No Food Security Without Environmental Security

women farming in Madagascar

Women farming in Madagascar. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

The Rio+20 conference officially kicks off today, bringing together representatives from 193 nations to make decisions that will impact the future of our planet.

There already has been a lot of media coverage suggesting that Rio+20 will not live up to expectations. Still, there’s no question that meetings like this are crucial for creating a holistic plan to tackle environmental issues while pursuing development in the places that need it most.

Earlier today, This is Africa — a publication of the Financial Times — published an essay by Sandy Andelman, a CI vice president and executive director of Vital Signs Africa (previously known as the Africa Monitoring System). Her words underscore the importance of incorporating the value of ecosystems into agricultural development; read more in the excerpt below.

“Recently I sat in the stunning new African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, with several African Heads of State and private sector leaders, in the “Grow Africa Investment Forum”, discussing a set of bold new investment initiatives for food security in Africa. Soon after, I was in Botswana, sitting with several of the same Heads of State and private sector leaders, discussing an equally bold agenda for environmental sustainability in Africa.

So why are these playing out as two distinct conversations, when, in reality, they should be one? The truth is, we can’t have food security without environmental security. Pursuing single-sector investment objectives, focused exclusively on agricultural outputs, without understanding the larger social, political and agro-ecological systems that will influence long-term sustainability creates risks for governments, investors and farmers. Sustained food production and security in Sub-Saharan Africa depend on the continued supply of fresh water and other essential ecosystem services, such as pollination. But increases in agricultural production could elicit unintended ecological or social impacts, such as diminished capacity of nearby ecosystems to provide key services (e.g., water, fuel, fiber, food), or diminished access to land and resources for women and other vulnerable populations. The key question is therefore: How can we simultaneously increase agricultural production, improve agricultural management and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers – up to 70% of whom are women – while conserving the environment and the services it provides?”

Read the full text of Sandy’s article.


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