Call for support for sustainable smallholder agriculture

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), last week called for a dramatic increase in support for sustainable agriculture, including smallholder farmers, as a way to drive green growth and reduce poverty.

This is something we feel strongly about at CABI, where we work closely with farmers in developing countries to provide practical advice for sustainable control of crop pests and diseases. Our Plant Clinics take place weekly in a prominent local meeting place, such as a market, so that any local farmers can bring their plant samples along for treatment advice. Better management of crop pests and diseases results in higher yields – in Bangladesh, for example, farmers benefitted from a 9% increase in crop yields (read study summary).

“Well managed, sustainable agriculture can not only overcome hunger and poverty, but can address other challenges from climate change to the loss of biodiversity. Its value and its contribution to multiple economic, environmental and societal goals needs to be recognized in the income and employment prospects for the half a million smallholdings across the globe,” said Mr. Steiner.

Rio+20 in Brazil next year will be a major opportunity for the international community to recognize the role of farmers in informing the sustainable development agenda and to provide the kind of supporting policies and financial flows able to unlock this potential, he said.

  • The world’s poor rural people and especially farmers of the 500 million smallholdings in developing countries are an untapped resource in addressing the food security and environmental challenges of our day.
  • They feed one-third of the global population and constitute the largest share of the developing world’s undernourished. About 1 billion people living on under US$1.25 per day live in rural areas and 80% of these depend, to varying extents, on agricultural activities for their livelihoods.
  • Smallholder farms account for 60% of global agriculture, and smallholder farmers provide up to 80% of the food consumed in Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. Agriculture and land use change account for more than 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

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