcome the negative effects of land degradation, loss of biological diversity, water scarcity and the effects of climate change. Centre negotiators have been able to successfully promote the importance of agroforestry in the Green Economy. In this special issue of Transformations, we highlight some of the Centre’s achievements.
Miss Universe and World Agroforestry Centre team up for soil health

The current Miss Universe Leila Lopes and Senior Fellow at World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Dr Dennis Garrity got together at RIO+20 to agree on a goal to halt land degradation and to scale up successful community projects to combat desertification.

Towards a Green Economy

One way of ensuring a green economy especially in Africa is by embracing the system of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration of Resources (FMNR) delegates attending the RIO +20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil learnt.

Dryland agroforestry lessons from Israeli deserts

As a result of the fast changing climatic conditions in the world, arable lands have been converted into semi-arid, while formerly semi-arid regions are now arid. However, the opposite is happening in Israel. The once arid land has slowly been converted into arable land, producing crops, fish and livestock that are exported to many other parts of the world today.

How to involve communities in ecosystem conservation
Despite the fact that most poor people in the developing world spend their time searching for the next meal, evidence based studies by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) have shown that such individuals can still be engaged in protecting the ecosystem and conserving the environment – but only if correct execution measures are put in place.
Only out of the box practices can ‘green’ Africa
As the curtains close for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a top agroforestry expert Dr. Dennis Garrity, has urged African farmers, experts and leaders to consider out-of-the-box practices to keep the continent green.

Healthy soils are crucial for food security: Prof Tony Simons, Director General, ICRAF

In support of the theme of the upcoming Rio+20 talks, the World Agroforestry Centre’s Director General, Professor Tony Simons said, “Food security is multidimensional and we can’t simply attack productivity aspects only.” He was speaking during a recent television interview on CNTV about the current and future impact climate change is expected to have on developing countries. He outlined how the most worrying and immediate climatic threats for rural farmers centre on diminishing water supply and increasing climatic temperatures. The role of the World Agroforestry Centre, suggests Prof Simons is to provide actionable knowledge that buffers the rural poor against these climatic stresses.
Closing the gap between man and nature – The Satoyama Initiative
Just three years after the introduction of Satoyama Initiative, the government of Japan has proven to the world that integrating agriculture and forestry not only maximizes the productivity of the land, but also yields the much desired green economy. The Satoyama initiative was a deliberate joint move initiated by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) to build and boost the relationship between human beings and nature by promoting reclamation of natural resources to change landscapes.

Agroforestry systems and Green Economies feature at RIO+20 briefing

Pepper agroforestry system, Konawe, Southeast Sulawesi (Photo by: Enggar Paramita/ICRAF)

On Friday 8 June 2012, representatives from Nairobi based CGIAR Centres including the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) attended a joint media briefing together with Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to highlight their proposals for the upcoming RIO+20 conference. ICRAF’s Director General, Prof Tony Simons’ messages were echoed by all representatives who were in support of the African RIO+20 Consensus Statement and UNEP’s recently released Global Environmental Outlook 5 (GEO5).

Among many focus points, food security, fertilizers, the Green Economy and urbanization took centre stage. In line with the African Consensus Statement to RIO+20, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, noted, “Urbanization will continue to exacerbate major threats to the environment brought about by globalization and weak governance. The GEO5 says there is hope that policies and strong partnerships will help mitigate the environmental threats.”

In the face of all these potential environmental challenges, Professor Tony Simons added, “Everybody agrees that we must all do more, not only as organizations but also as individuals.”

It is perplexing then, why everybody is not focussing on affirmative action given that all parties agree that more needs to be done. Prof Simons explained that little seems to be happening because everybody has a different idea of what to do. He added, “Only 20 of the 421 paragraphs of the Zero Draft of the RIO+20 position paper are agreed upon.” Furthermore, agriculture appears only 3 times and forestry 4 times in the entire document, even though both sectors make up 8 out of the 13 billion hectares of global land cover

The scientists at the briefing agreed that more needs to be done to combine agriculture and forestry by focusing on agroforestry systems that encourage the Green Economy. Florence Bernard, a Programme Associate at Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) commented, “Land sparing is going to be increasingly difficult due to the growing demand for agricultural land. And there needs to be the realization that land value is more than just food or timber.” In almost all the economies of African countries such as Kenya, Prof Simons said agriculture accounts for up to a quarter of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and uses at least 60% of the total labour force.

However, even with these figures, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) says African agriculture still produces far less than its sustainable capacity. Prof Simons called for renewed effort to improve agricultural value chains by focusing on market infrastructure and agricultural inputs, stating that “Only 8kg per hectare per year of fertilizer is applied in the soils of most African countries while in China, it’s 200kg per hectare per year."

ICRISAT’s Regional Director, Dr Said Silim agreed with Prof Simons’ assessment as he pointed out, “Research into seeds has increased the potential for high yields and productivity. However, regardless of the quality of seeds, if fertilizer is below the required minimum, you will never get good yields.”

There was a clear call for multi-stakeholder approaches to agricultural practices. Food security is multifaceted with governments, consumers and farmers differing in their understanding of the concept. The scientists were of the opinion that all these angles are intimately connected and must work together to guarantee overall food security.

According to ICRISAT’s Systems Agronomist, Dr Dave Harris, “The CGIAR calls for a multisectoral approach to food security since 80% of farm households have less than 2 hectares which means farmers are forced to supplement their livelihoods by having small businesses on the side.” Such multisectoral approaches makes it difficult for REDD projects to succeed in Africa because REDD projects tend to take a simplified approach of protecting trees while sacrificing livelihood options of the rural poor. A common approach to protecting forests has been to introduce Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).

However, Prof Simons cautioned that PES should be used as an entry point into co-investment in nature rather than as a mechanism for encouraging the rural poor to stop cutting trees. The point he was making is that, co-investment in biodiversity and landscapes empowers rural stakeholders such as the rural youth who are often reluctant to engage in agriculture. Others concurred that Climate Smart Agriculture is one way of practising sustainable PES and must be a key talking point at RIO+20 in order to advance food security, social investment and active participation in the Green Economy in Africa.

According to Ambassador Amina Mohamed, “Africa has generally embraced the Green Economy. The African negotiators have been pushing hard to make sure that all their gains from COP17 will add to the strong position they have on Africa’s involvement in the Green Economy.” In conclusion, the Director General made it clear that active participation in the Green Economy requires strong farmer-run institutions that can have an effective say in policies affecting their livelihoods.

Cover article By Chris Mesiku

Read more about ICRAF's involvement in RIO+20

Articles in this issue compiled by Yvonne Otieno



Transformations is produced by the World Agroforestry Centre Communications Unit.
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