FAO.org

FAO Regional Office for Africa

Future of human well-being and livability of the planet rely on sustainable agriculture

Biodiversity a critical ally in sustaining agriculture, food security and resilience

Photo: ©FAO/Luis Tato

22 November 2019 – Recent findings on the threats of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture and the global assessment report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services have put agriculture at the crosshairs as the prime target in sustaining the future of the people and the planet.

Stakeholders from across all sectors from crops to livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture recently met in Rwanda and vibrantly discussed the role of biodiversity, exchange on good practices and current challenges to mainstreaming its conservation, sustainable use and restoration. Organized by FAO, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources of the Republic of Rwanda, the conference highlighted the role of biodiversity as a critical ally in safeguarding global food security, promoting healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities.

In addition, the meeting was an example of FAO’s acting as a Biodiversity Mainstreaming Platform, facilitating dialogue and exchange of information between governments and other stakeholders on the sustainable use, management and restoration of biodiversity across agricultural sectors at different levels. The event was also an opportunity for FAO to share its strategy on mainstreaming biodiversity across agriculture sectors.

Challenges ahead

Despite several positive developments that support biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in Africa, there are still great challenges faced because of lack of understanding and recognition of biodiversity contributions to human well-being, particularly in decision-making processes and investments. The fast-paced economic development, rapid urbanization and population growth are major threats to the extraordinary rich biodiversity of Africa. Therefore, the economic growth model can no longer be sustained since the earth’s carrying capacity can no longer meet the demands of the growing population and urbanization in the region.

Looking at this paradigm, stakeholders agreed that there is a need for “country champions” or the flag bearers to increase action on biodiversity across agriculture sectors. This requires a change of thinking and connecting biodiversity conservation and sustainable use with food security and nutrition, neglected crops species, human health, climate resilience, etc.

FAO Representative to Rwanda, Gualbert Gbehounou, said, “Biodiversity mainstreaming calls for the preservation of natural enemies of pests which can only be achieved by a reasonable and limited use of pesticides which, as a matter of fact, are more detrimental to natural enemies than the pests.” He further added that biodiversity mainstreaming calls also for the preservation of natural enemies of pests which can only be achieved by a reasonable and limited use of pesticides which, as a matter of fact, are more detrimental to natural enemies than the pests.

Data-driven solutions

In addition, to overcome challenges, stakeholders honed in on the development of new tools for biodiversity-friendly agriculture business case models citing the lack of evidence-based information hampering collective efforts. There is a need to bring together science and traditional knowledge, and some African countries already started to capture the value of biodiversity-friendly practices through natural capital accounting, which paves the way for new policies and incentive schemes.

Other solutions identified to further mainstream biodiversity include knowledge and information sharing to create synergies towards the redesign of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Stakeholders noted that knowledge should be coordinated coherently across Africa, be shared at the national level and trickled down to community levels. In addition, recommendations from the conference pointed the potential of strengthening multi-stakeholder national platforms for networking, alliances and partnerships as well as capacity development.

From the government side, policy makers need to strengthen integrated ecosystem approaches as well as enabling laws, regulations and policy frameworks. On the other hand, the private sector also has a critical role to play especially in creating jobs in rural and urban areas and other investments in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use focusing on farmers, fisher folk, forest producers, pastoralists, as well as processors of food products.

Share this page