A united call for the sustainability of food systems in the framework of a changing climate
The COVID 19 pandemic outbreak arrives at a time when many countries in the world are confronted with serious pre-existing burdens of climate change and food insecurity already. Many farmers experienced and are still experiencing huge losses due to natural disasters – droughts, floods, insects’ invasion – and the pandemic outbreak exacerbated existing critic conditions.
While the world is struggling to flatten the curve on COVID 19, climate change effects have not disappeared, and neither should actions to fight climate change.
We can consider COVID 19 as a turning point in the history of food systems: it has demonstrated that agriculture is at the centre of food systems, that climate impact is exacerbating an already drastic situation and that speedy, collective action is possible where all the actors are capable of immediate changes when called upon to act.
It is imperative to leverage the momentum and make the most out of the current situation to shift to sustainable food systems. We cannot go back to business as usual, but we must build on lessons learnt amidst this pandemic and forge bridges that will last for the next decades. The way farmers and all the stakeholders of the food value chain responded to the resulting shocks of the pandemic outbreak could be considered as a best practice to react resiliently to current and future climate change ripple effects.
The Climakers inaugurated a new approach, promoting an authentic bottom-up, farmer-driven action. It is inspired by grassroots solutions which ensure that Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) implementing the Paris Agreement are based on best practices which farmers have already identified as solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and which are built on new science-based solutions aligned with farmers’ needs to achieve the economic, social and environmental viability of the farming sector. Through the Climakers, the entire value chain is partnering together, from farmers to inputs providers, and all the way to consumers, to ensure that farmers have the means to keep on feeding the world.
Under these new circumstances, the Climakers stand ready to bring to the attention of policy makers at all levels, the needs and solutions of food systems actors. The Climakers are committed to working together to advance the global political dialogue on agriculture and climate change, even during times of COVID 19. Climate Change, the “deepest environmental emergency,” does not stop, and neither do the Climakers. We shine a light on the enormous potential of the agricultural sector to build a better future, post-COVID 19, that accelerates the fight against climate change.
Food security is essential:
As showed in the SOFI 2019, the number of people who suffer from hunger has slowly increased, with not enough progress in terms of childhood undernourishment and increasing trends of overweight and obesity. Nowadays, the situation is getting worst in many Countries due to the COVID 19 pandemic which is causing severe disruptions in food supply chains at all levels as well as other shocks related to food production and consumption, but also decreasing incomes in many sectors. This situation is surely affecting particular categories, however, one of the most affected groups are farmers. Countries’ lockdown measures and the consequent frontier closure is strongly impacting farmers’ access to markets, which is making farmers’ income close to zero. In many Countries, farmers are the most food insecure, and therefore unable to make a fair earning out of their production and even provide their families with nutritious food.
Supply chain disruptions affect farmers at the very beginning of the food production process: food availability starts at the farm level. Today’s challenge is to enhance food security in the face of COVID 19 and climate change, so that no family goes hungry, not during the battle against the Coronavirus, nor thereafter.
Food systems are fragile and interconnected:
The outbreak of COVID 19 has highlighted how interconnected we all are at local, national, regional and even international level from different points of view, and how our food systems are interconnected too. We are living an unprecedented situation where the lockdown measures applied to respond to the health emergency brought an economic crisis which is impacting all countries and showing the evident connections among different sectors and actors. As a result, many farmers are no longer able to produce or sell their products, and are facing heavy economic losses, especially in areas that are severely affected by climate change already, such as drought-stricken areas. It is clear that it is necessary to break the silos and adopt a solid food system approach to make sure that supply chains are resilient and sustainable. This calls for systemic solutions and a greater inclusiveness of stakeholders and their representatives in the decision-making process, for which partnerships and cooperation are vital. As key actors in food production, farmers must have the means to work within a well-functioning and sustainable value chain so they can continue feeding the world.
COVID 19 impacts on the food system are exacerbating existing climate change issues:
While the world has stopped to ensure the health of citizens worldwide, climate change was not on hold. Actors in the food chain have been facing the dual challenge of a health crisis and the existing pressures of climate change. We are all aware of how climate change affects farmers first by hampering their activity and putting pressure on the availability and preservation of natural resources.
The functioning of the food chain is key to make sure that progress in fighting climate change is not hindered and that farmers activities can keep on in the double effort of adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. Farmers own an essential part of the solution, thanks to their unique practical expertise, a combination of traditional knowledge and experience from living and working on the land and with nature, while all stakeholders are key in this direction: Policy makers, inputs providers, investors and financing institutions, processors, retailers and consumers have the ability to affect food supply and farmers’ choices.
Innovation is key to ensure resilience and sustainability:
Farmers’ Organizations have a key role to play in dialogues and liaising with decision-makers to look for farmer-driven solutions to food systems’ transformation and to reach out to the farmers at the grassroots level to promote sustainable innovation and foster the transition. Similarly, the value chain plays a key role in the whole strategy by improving food security, generating incomes and building local communities, thus strengthening farmers’ position in the markets, increasing their income and improving their ability to produce in a more sustainable and resilient way. This agenda should be developed under the specific angle of generating a positive impact on the value chain and the food system.
THE CLIMAKERS PROPOSAL:
During COVID 19 The Climakers Alliance members took their practical knowledge and put it at the service of their activity and the entire food chain, from farm to fork. NOW is time for the Climakers to take another bold step towards building a more sustainable future for all, relying on a farmers’ driven climate change agenda.
In particular, Farmers came up with disruptive initiatives to make sure they could continue their activities in the long-term, taking into consideration that many of the challenges that emerged during the pandemic are able to last beyond the outbreak. At the same time, each and every actor of the supply chain committed to ensuring that farmers could have and can continue having the means (seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, technologies) to do so; R&I actors made their part in partnering with farmers and food chain actors to help to find the right solutions for different contexts; Media partners committed to keeping those involved in global agricultural development up to date with relevant information to continue working.
It is now up to policy makers to ensure that food systems function properly and are resilient to external shocks.
- Policy makers to ensure that Climate action stays on top of the global agenda, also and above all now that the world is fighting against COVID 19.
- Policy makers and international financial institutions to invest in recovery plans that allow farmers to access the means to address future challenges, such as climate change or other shocks to the system.
- Policy makers to develop farmer focused food policies during and beyond COVID 19, to allow farmers to deliver on food security needs while ensuring they can adapt to more climate resilient practices.
- Policy makers to channel decision making and investments to upscale and improve those solutions that have already demonstrated to function at sectorial level and at food chain level as a whole, as only a truly bottom up approach can ensure that we act promptly and effectively.
- Policy makers to take into account needs and actions of sectorial actors (From inputs to civil society) in a joint effort towards the well-functioning of food systems and sustainability.