Dear Friends and Colleagues
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) convened the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition in 2014 and three regional symposia throughout 2015. Building on the recommendations of these symposia, a multistakeholder International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems was organized by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the FAO in Kunming, China, from 29-31 August 2016. There were 221 participants from various sectors from 25 countries.
China, as the largest agricultural country in the world, has a history of more than 5,000 years of farming traditions and ecologically-based farming practised by smallholder farmers. Land degradation, soil erosion, grassland degradation, deforestation, water shortages and significant deterioration in water quality standards are, however, imposing severe threats to its natural resources and biodiversity. The country is now at a critical point of “transition of agricultural development mode” to reform its agriculture sector.
Agroecology is seen as a key component of China’s concept of ‘ecological civilization’. In May 2015, the State Council of China released the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Agriculture Development (2015–2030), followed by the State Council's Guidelines for accelerating the transformation of China’s agriculture development mechanisms in August 2015. These seek to protect China’s ecosystems and to promote agroecology. Several key national projects that use agroecological approaches, e.g. to protect grasslands, conserve soil and water and reforestation, have been initiated. Six hundred designated agroecology demonstration counties and more than 1,000 villages have been identified for development as model agroecological villages.
The symposium participants made 31 recommendations under the following categories:
· Setting multiple criteria for assessing the performance of agricultural systems
· Promising policies in support of agroecological transitions
· Valuing biodiversity as an integral part of agroecology
· Closing cycles and nutrient flows
· Managing agroecological landscapes
· Building local innovation systems
· Upholding the role of farmer organizations and civil society in agroecological transitions
· Promoting innovative markets for agroecology
The report of the meeting is available at:http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6884e.pdfand we reproduce below the final recommendations.
With best wishes,
Third World Network
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON AGROECOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SYSTEMS IN CHINA
Kunming, Yunnan, China
FAO organized the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition in 2014 and three regional symposia throughout 2015. Building on the recommendations of these symposia, a multistakeholder International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems was organized by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and FAO in Kunming, China, 29 to 31 August 2016.
The Symposium, hosted by the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science with support from the government of Yunnan province, was attended by over 230 participants representing research, government, civil society (including farmer and consumer organizations and NGOs), indigenous peoples, and the private sector from China and over twenty countries from the region and beyond.
The Symposium was held within the context of global challenges and new developments, especially the United Nations 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Elimination of hunger, malnutrition and poverty is at the heart of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local, national and global levels. Agroecology advocates innovative solutions to twenty-first century challenges, and a holistic and systematic approach towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the face of climate change, to build sustainable food systems that produce more with fewer environmental, economic and social costs, with a particular focus on benefiting family farmers.
China, as the largest agricultural country in the world, has a history of more than 5,000 years of farming traditions and ecologically-based farming practised by smallholder farmers. The country is now at a critical point of “transition of agricultural development mode”, to reform its agriculture sector through structural adjustment with the dual goal of ensuring domestic food supply and promoting ecological sustainability. Since 2010, the government has launched a series of policy guidelines and strategic programmes, underpinned by broad scope and in-depth research as well as by increasing engagement of civil society, for the sustainable agricultural development and creation of an ‘ecological civilization’. The Symposium has largely achieved its original objectives of facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experiences, identifying and defining potential entry points for the contribution of agroecology to sustainable agriculture and food systems in China and the region. The Symposium has also catalysed international collaboration to develop ways forward to strengthen agroecological practices and programmes.
Symposium participants agreed to the following recommendations:
Beyond productivity: multiple criteria for assessing the performance of agricultural systems
1. Take human development factors and social dimensions into account in farming/food system analysis and policy development, with a special focus on gender fairness and local empowerment.
2. Identify and develop indicators on the environmental, social, cultural, and economic dimensions of agroecology at different spatial scales (farm, society, national level) and gather data on agroecology, including the very long term. FAO should establish a working group to contribute to this task.
3. Apply frameworks that allow better understanding of the transition to agroecological systems, such as the five levels, from improving efficiency through to agroecosystem diversification, innovative markets and policies.
Promising policies in support of agroecological transitions
4. Promote public policies in support of agroecology, especially those based on long-term processes, assuring the necessary financial mechanisms for their implementation, such as support for climate change mitigation and adaptation and taxation of pollution.
5. Prioritize the monitoring of the impacts of existing public policies for agroecology in various countries towards sustainable agriculture and food systems. Experiences on the impact of policies on agroecology should be shared among countries. FAO should collect information on existing policies on agroecology in Asia, to be included in the FAO Agroecology Knowledge Hub.
6. Promote the participation of farmers and other small-scale producers5 in policy formulation and decision-making at all levels. Public policies and legal frameworks should be adapted to local situations.
7. Ensure policy coherence, such that policies that hinder the transition toward agroecology are revised. Different ministries should cooperate to support policies concerning agroecology, for example environment, agriculture, forestry, rural development, health, trade and finance.
8. FAO should sustain its support for agroeocology, including through integrating agroecological approaches in regional and national priorities.
Biodiversity as an integral part of agroecology
9. Value and strengthen the roles and contributions of pollinators, trees, beneficial organisms and micro-organisms to agroecosystems, human nutrition, health and well-being.
10. Recognize the essential role of farmer seed systems and strengthen their contributions to agroecology.
Closing cycles and nutrient flows
11. Increase efforts to develop innovative technologies and multistakeholder strategies that reduce waste and pollution at source and close relevant ecological cycles, with a special focus on water, nutrients, manure, energy and long-term effects.
12. Develop research and monitoring from farm to landscape scales to understand the factors causing the difficulties in disseminating the developed technologies.
13. Conduct research for comprehensive understanding of complex problems caused by nutrient flows in food systems.
Managing agroecological landscapes
14. Support the communities managing landscape arrangements to apply their local and traditional knowledge for successful agroecological innovations to retain ground cover, biodiversity and resources.
15. Minimize off-site effects on air, water and land quality caused by runoff, erosion, leaching, percolation, and eutrophication at landscape (farm, watershed, continent, globe) scale.
16. Recognize and make good use of the functional differences along a watershed across landscape levels.
17. Support adaptation to climate change, such as altered landscape temperature and water profiles, which could include adaptation of technologies to new locations.
Local innovation systems
18. Value the importance of the continual process of experimentation and innovation that continues, and has continued for generations, in local, traditional, smallholder agriculture around the world.
19. Value the important role of the farmer field school approach in knowledge generation and learning about agroecological concepts and good practices for improving productivity and rural livelihoods.
20. Support the linkage of academics, smallholder farmers, and indigenous peoples in the research that focuses on the transdisciplinary development of new knowledge and innovation.
21. Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, with their special designation, should not just be conserved, but used as centres of learning about how agroecology and culture work together and innovation can occur.
22. Develop a broad network or platform of agroecology case studies from around the world on smallholder, local, traditional, and indigenous agriculture and food systems for the sharing and exchange of knowledge.
The role of farmer organizations and civil society in agroecological transitions
23. Agroecology should support the culture, way of life and dignity of family farmers. Governments should recognize the key role of farmer organizations and other small-scale producers and civil society in the development of agroecology, dissemination of agroecological innovations and advocacy for supporting policies.
24. Governments should implement farmers’ and indigenous people’s rights under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international agreements and instruments.
25. Support internship programmes for students to work with farmer groups and cooperatives, with opportunities for longer-term employment in extension or other agricultural services.
Innovative markets for agroecology
26. Policy-makers should recognize and support existing and emerging equitable markets and networks that connect producers and consumers.
27. Promote institutional innovations that build mutual trust and benefits. FAO could facilitate international platforms on these innovations so as to foster learning and expand the reach of agroecology.
28. Promote public procurement from agroecological producers by adapting procurement protocols to the local realities of agroecological production (e.g. informal trading relations).
29. Create spaces for agroecology by providing public facilities that can be used to host farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals, etc.
30. Analyse policies and build capacity to facilitate small-scale producers’ ability to exchange their products on their own terms.
31. Collect data, through participatory methods, on the full range of markets for agroecology and produce analyses that can be used by producers, consumers, researchers and policy-makers.