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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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24 November 2016


Regional Symposium on Agroecology
for Europe and Central Asia


It is my pleasure to join the Regional Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems for Europe and Central Asia.

Allow me to thank our host, the Government of Hungary, in particular the Minister of Agriculture, Excellency Sándor Fazekas, as well as the Government of France for their support.

Today’s event takes place just after the UN Climate Conference, COP 22, in Marrakech.

COP 22 marked an increasing recognition of the importance of agriculture and food systems for sustainable development.

Actions in agriculture and food systems offer a “triple win”. They help us tackle climate change, extreme poverty and hunger at the same time.

Poor family farmers of developing countries are the majority of the nearly 800 million people that still suffer from hunger. 

They are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Impacts we are already seeing all over the globe.

If we fail to support these people in building resilience and adapting to climate change, they will be even more at risk.

Moreover, failing to support family farmers would also undermine efforts to keep global warming at safe levels, as called for in the Paris Agreement.

Agricultural sectors nowadays account for around 20 to 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

But agriculture is also the only sector where adaptation and mitigation walk hand in hand.

In fact, the way we adapt helps to mitigate.

There is not a trade-off: in agriculture, we can mitigate while we adapt, and there are no better examples than agro-ecology techniques.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Business as usual is not an option. We have to innovate and transform agriculture.

We need to be more productive using less resources.

We need to generate less environmental impacts.

And we have to go beyond sustainable intensification.

Increasing the efficiency of farming (with precision inputs, improved seeds and other techniques) is certainly important.

But this is not enough to reduce the environmental ‘footprint’ of agriculture.

In many parts of the world, the demand for agricultural products is still growing rapidly.

New areas are still being cleared for agriculture at record rates, even with successful intensification.

Current techniques are reducing environmental damage only at the margins.

To tackle this situation, we need better coordination of farm and non-farm natural resource management.

And we need the integrated approach that agro-ecology can offer. FAO is committed to explore all the potential of agro-ecology in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two years ago, in September 2014, we organized the first International Symposium on Agroecology in Rome.

Over 400 people representing governments, academia, CSOs, NGOs and the private sector had a constructive debate on the definition and successful cases.

To follow-up, we held three regional meetings in Latin America, Africa and Asia over the past two years.

Now it is time for Europe and Central Asia to contribute to the debate and build evidence on the benefits of agro-ecology.

FAO is aware of the potential of agro-ecology in this region.

Some countries are already implementing concrete policies and programmes.

Knowledge and innovation are key words here: the future of agriculture is not input-intensive, but knowledge-intensive.

This is a new paradigm. We need to adopt a vision of sustainable agriculture that provides food supplies, ecosystem services and climate resilience, especially to the poorest people.

In this regard, FAO is proud to be launching this week a dedicated agroecology website: the Agroecology Knowledge Hub.

I am sure that this Symposium will foster exchanges of knowledge, and help to create an environment for collaboration and innovation.

Together we can make the difference. I wish you very productive deliberations, and look forward to the outcomes of this important event.

Thank you for your attention.