Robynne has extensive experience in the agriculture and food sector, working throughout the value chain – from basic inputs to farmers in the field to the grocery store shelf. She works internationally in the sector, including speaking at the United Nations on agriculture and food issues, and representing the International Agri-Food Network at the UN.Throughout her career she has worked with farm organisations like the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi and the Himalayan Farmers Association, as well as global groups, to further the voice of agriculture in the food debate. She has also worked with Fortune 500 companies growing worldwide businesses to assist them with issues management and strategy decisions.

Global Campaigning on Global Goals: North American Tea Conference

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak at the North American Tea Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Global Campaigning on Global Goals: At a time when tea is benefiting from social and health trends, it is timely to make sure your promise lives up to modern expectations. The Global Goals agreed by the United Nations, known at the Sustainable Development Goals, apply to all countries–developed and developing–and provide the basis for social license to operate. The Sustainable Development Goals are the key lines currently shaping the global development agenda. As such, they are responsible for both directing and informing internationally significant ongoing trends and perspectives with regards to socio-economic and ethical issues, the environment, and human health. They have been agreed upon by the United Nations, and apply to all countries, developed and developing alike. Aligning values and practices with the 2030 Agenda is therefore crucial for any business seeking to make a positive contribution to the well being of the planet, and the people who inhabit it. This is doubly important in sectors comprising world spanning networks of trade, information, and investment, such as the tea industry. The vast and internationally interconnected nature of their supply chains creates enormous potential for progressive policies to generate exceptional achievements in combating poverty and myriad forms of deprivation. 

There are many Goals that are particularly relevant to the tea sector, including:

  • Goal 1 “no poverty”. The tea community has an important role to play in ensuring that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources and access to basic services. They can do this by empowering youth and smallholder farmers, and ensuring that wages and working conditions for all of those implicated in their supply chains provide a standard of living above global poverty thresholds. 
  • Goal 2 “zero hunger”. In an increasingly hungry world, improving the sustainability of supply chains, investing in agronomics, and diverting surplus that would otherwise end up as food waste to food banks can make a big difference. 
  • Goal 5 “gender equality”. Tea companies must put in place gender inclusion programs, and guarantee that women in their supply chains benefit from security, social protection services, and the possibility of maternity leave. 
  • Goal 6 “clean water and sanitation”. Businesses must seek to make their water use as efficient as possible, and crack down on wastage.
  • Goal 8 “decent work and economic growth”. This will only be achievable through scaling-up sustainable supply chains, including processing and packaging activities, and ensuring that appropriate labor standards are enforced throughout.
  • Goal 12 “responsible production and consumption”. This will entail businesses cutting down on food loss and waste at every stage of their supply chains, and investigating the life cycle of the packaging they employ, to make them as environmentally sustainable as possible.
  • Goal 13 “climate action”. Mitigating the impacts of climate change is a moral imperative, meaning that tea industry leaders must explore practices such as carbon off-setting and climate-smart agriculture, to attempt to reduce as much as possible their greenhouse gas footprints.
  • Goal 14 “life below water”. In addition to efficiently managing trade-offs in water demand between agricultural and urban users, companies must also seek to minimize, and eventually eliminate their contributions to marine pollution
  • Goal 15 “life on land”. Around 1.6 billion people currently depend on forests for their livelihoods. More sustainable forestry practices must be a key component of tea industry operations going forward, given that the tea drying process can use as much as the output of one hectare of timber to dry the output of three hectares of tea, and that tea plantations are often located in or around biodiversity hotspots.
  • Goal 17 “partnerships for the goals”. Finally, active engagement with the Goals and those seeking to fulfill them will be vital to any business seeking to make a difference. This will require a pro-active approach to monitoring and reporting on relevant economic, social, and governance indicators related to their activities and supply chains.

Each of these goals presents wonderful opportunities for the tea industry to prove themselves leaders in ongoing global efforts to build a brighter and more sustainable future.

 

Balancing our Approach to Agriculture: The Global Livestock Advocacy for Development

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the Global Livestock Advocacy for Development (GLAD) project. GLAD is a two-year project working to raise interest in livestock-related research for development. 

GLAD distils and presents evidence on sustainable livestock and its development impacts. Since the project was launched in 2016, progress has been exciting. Recently, key livestock actors convened at several high level international events and engaged stakeholders in livestock advocacy communications. This engagement led to the inclusion of livestock in key global policy discussions relating to food security and sustainable development. 

This project has highlighted why we need to rebalance our approach to agriculture and value all its components from crops, to livestock, to horticulture, to agro-forestry, to fisheries.

Read "Enhancing global livestock advocacy for sustainable development" on the ILRI news site.

Learn more about GLAD: 

whylivestockmatter.org/   

www.ilri.org/  

 

Celebrating World Milk Day Events

Since 2001, World Milk Day has been observed by the United Nations on June 1st. It was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN to mark the importance of dairy. World Milk Day focuses on raising public awareness about the importance of milk as part of a healthy and balanced diet and as an agricultural product – in other words, with the perspective of a consumer and also with the perspective of a producer.

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Tackling Childhood Growth Failure with Pulses

Pulses can be a major player in the fight against one of the most urgent global food challenges: malnutrition. A recent clinical study in Malawi has found that complementary feeding with cowpeas reduces stunting in children and improves overall gut health.

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Respect: Advancing Women in Agriculture 

When you think about agriculture and food, women are involved in every aspect.  We represent most of the world’s smallholder farmers, livestock keepers, grocery buyers, and household cooks. So if women are a vast part of every aspect of producing and serving our food, why is there a dearth of them in leadership in agriculture? 

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More Than Pretty Landscapes: How Canada Stacks Up Globally on Sustainability

Our friends at Real Agriculture took the time to interview me at FarmTech in Alberta.  It is always fun to chat with Shaun, and got to discuss how Canada is doing on sustainable agriculture.  It is particularly important since progress is being made on some global indicators that would allow more consistent and direct comparisons between countries.  I think Canada is going to stack up well.  Canada’s already made lots of progress on soil health through the use of conversation tillage.  Now we need to focus in on improving crop rotations and measures on biodiversity.  It’s great to see people already thinking about intercropping and other solutions to drive us to the next great innovations in agriculture. Onwards to continuous improvement!

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Save the Date for the SDG Business Forum: July 17, 2018

On July 17, 2018, the SDG Business Forum will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, in the context of the High Level Political Forum, which is running from July 9-18. The Business Forum is a multistakeholder platform to support business action and partnerships to achieve the SDGs. It fosters public-private dialogues, catalyzes new partnerships and alliances, and explores innovative business solutions to accelerate sustainable development. Over 1,000 leaders from business and government are expected to attend. Learn more here. Please mark your calendars!

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What a SuperCluster!

No, I am not swearing at you. Or if I were, it would be to express excitement over the new innovation work in Canada. The Government of Canada set out a challenge to have public, private and academic institutions band together to create new innovations to support Canadian growth and jobs. A great example of blended finance, it asked for proposals that would link whole value chains and reach every corner of the country with exciting synergies of expertise.

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Growing Canada's New Field of Dreams

Canada has always been an agricultural powerhouse, but these days it’s not just about selling prairie wheat, P.E.I. potatoes and maple syrup to the world. Now we’re also building bio-cars from ag-based fibres, composites and foams. We’re creating naturally derived pharmaceuticals and functional foods that help fight disease. We’re cutting carbon emissions by finding valuable uses for agricultural wastes, and we’re boosting agricultural productivity in all kinds of ways.

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Canada's Agricultural Day 2018

On the occasion of Canada’s 2018 Agriculture Day, which is on February 13th, I want to take time to reflect on some of the incredible work in agriculture that Canadians are accomplishing. It is such a thrill to pause each February 13th and realize that we’ve made incredible progress in just the past year, and that sensation of admiration and optimism is only multiplied when we compare where we are now to where we were five, ten, and fifty years ago. 

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