At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, there were more than 200 events and 4 pavilions dedicated to the role of food and agriculture in the climate crisis, as well as an entire day focused on adaptation and agriculture. But according to the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), initiatives resulting from the climate talks lack critical support for small-scale farmers.
“Small-scale farmers have done little to cause the climate crisis, but their needs and solutions are being crowded out,” says Lim Li Ching, Senior Researcher at Third World Network and panel expert with IPES-Food.
The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture—adopted in 2017 as the first formal U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agenda item focusing on food and agriculture—concluded at COP27 with the launch of a new, four-year implementation program. But the Koronivia Agreement focuses on emissions from industrial agriculture without addressing sustainable food systems, according to IPES-Food.
“Wider issues like food waste and loss, nutrition, healthy sustainable diets, and resilient supply chains will continue to be left out of the UN climate agreement and unfunded,” IPES-Food writes in a statement.
Small-scale farmers produce one-third of the world’s food and are often located in the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. While agribusiness delegates attended COP27 discussions in record numbers, small-scale farmers struggled to have their voices heard, according to IPES-Food.
Farmers proposed solutions including agroecological farming to improve livelihoods, sustained yields, food security, and resilience. According to IPES-Food, agroecology was not widely recognized at COP27 as a potential solution for adaptation to climate change.
“[Small-scale farmers] demanded support and climate finance for diverse and resilient agroecological food systems to help adapt to the floods and droughts they are facing—but they leave [COP27] with very little,” says Million Belay, coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and panel expert with IPES-Food.
Li Ching says that not only did COP27 lack recognition and support for small-scale farmers, but current harmful agricultural systems were also strengthened.
“Despite all the green buzzwords, COP27 has seen a number of initiatives simply doling out more support to big agribusinesses and their large-scale extractive model of industrial agriculture that’s causing climate change,” says Li Ching.
Mamadou Goita, Executive Director of the Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development and panel expert with IPES-Food, says that COP27 does represent significant progress, but more work is needed.
“It’s a significant step to see that the UN climate agreement will begin to target greater action to tackle the enormous emissions from industrial agriculture and provide funding to make agriculture more resilient to climate change,” says Goita. “But if actions are not incorporated across the whole food system, from food waste and loss to sustainable supply chains and healthy diets, we will fail to meet the world’s great food and climate challenges.”
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Photo courtesy of Joel Dunn, Unsplash