Partnerships will be key for sustainable land and food systems, AGRA President at the GEF Sixth Assembly 

The nexus between agriculture and the environment is intricate. Agriculture depends on a healthy functional environment to remain productive and it can, on the other hand, harm the environment through the expansion into fragile ecosystems for food production, misuse of inputs, like fertilizers which pollute surrounding water systems and contribute to general land and soil degradation.

Managed sustainably, food and land use systems have the potential to protect and, over time, regenerate precious natural resources and complex biophysical systems while offering a healthier, less wasteful way to feed a global population of 9.7 billion people by 2050 and delivering a more prosperous and resilient lifestyle for farmers and their families; and ecological systems. Ultimately, such a sustainable transformation could generate $2.3 trillion and provide 80 million jobs by 2030 and also act as a net sink of greenhouse gases with a potential to deliver 37% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030, the only large scale natural way to suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

This was the gist of the message by Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on a food and land use panel at the 6th GEF Assembly in Da Nang, Vietnam, 26-27 June 2018.

“Together with our partners, we believe that agriculture is the surest path to an inclusive economic growth in Africa. As has been the case in other regions of the world, agriculture will enable the continent to reduce poverty that currently afflicts close to 43 per cent of our population, create decent jobs especially for the youth and guarantee food security to address malnutrition that affects 230 million of our people. At AGRA, we work to catalyze an inclusive agriculture transformation to increase the incomes and food security for 30 million smallholder households – 150 million individuals,” stated Dr. Kalibata.

She further emphasized that fulfilling this vision will require an integrated, system-wide and landscape approach to improve agricultural production without the risk of degrading the environment or exacerbating the loss of natural habitats.

To illustrate the possibility of such an approach, Dr. Kalibata gave the example of a 3-year project that AGRA is currently implementing in partnership with the Government of Kenya -both at the national and county levels, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Environment (UNEP) and local institutions to scale up Sustainable Land Management (SLM) and to drive agro-biodiversity and conservation to reduce environmental degradation in productive landscapes surrounding key forests in Western Kenya.

The project, shared Dr. Kalibata, integrates agricultural value chain interventions with forest and land conservation practices through 4 strategic interventions:

  • Capacity building of farmer groups in SLM
  • Increased farmers’ access to input and output markets of targeted crops
  • Enabling policy and institutional framework for up scaling sustainable land and forests management at county government levels
  • Improved knowledge management.

She also highlighted some of the early successes that the project has realized in its first year of implementation. For example, 100,000 farmers have adopted SLM technologies through learning sites. As a result, these farmers have produced 300,000 metric tons of additional maize and 80,000 metric tons of beans. Close to 10,000 ha of degraded forest land have also been put under sustainable forest management and the domestication and harmonization process of national policies and strategies related to land and ecosystem management at the local government level has started using an inclusive and participatory process.

Dr. Kalibata stated that the model adopted in this initiative is inclusive and brings together communities, the Government and the private sector on programme and policy  formulation. At the downstream, it brings together local programmes managed by different interest groups including women and the youth. She emphasized that only through such broad-based partnership will the world achieve sustainable land and food systems.

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