Good examples make a difference

By Charlotte Pavageau, Project Manager Political Dialogue & Advocacy

Charlotte Pavageau from the Policy Dialogue and Advocacy team, together with her colleague Fabio Leippert and Hans Herren, President of Biovision, took part in the 2nd Global Conference of the "One Planet Network" Sustainable Food Systems Programme, in San José, Costa Rica, in early February.

On my second day in Costa Rica, the other conference participants and I tour an integrated production farm in the hilly, rural surroundings of San José. Coffee and medicinal plants grow in the shade of the trees on the Doña Rosa Estate, and small livestock are kept. "Additionally," the owner Rodolfo Valverde tells us, "we are conducting a reforestation project and are combining our activities with community tourism."

Promoting dialogue and exchange

The tour of the farm offers the opportunity to exchange ideas with the other participants. Among them are a manager of an international development fund that supports small producers, a researcher specializing in international trade issues, and a manager of an NGO who works with sustainable nutrition and street food in Bolivia. I soon realize that we all share the conviction that our current food system is no longer working and that it is time for change. 
Like the other participants, I listen to Rodolfo's remarks with interest and am impressed by his work. With his initiative, Rodolfo is making an important local contribution to changes needed while setting a good example. At the Doña Rosa Estate, we see and experience how sustainability is implemented and practiced on a small scale. In the shade of the veranda back at the estate, we all engage in an active discussion about how such local initiatives can be expanded for global impact. We soon realize the main obstacle: On the one hand, the international discourse is still dominated by approaches that focus exclusively on mass food production. But above all, governments and authorities, unlike here at the Doña Rosa Estate, do not use integrated approaches. On the contrary, the various challenges to developing sustainable food systems – protecting biodiversity, reducing the ecological footprint of consumption, preventing food waste, promoting healthy nutrition, and preventing climate change – are dealt with independently by different ministries, public authorities or actors. 

  • Charlotte Pavageau at the side event of Biovision at the 2nd SFS Programme Conference.
  • The Dona Rosa Estate about itself: "We take sustainability seriously because it’s the right thing to do."
  • The study tour was worth the breathtaking view alone.
  • Participants share their knowledge and experiences during and after the tour.
  • Coffee from integrated cultivation of the Doña Rosa Estate
  • Fabio Leippert and Charlotte Pavageau (Project Managers, Biovision), Hans Herren (President, Biovision), and James Lomax (UNEP Sustainable Food Systems Programme)

Small steps in the right direction

The visit to Rodolfo’s estate reinforced everyone's conviction that implementing a global and integrated food system from producer to consumer is necessary now and that, in order to achieve this, all stakeholders need to regularly exchange views and consult with one another. The experience at the estate also showed how effective it is to inspire decision-makers with practical examples and to encourage them to exchange ideas. At our Biovision side event the day before, we also followed this approach and showed integrated agroecological policies from our portfolio and created space for dialogue among the participants. There was great interest in our innovative case studies. Committed discussions took place and new networks for exchange and consultation were established.

Hosts lead by example

Another highlight closed the conference: The host government of Costa Rica signed an agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Ministry of Environment and Energy to promote integrated agricultural operations. For me, this small but important success is another step in the right direction!