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Press Release: Christian alliance calls for investment in agroecology to end hunger and build resilient communities

9. October 2012

    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) released today a paper calling for increased investment in sustainable agricultural practices that support smallscale farmers and local communities as well as benefit the environment and natural resource base.

    “Nourishing the World: Scaling up Agroecology” presents numerous examples of the successful use of agroecological methods in increasing yields for farmers using locally-available natural resources while lowering or eliminating farmers’ reliance on costly and polluting chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

    Global figures on hunger released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme emphasize the urgency of investing in effective policies and practices to feed the world. Nearly 870 million people, or 1 in 8, were suffering chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. According to the report, global progress in reducing hunger has levelled off since 2007-2008, with the number of hungry people rising in Africa and developed regions. More than 1 in 4 people in Africa are chronically hungry.

    Yet, as the EAA paper points out, hunger is not caused by scarcity. The world already produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, which is close to the population growth expected by 2050.

    “Tackling hunger is not in the first instance about producing more food,” says Christine Campeau, EAA’s Food Campaign Coordinator. “It is about investing responsibly in sustainable agricultural practices and changing wasteful consumer habits that will benefit people, communities and the environment now and in the long-term.”

    The paper sets out an alternative path to the one currently being promoted by some governmental and private sector initiatives, which is to expand the industrial “green revolution” style of agriculture. While this type of agriculture has certainly increased food production in recent decades, it has also “destabilized the natural resource base and drives much of the loss of biodiversity” as well as contributing - directly and indirectly - to the 30% of total global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) currently generated by the agricultural sector.

    “In developed countries, where industrial-scale monocropping is the prevailing agricultural model, it is easy to forget that the majority of the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers,” states Peter Prove, EAA Executive Director. “The answer to hunger and food insecurity is not turning more of these small farms into huge plantations, which damage both local communities and the environment, but investing in the knowledge-sharing, networking and sustainable practices that have proven to increase yields, protect the natural environment, empower communities, and enhance resilience in the face of a changing climate.”

    “It’s all about Christian stewardship of God’s creation, and responding to the needs of people and communities rather than corporations”, stressed Nigussu Legesse, Programme Executive for Africa of World Council of Churches and member of the EAA’s Food Strategy Group.

    The paper has been released in advanced of the meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome, 15-20 October. Civil society representatives who participate in the CFS as part of a Civil Society Mechanism are calling on CFS members to act immediately to help small-scale food producers to adapt to climate change and prevent further dangerous climate change-related impacts on food security. In this context, the EAA is calling for:

    1. Much greater investment in research on agroecological food production methods, building on traditional knowledge and existing best practice, for the purpose of enhancing smallholder-based, low-emission, high-productivity agriculture in the context of climate change.

    2. Increased support for the establishment and expansion of farmer-to-farmer networks at local levels throughout the developing world, for the sharing of information and best practices in agroecological food production.

    3. Enabling policy environments at national and international levels, recognizing the central role of smallholder farmers in global food security and supporting smallholder-based agroecological food production, and agroecological extension programs at national and local levels.

    4. Increased support for the establishment and expansion of smallholder farmers’ collectives, to improve market opportunities and the collective capacities of smallholder farmers and their communities.

    5. More effective regulation and management of the negative impacts of corporate influence of agricultural policy and practice.

    6. More focused and effective attention to reducing food waste throughout the food supply chain.

    “Agroecology will be necessary, if we are to find a viable path through the intertwined challenges of future food security, and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” the paper states in its conclusion.

    “In the context of climate change, business as usual in the field of food production is not an option. Agroecology offers the prospect of sustainable food production to meet the needs of a still growing global population, while at the same time reducing the GHG emissions from the agricultural sector, building resilience to already unavoidable climate change, protecting biodiversity, and sustaining communities and rural livelihoods.”

    Nourishing the World: Scaling Up Agroecology is available at: http://tinyurl.com/EAAagroecology2012

    Background for editors:

    State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 by the FAO, IFAD and WFP was released today, revising global hunger figures based on an improved methodology and data for the last two decades. While the data shows a global decline in hunger between 2010-2012, Africa and developed countries saw rises. According to the report “Africa was the only region where the number of hungry grew over the period, from 175 million to 239 million, with nearly 20 million added in the past four years. The prevalence of hunger, although reduced over the entire period, has risen slightly over the past three years, from 22.6 percent to 22.9 percent - with more than one in four hungry. And in sub-Saharan Africa, the modest progress achieved in recent years up to 2007 was reversed, with hunger rising 2 percent per year since then.” The report also states, “Developed regions also saw the number of hungry rise, from 13 million in 2004-2006 to 16 million in 2010-2012, reversing a steady decrease in previous years from 20 million in 1990-1992."

    “Green Revolution” refers to a change in agriculture practices that began in Mexico in the 1940s in order to massively increase agricultural production through intensive farming methods and technological inputs such as the development of disease resistant, high-yield varieties of crops, irrigation and chemical fertilizers. In this process, food crop diversity was reduced – increasing the impact of disease and pests – and chemical pesticide use greatly increased. Critics of the Green Revolution highlight the long-term degradation of soil and land quality, the development of pesticide-resistant weeds and pests, deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, increased GHG emissions, and the loss of access to land and food by local communities when local land is sold for large-scale monocropping for export.

    Agroecology privileges the use of locally-available natural resources to enhance soil fertility and biological control of pests and disease, over chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and emphasizes biodiversity within the agricultural production system in order to develop an efficient and resilient agricultural ecosystem. Many agroecological processes are based on traditional knowledge, and methods depend on the context of the site. Technological innovations are also welcome, if their use improves productivity for farmers and does not harm the environment. The huge potential of scaling up agroecological methods has been highlighted by, among others, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD, 2009) and the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Dr Olivier De Schutter.

    For more information contact: Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, +44 7821 860 723.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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