As part of a three-day GLF Climate: Forests, Food and Finance – Frontiers of Change conference, held on the sidelines of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) on 5 – 7 November, the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) put together a series of interactive sessions to discuss agroecological transitions with world-renowned experts, indigenous people and youth.

The plenary titled ‘Growing the momentum for agroecological transformation to resilient food systems’ set out to link the 13 agroecological principles from the CFS HLPE 2019 report, the CFS policy recommendations on agroecological and other innovative approaches and the Coalition on Transforming Food Systems Through Agroecology with the imperative to reduce the contribution that agriculture makes to global warming while adapting to effects of climate change. In a pre-recorded interview - streamed at the plenary - with Fergus Sinclair, Chief Scientist at CIFOR – ICRAF and Co-convenor of the TPP, HE Gotabaya Rajapakse, the President of Sri Lanka, talked about the challenges of implementing bold policy reforms to promote agroecological transition at a national level:

“Despite the overuse of chemical fertilisers, which leads to soil degradation, and inefficiency of farming over many years, there is still a widespread belief within the farming community that organic fertilisers lead to lower yields. For this reason, there is a lot of resistance coming from the farmers in opposition of the restrictions in place against the use of chemical fertilisers – even though such restrictions are better for human health and that of the planet.”

Gabriel Ferrero, Chair of the UN Committee on World Food Security and the Ambassador of Spain to the UN agencies in Rome, spoke about the growing momentum for agroecology as well as Spain’s and CFS’s role and commitment to supporting it:

“What I am seeing from the apex of the multilateral system where the CFS stands, is that at all levels - from national governments to sub-national and local ones, to landscapes, territories and local communities - there is a global movement emerging in support of a transition that is based on agroecological and other innovative approaches built on empowering small-scale producers, family farmers and women.”

Alfredo Mamani Salinas, Vice-Minister of Strategic Natural Resources Development at Peru’s Ministry of Environment, shared insights into the Ministry’s work and approach on climate change along with practical measures of implementing agroforestry policies, such as being inclusive and leaving no one behind, recovering ancestral knowledge and working closely with indigenous people, all the while taking into account women and vulnerable communities.

Going deeper into issue of inclusion, the plenary involved representatives from youth, women and indigenous people, such as Genna Tesdall, who articulated a very clear demand from the YOUNGO constituency to COP26 to have agroecology specifically referred to by the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, while Monicah Yator from Kenya gave a feminist take on bringing agroecology to pastoralists and Patty Fong of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food outlined a vision for inclusive agroecological transition. The vision of an inclusive food system based on the principles of agroecology was taken up by Emile Frison, an expert on agricultural biodiversity at IPES-Food, who described the Coalition on Transforming Food Systems Through Agroecology, which emerged from the UN food systems summit and already has 27 countries and 35 organizations, including five UN bodies, regional farmer organisations, civil society and research institutions, committed to making agroecological transitions a widespread reality.

The 45-minute launchpad on ‘Actioning agroecologically-conducive policies for a food system transformation’ intended to bring the policy discussion aimed at the agroecological transformation of our current food system to the forefront. The digital session discussed the findings and feedback received during an open consultation period of the ‘Agroecologically-conducive policies: A review of recent advances and remaining challenges’ background paper with its authors – Frank Place of CGIAR and TPP, and Paulo Niederle of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and TPP. Practical Action Peru’s Maria Claudia Valdivia gave her perspective on the real-life constraints that farmers face in making the transition to agroecology happen on the ground:

“So many farmers have been telling me that the agroecological transition is necessary, but just how difficult it is to make it. What we are seeing now are these islands of change. Unfortunately, farmers are not in a leading position in the decision-making process. We need to be listening to them and giving them the opportunity to speak and make the right choices by developing their skills at a local level.”

The updated version of the background paper, based on the latest discussion, will be released soon.

An hour-long interactive session on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA): linking upstream and downstream catchments in Sri Lanka’ presented the climate rationale for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) EbA project in Sri Lanka, which blends agroecological approaches and EbA as it interconnects the upstream Knuckles catchment and downstream areas in a landscapes approach, involving a broad array of adaptation measures - from governance and financing to supporting the agroecological intensification.

Anura Dissanayake of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation spoke about the importance of the project – to be commenced in January next year - from a local perspective:

“Out of 50,000 small tanks for rainwater storage for agriculture and drinking, around 800 – 1000 are being washed off due to heavy floods. Heavy rainfall also causes landslides and land degradation in the country’s mountainous regions. This ambitious project will give us the directions for how to interact with the cascade system of downstream and upstream water management to help reduce flooding and consequent land degradation.”

Other speakers and scientists who shared their views on the role of ecosystem-based adaptation and the GCF EbA project include ICRAF’s Leimona Beria, Roeland Kindt and Tor-Gunnar Vågen, IUCN’s Sebastien Delahaye, and GCF’s Jerry Velasquez.

Lastly, the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) also contributed to a GIZ-organised session on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation in agriculture: how agroecology can contribute to tackling climate change,' in which Fergus Sinclair of CIFOR-ICRAF and the TPP called for: addressing whole food systems; eliminating perverse policies and creating enabling ones; integrating all related sectors, including water, forestry, and trade; creating landscape-level capital and policy institutions; and shifting power to benefit marginalized groups, including women and consumers.

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