Highlight 2012: Rio+20. We keep going!

At its annual conference in Rome, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) took initial steps towards implementing the mandate it was given at the Rio+20 conference. Biovision was well represented at the talks, where Hans R. Herren gave a speech. We are now seeking to ensure that the decisions taken at Rio are not watered down.

The UN’s platform for food security, CFS, is breaking new ground with the implementation of the Rio mandate. It now needs to create foundations to enable it to meet the challenge. As proposed at its annual conference at the end of October, this also means helping interested countries to assess their agricultural structures and potential for increased sustainability. When defining criteria for this process, the CFS will also be drawing on the experience of organizations such as Biovision.

Biovision leads the way

Biovision has already made a start by conducting this type of assessment in three countries. Thanks to support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), this process is being implemented as a pilot project in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal. The Senegal project represents Biovision’s first foray into West Africa.
First of all, the Biovision team wants to define the current situation jointly with representatives from governments, associations and the private sector, and then develop and implement the most promising strategies for improving agricultural structures. The Kenyan government has clearly declared its interest in this process. Initial talks have already taken place in Kenya and Senegal, and workshops with these two countries are scheduled for early 2013. The fact that this development is now actually underway is also the result of Biovision’s substantial involvement both before and during the Rio+20 conference last June. By lobbying for a change in the course of global agricultural policy towards sustainable, ecological methods, the Foundation is strengthening existing projects in East Africa and pursuing its overall goal: “Healthy food for all, naturally!”

A step change in agriculture

Today, nearly one billion people are suffering from hunger. The volatility of staple food prices on commodity markets is creating additional concerns for food security. 70 per cent of the poor in developing countries live in rural regions and depend either directly or indirectly on agricultural yields.

According to the World Development Report 2008 published by the World Bank, investment in agriculture contributes more to the development of the gross domestic product (GDP) and abolition of poverty in developing countries than investment in other sectors. Moreover, the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) report called for a step change in agricultural policy and practice in order to reduce hunger and poverty and improve the living conditions of the rural population. Achieving this will require an increased focus on small farmers, locally adapted cultivation methods and multifunctional agriculture.

In order to attain this goal, Biovision, in a first phase, has been active at a global policy level. During preliminary negotiations prior to the UN’s Rio+20 summit, Biovision and its partners lobbied for sustainable agriculture and agroecology. They demanded that states wanting to change the course of their agriculture should be advised by an international organisation.

Initial success at Rio

Our hard work has paid off. As a direct result of efforts by Biovision and its partners at the UN conference, the final Rio+20 declaration includes a commitment to sustainable agriculture in order to ensure food security and at the same time protect natural resources. And the CFS, Biovision’s preferred candidate, was entrusted with implementing the declaration. “These are sound foundations on which Biovision and its partners can build to advance their projects for the transformation of agriculture and food systems in their African target countries, both directly with the people concerned, and also at a political level”, explained Hans R. Herren, who is also Joint Chairman of IAASTD, which will form the basis of the CFS’s work.

Biovision awarded special status at the UN

Biovision is the first Swiss foundation to be awarded general consultative status at the United Nations. This entitles Biovision to participate in UN conferences and official debates and to lobby for its cause at its own side events. During preparations for the Earth Summit at Rio, Biovision spent months campaigning for a change of course in global agriculture. The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York (ECOSOC) clearly seems to have taken note of Biovision’s successful efforts. By awarding it observer status in August 2012, ECOSOC is acknowledging Biovision’s comprehensive approach.