Ex Director General  José Graziano da Silva
Artículo de opinion del Director General de la FAO José Graziano da Silva
Cultivating agriculture for a climate-smart world

Agriculture is finally being given due recognition as one of the key arenas for efforts to keep rising temperatures from making our planet an uncomfortable home.

A deadlock was broken at the last climate summit in Bonn a few weeks ago and a landmark decision was reached to task key UN bodies to embark on the ‘Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture’.

For the first time, technical analysis and implementation monitoring at the highest level will apply to the sector that provides our most basic need, food, but is the second largest contributor of  greenhouse gas emissions , and offers some of the most immediate  opportunities for improvement.

The ‘Koronivia decision’ – a name honoring Fiji, the formal host of the Bonn conference talks and an archipelago nation where rising sea levels are already forcing whole villages to be moved to higher ground – marks a big step from the conference hall to the fields where we have work to do.

A broad set of interventions are required, with food security and resilient, sustainable livelihoods – especially for the poor rural households in developing countries who face the greatest and most immediate challenges - the touchstone goals.

In fact, The Food and Agriculture Organization has for a long time been helping countries prepare for the challenge ahead by offering a broad range of knowledge and policy services to help them craft the national GHG reduction pledges (called Nationally Determined Contributions) they made in the Paris climate agreement. Agriculture is mentioned in 90 percent of these plans, and many countries, including 24 in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically refer to FAO’s Climate-Smart Agriculture approach.

While agriculture and food systems produce a large share of greenhouse gas emissions, they also offer fertile ground for solutions.

That’s becoming increasingly clear and consensual.

There are big steps to take, and the sooner we start the better. Livestock supply chains account for 14.5 percent of worldwide GHG emissions, while loss and waste generate another 8 percent. Better management of soils and forests can take many billions of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere. An integrated deployment of climate-smart techniques - new intercropping patterns, for example, or precision irrigation - can make an enormous contribution to protecting our planet.

President Emmanuel Macron’s rendezvous rightly refers to the planetary scale of what must be done. A priority must be to bolster the resilience of the world’s most vulnerable rural smallholders, many of whom face existential risks due to problems they did not cause. But it doesn’t stop there.

We know how to improve soils so that they can sequester more carbon and produce more nutritious foods; we know how to put the use of natural resources on a more sustainable path, we know how to protect biodiversity and we know how to craft social protection schemes that allow the most vulnerable to avoid desperate and unsound survival tactics.

So yes, we truly can give agriculture the starring role in what portends to be a defining challenge of our time.

Since we know what to do, today’s imperative is to walk the talk, to move from promises to action.

It’s time for implementation. There is no other alternative, there is no plan B

This will require larger investments tailored to foster sustainable, low-carbon and resilient agriculture, infrastructure and food systems, which inevitably are also a central pillar in any global strategy to end poverty and hunger.

We can do better. So let’s start.