Contribution from the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security
The achievement of food security requires the sustainable increase of food production and access to food. More, and nutritionally adequate, food needs to be produced using less global inputs (land, water, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals) per unit of produce. This needs to be achieved in the face of dwindling resources and increasing competition for those resources, whilst simultaneously responding to the impacts of climate change on farming systems and natural ecosystems and reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment. The challenge is indeed significant but most commentators conclude that it can be met.
Biodiversity has a central role to play in meeting the challenge. Biodiversity underpins ecosystem services which are essential for sustainable food production at all scales, from industrialised to small-holder subsistence farming. Some key examples where significant progress can be made include:
• Reversing the degradation of soils, which underpin all agricultural production. Conserving or restoring soil biodiversity and ecosystem functions delivers multiple benefits including: improved nutrient cycling and availability for crops, hence improving fertiliser use efficiency on-farm and reducing off-farm impacts; restoring soil organic carbon content, with multiple on-farm benefits in addition to contributing to mitigating climate change; improving water cycling, including soil water storage, thereby improving crop-water productivity as well as increasing resilience to increasing climatic variation; improving nature-based pest and disease regulation, thereby improving integrated pest management and enhancing prevention of spread of invasive alien species. Practitioners can determine the most feasible approach based on local environmental and socio-economic conditions, but restoring soil health, and the biodiversity underpinning it, must be the cornerstone of any sustainable agriculture strategy. Much success is being achieved by the farming community and needs to be mainstreamed and upscaled. The International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity (http://www.cbd.int/agro/soil.shtml) was adopted in 2008 by the Parties to the CBD specifically to strengthen efforts in these regards. At CBD COP-11 Governments and international organizations launched the “Hyderabad Call for a Concerted Effort on Ecosystem Restoration” (http://www.ramsar.org/pdf/TEEB/Hyderabad-Call_vOct17-8am.docx-1.pdf);
• Genetic diversity is essential to maintain options for farmers, resilience of farming systems and productivity increases through improved breeds and varieties, particularly in response to increasing climatic change and increased variability. Maintaining the diversity of genetic resources available to farmers, preferably in-situ (landraces on-farm and wild relatives in natural ecosystems) but where necessary ex-situ, and including maintaining the cultural knowledge of farming, and the communities associated with this biodiversity, is an essential requirement for sustainable food security. We need to significantly strengthen support to the important efforts of the farming community, particularly small-scale farmers and indigenous and local communities, to conserve and sustainably use these critical genetic resources;
• Reversing the decline of pollinators, which are essential for sustaining crop productivity, as outlined further in the International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators (http://www.cbd.int/agro/pollinator.shtml);
• Recognising that the needs are not simply for food security in terms of minimum requirements of calories and protein, but for food security which includes adequate provision of vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients and other essential components of a healthy diet. A diverse source of foods, produced on healthy soils, is essential for food and nutrition security. Biodiversity has a central role to play in achieving a healthy diet, as outlined further in the Cross-Cutting Initiative on Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (http://www.cbd.int/agro/food-nutrition/).
These, and other, needs and approaches are well captured in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020) and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (http://www.cbd.int/sp/). The central purpose of this plan is to promote the contribution that biodiversity can make to achieving sustainable development. The plan and targets, therefore, are not just for the environment or biodiversity community but represent a framework for action for all interested in sustainable development. The contribution of biodiversity to achieving food security in a post-2015 world is one of the most significant areas in which progress can be made.
As indicated in the UN Rio+20 outcome document "The Future We Want", biodiversity has a critical role to play in maintaining ecosystems that provide essential services, which are the foundations for sustainable development and human well-being.
The UN General Assembly declared 2011-2020 the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, with a view to contribute to the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, decided in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan by the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention. This Strategic Plan for Biodiversity considers biodiversity as an opportunity for human well-being and poverty eradication. That is why the 20 Targets to implement the Strategic Plan relate not only to conservation and sustainable use, but also relate to reducing direct pressures on biodiversity and, most importantly, addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across all sectors of government and society.
Overall, the Targets aim to bring about a considerable change in our lifestyles, and particularly in our development paradigm – over the next decade we must move firmly away from unchecked consumption and towards sustainable use.
This thematic discussion was led by FAO and WFP in collaboration with “The World We Want”.
The consultation was facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)