Sixty-sixth General Assembly
2 November, 2011
Special Event on Food and Energy Security
On 2 November 2011, the Second Committee held a special event on food and energy security jointly organized by FAO, IFAD and UNIDO.
The meeting focused on the strong interdependence between food and energy security. The interdependence of these issues was noted as a major concern for the agricultural sector, which is challenged to double food production by 2050 while optimizing its energy consumption in order to reduce environmental pressures.
Eve Crowley, Deputy Director of FAO’s Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division, noted the links between food and energy production, especially in terms of biofuels, which simultaneously increase pressure on food security through land competition and provide opportunities for small farmers to enter the market. She underlined the need for policies that will reduce such competition, stabilize markets, reduce waste in production, and increase efficient energy use. Ms. Crowley also noted the role of agriculture in achieving food and energy security. Asserting that “food security and energy security cannot be secured without agriculture,” she called for a “greening of the economy with agriculture.” This initiative, which is being proposed by FAO as a contribution to UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, pursues four objectives: equitable food distribution, inclusive access to resources, enhanced adaptation of agriculture to climate change and improved utilization. In order to reach these objectives three main strategic actions are needed: providing incentives for farmers to reduce waste; promoting sustainable technologies and practices (including local practices and knowledge); and reducing the gender gap in agriculture.
Professor Vijay Modi from theUniversity ofColumbia focused his presentation on the nexus of food, water and energy inIndia. Professor Modi explained that in a fifty year period (1950 – 200) food production inIndia increased more than four-fold. He attributed this not to an increase in land availability, but to the use of fertilizers, seed improvement, and, most notably, irrigation. This increase in ground water irrigation is inextricably linked to increased energy consumption. Noting that as the level of ground water deepens, the amount of energy needed for irrigation increases alongside its price, Professor Modi made three suggestions. First, cropping patterns should be analyzed and shifted at a macro-level so as to achieve both the greatest energy efficiency and the greatest crop value. Second, an incentive structure should be created at the national level so as to conserve both water and energy. And third, training should be provided to low-income and low-capacity small farmers in order to achieve energy efficiency and conserve water.
Energy access and availability play a determining role in success, indicating that regions with limited access to energy might face particular challenges to improve agricultural productivity and enhance food security.
According to Vineet Raswant, Senior Technical Adviser at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, energy security plays a crucial role in IFAD’s mission to alleviate poverty and enhance food security. Echoing the view that energy is crucial for intensifying and increasing agricultural production, he asserted that the production of alternative biofuel crops offers new opportunities for agricultural and rural development. Indeed, biofuel production can provide an alternative income and employment source for poor small holder farmers. Integrating rural energy and food production system enhances food security. A paradigm shift is needed that enables farmers and agricultural producers to respond to market forces and encourages innovation.
An exchange of views session between panelists and delegates followed the presentations. Among the salient points highlighted were:
+ There is a need to ensure technology transfer to small holder farmers and to implement sustainable agriculture practices while dealing with low incomes and struggling with price volatility. Calls were made for extending/generalizing technology transfer through the use of information and communication technologies such as mobile phones, as there have been successful experiences in this respect.
+ Regarding the issue of land grabs and the need to safe-guard small producers as well as to promote food and energy security, participants were informed about the work FAO is doing on the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land. These guidelines are intended to help governments to understand the risks and benefits of certain land purchases and investments so that informed decisions are made in a manner that benefit small farmers while promoting food and energy security.
+ Questions were raised as to whether food and energy security would be a priority outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio +20. The integration of food and energy security is a challenge facingRio+20 and so is adopting the policy measures to make small farming profitable. In this respect, the case was made that energy must be available locally and at a low price or small farmer agriculture remain fundamentally unprofitable.
+ The need for a transparent Agricultural Market Information System was highlighted, along with dissemination of information and publications.