“To Solve the Climate Crisis, We Need to Rethink”

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Laura Angelstorf, Biovision (Interview), Picture: Matthew Tenbruggen

The influence of agriculture and the food system on the climate has been neglected in climate negotiations thus far. In recent years, Biovision has been advocating for an agroecological transformation to address climate change. It was also present this year at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. We spoke to Tanja Carrillo from our Policy & Advocacy team about whether this conference has brought us a step closer to climate protection.

It is debated whether conferences like the COP27 are needed to make progress in climate protection. Is the climate conference still important?

Yes, absolutely. The climate crisis is undoubtedly the greatest catastrophe of our time. The Biovision Policy & Advocacy team has been able to raise awareness of the role of food systems in this in the context of the UN climate conferences. For years we have been pushing for the recognition and implementation of agroecology as a systemic solution to address the crisis. At COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, the food system became a hot topic for the first time, with four pavilions on site, over 200 side events, and a whole day dedicated to agriculture and how it may be adapted in response to climate change.

A quick picture with the mobile phone: Tanja Carrillo, Biovision, with the representatives of our project partner PELUM Kenya Nancy Rapando, Mary Irungu and Manei Naanyu (from left to right).

Nevertheless, very little is happening in concrete terms, considering that agriculture is responsible for around one-third of global climate-damaging emissions.

The fact that several pavilions were dedicated to agriculture at this year’s COP indicates a new interest in the connection between climate and food systems. But the actors present had very different ideas about how to transform food systems in a sustainable way. Some pavilions were sponsored by large agribusinesses and synthetic fertiliser manufacturers, such as Bayer, Pepsico, YARA and Syngenta. They promote quick technical solutions instead of an agroecological transformation of food systems. In this way, they secure their business model – but at the expense of the public interest. On the other hand, the voices of civil society actors are growing louder, demanding a paradigm shift. Our local partners from the PELUM Kenya network, for example, have reported on several events in the country regarding their political work on agroecology, which Biovision supports. One particular success story was that an agroecology law was recently passed in Murang’a County (read the story about an agroecological farmer group in Murang’a).

Does this mean that the voices of small farmers, who are known to suffer the most from the consequences of climate change, are now also being heard?

Many criticize that the voices of African smallholder farmers were once again ignored in Egypt. Their demand for a shift in food systems towards agroecology remained unheard, even though it is the more favourable path for effective climate action. Unfortunately, this COP did not develop any concrete implementation measures and only ended with some vague commitments and promises. To resolve the climate crisis, however, we need a shift in thinking away from high-emitting industrial agriculture and corporate food monopolies towards an agroecological future.

"Many criticize that the voices of African smallholder farmers were once again ignored in Egypt."
Tanja Carrillo, Junior Programme Manager Policy & Advocacy-Team

At the UN level, people talk about the Koronivia Process when it comes to the link between agriculture and climate. Isn’t this process in place precisely to promote concepts like agroecology for a sustainable food system?

Correct. After COP26 in Glasgow, the term agroecology was included in the draft decision of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture. It is currently the only programme within the Framework Convention on Climate Change from COP23 in Rio de Janeiro that focuses on agriculture and food security. This decision, made after complex negotiations, was unfortunately reversed this year, partly at the insistence of the USA, and neither agroecology nor any other systemic approach was included in the outcome. The Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transitions (FAST) initiative, launched this year by the Egyptian government, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also reinforce an existing industrial logic. This gives the impression that the processes continue to be strongly influenced by the interests of a few large corporations. Nevertheless, there is hope. At an event co-organized by Biovision, even organizations such as AGRA – mostly known as an advocate of industrial agriculture – expressed positive views on approaches such as agroecology.

So there are silver linings on the horizon. What opportunities do you see to strengthen agroecology and create climate-resilient food systems?

Looking back at this year’s COP, financing remains a major challenge – even though delegates agreed at the last minute to provide money for climate-related loss and damage for vulnerable countries. However, there is a need for new, accessible and predictable funding, especially for small and medium agroecological enterprises. Biovision is therefore strengthening its engagement in this area by mediating exchanges between female entrepreneurs and donors and facilitating access to entrepreneurial knowledge.

Side Event at the Food4Climate Pavilion with IPES-Food and IFOAM (From right to left: Karen Mapusua, Veronica Ndetu, H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Susan Chomba and Mamadou Goita)

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