3rd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security and Climate Change, South Africa, December 2013

by Laura Pereira

Laura attended the 3rd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security and Climate Change, held in South Africa in December 2013. Here are her thoughts and reflections on the conference.

The three day high-level event took place in Johannesburg, organised in conjunction with the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the World Bank, the FAO, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa.

Under the auspices of the motto ‘Grow Smart 2gether 2day,’ the order of the day was implementing a Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) agenda for steering the global food system towards a more sustainable path that produces more food and mitigates climate change whilst also adapting to its impacts through building resilience.

The conference opened with remarks from the Honorable Ms Joemat-Peterson, South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. She reminded us that 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the Land Act that forced black farmers off their land- and that despite the end of apartheid that black smallholder farmers were still marginalised, but that for the first time, smallholders have exported beans and maize to Lesotho through the World Food Programme.

Overcoming the challenges of inequality in the agricultural system whilst bearing in mind the adverse impacts of climate change and a need to secure food for a world population by 2050 became central tenets of the conference discussions.

Being hosted in an African country, there was a particular focus on African agriculture and overcoming food security problems on the continent. Many delegates from African countries were present, sharing their views and experiences. The important role of engaging with farmers themselves was a strong message that we kept on coming back to during the discussions and although there were a few representatives of farmers unions, it was emphasised that it was critical to bring more farmers on board- both to learn from them, but also to equip them for future challenges.

Another point that was highlighted was the role of partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration. Although there were representatives present, the private sector did not have much of a voice in the proceedings- and yet were identified as key stakeholders. The need to engage more widely- with farmers, with the private sector, with the youth- was a recurring point.

Dr Lindiwe Sisulu of FANRPAN brought up the importance of gender that was underscored by subsequent speakers although the precise means for emphasising the role of women in agriculture and food security and dealing with the power dynamics inherent in male-female relations was not fully developed over the coming days. Likewise, the looming presence of land tenure in Africa was raised by a member of the audience, but not explicitly dealt with elsewhere. Despite the conference’s title, there was little on more systemic issues of food security outside of the agricultural arena; although nutrition was mentioned, very little was discussed about how to tackle the combined effects of under- and overnutrition confronting the world today.

However, with climate smart agriculture being the focus, a few success stories were shared, mainly in the break-out groups where practitioners were able to talk more directly to constraints and enablers to climate smart agriculture based on their international experiences. Dr Bruce Campbell also highlighted the

Success Stories of CSA during his presentation on how we actually may be able to climb the mountain that is looming in front of us of feeding 9 billion in a world of climatic change.

The most inspiring speaker for me was Prof Madivamba Rukuni who emphasised the notion of co-creation; that innovation in the agricultural space, especially on the African continent needs to include not only scientific knowledge, but also local and indigenous knowledges. The most important ingredient is confidence, “we must invest in people, their culture, knowledge systems.”

The conference ended with a push to establish a Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, which is expected to be launched at the UN General Leaders’ Summit in September 2014.

Laura Pereira finished her PhD at Oxford University in 2012. She has just finished a post-doctoral position at the Harvard Kennedy School and is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Cape Town.

Photos taken from CGIAR CCAFS:

Other photos by Laura Pereira

Share this article