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.

The Future of Food Systems

As we prepare for the Food Systems Summit next year, we have a great opportunity to reflect and set a path to the sustainable food system we all want for the future. As part of this effort, we must find a way to work together, instead of spending time propagating false dichotomies that permeate food systems discussions. Rural versus urban, farmers versus consumers, hunger versus obesity, food versus planet – these conversations ignore the interrelationships and the impossibility that any can survive without the other.  We are all part of the same system. It’s about making different pieces work together for a diverse food system, capable of supporting nutrition, biodiversity and farmers’ needs.

It was a pleasure to work with Henry Gordon Smith’s team at Agritecture and be part of their timely Digital Conference Series available here.

The Future of Farming - Harnessing Digital Technologies for Ag Extension and Advisory Services

Today’s farmer lives in unprecedented times. From volatile commodity markets as a result of natural shocks from weather, pests and diseases, to the climate crisis that is increasing calls for radical transformation in food systems, there is uncertainty about the future of agriculture. Farmers today must transform their thinking to effectively respond to the challenges facing agriculture and continue feeding a growing world population – and one that is also in a crisis. With the current challenges, the next agricultural revolution is imminent.

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Working Remotely

In 2010, I founded Emerging ag and felt then there was no need for an office and I’ve never looked longingly at conventional space. The virtual office approach has allowed me to engage some of the most talented people from around the world and all 20 of us really enjoy working together. So, in these times, here are a few ideas based on our experiences.

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UN75: A Toast to Multilateralism

Multilateralism – a 15 letter word that is getting a 75-year anniversary. The United Nations hits 75 at a moment when the world should be most reminded of the need for peace, stability and cooperation. Whether it is the role of the World Health Organisation of the UN to help coordinate response to coronavirus, or the leadership of emergency response in the face of a plague of locusts in Eastern Africa by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, or the front line efforts of the World Food Programme in Yemen, the world is better for trying to tackle tough problems together.

Just like climate change, these aren’t easy problems. The UN is often skewered for being ineffective, but let’s be realistic, if an issue is at the UN, it is already a thorny difficult global one. It is a little like…

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

The UN was born out of World War II. On 24 October 1945, 51 nations came together to establish the UN to prevent another war, forming a new organization for world peace. Today, with a membership of 193 states, the UN has evolved into an agency not only for achieving world peace but also increasing cooperation among the nations to tackle some of the world’s most pressing needs. The UN’s work today covers a myriad of issues such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more.

Its hard to imagine where we would be with the discussions on biodiversity without the Rio Conference, over 30 years ago, when issues of sustainability were first raised. Or as concerning as COVID-19 is, imagine a world without WHO’s efforts to coordinate a response at a global level. 

As it hits its 75th anniversary, we should all pause to be thankful for multilateralism. Without question, the world is in an imperfect place, but it is certainly better for having coordinated attempts to address its challenges than none at all. For as much as we see challenges, the world is improved compared to when it came out of World War II. Perhaps shoring up its most vital institution of global cooperation is the best investment we can make to regain lost ground of the past few years.

The rational reaction to increasing numbers of hungry, geopolitical conflict, coronavirus, and the state of our oceans is to improve the UN and be thankful for the gains made to date on women’s literacy, global poverty, and identifying planetary boundaries. 

UN 75 Anniversary

October 24 has been celebrated as the United Nations Day and is observed by member states as a public holiday. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN has adopted the theme ‘2020 and  Beyond: Shaping our future together’ and is planning to host the largest global conversation on the role of global cooperation in building the future we want. Throughout the year, the UN will work with partners to initiate dialogues within and across borders, sectors and generations. The aim is to reach as many people as possible: to listen to their hopes and fears; learn from their experiences; and empower them to think and act globally. You can be part of the conversation by following the hashtag #UN75 and using the Media Toolkit.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Launches Working Group to Grow Our Country's Agriculture and Agri-Food Sector

Ottawa, ON - February 11, 2020 - The Canadian Chamber of Commerce launched its Agriculture and Agri-Food Working Group today to support the industry’s ability to grow and reach new customers. The Working Group will reflect the Canadian Chamber’s role as the country’s largest business association by representing all segments of the agriculture and agri-food value chain from farm to fork across sectors.

The Working Group will initially focus on regulatory reform, international trade, and labour shortages as three key areas where our country needs to improve the business environment if we are to reach our full potential as a global agricultural powerhouse.

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You’ve Got What They Want: Protein Market Growth Helps Advance Pulse Opportunities Globally

The Evolving Debate on Sustainable Diets and Demand for Pulses

The debate on sustainable healthy diets has recently gained momentum, and the pulses market stands to gain significantly as the evolving definition of sustainable diets strongly advocates for more plant-based diets for a healthier planet. While food and healthy diets have traditionally been discussed within the confines of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the subject is now finding its way into non-traditional venues such as the United Nations Environment Assembly and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which are now looking up to sustainable food systems as part of the solution to tackling climate change.

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Farmers Being Heard

Young farmers are moving agriculture ahead, and it is privilege to get to interact with them. One bright light is Karol Kissane of Ireland, a Nuffield scholar. The Nuffield programme really does have an eye for talent and selects future leaders for a year of intensive engagement globally. Karol has just finished his scholarship year and here is a fun video where he provides some feedback on the adventures he had: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU5OOJVACDY 

One of the highlights he cites is the chance to speak in plenary at the UN Committee on Food Security during a discussion on the Decade of Family Farming. What could be more important than having farmers be heard during such a decade. In that speech Karol stated “Today many people have referred to family farming as the backbone of the economy in many developing countries, but also those who are suffering the most. Let’s help all family farmers improve their livelihoods, build value chains and on-farm processing, and use innovation to improve the sustainability of their farms."

There is also a great series out by Farming First with farmers talking about the effects of climate change on them, but also the measures they are taking to tackle carbon emissions. No one is better placed to grow more crops, manage soils, plant more trees or sync more carbon than farmers. The potential to move to zero carbon farming relies on technologies and innovative practices that will have agriculture play its part to hit 1.5: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/un-climate-summit-2019.shtml

Representing the Business Sector at the UN Committee on World Food Security

The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) will be holding its 46th annual session October 14-18, 2019 at the FAO in Rome. This year’s CFS is all the more important as the SDG Summit clearly showed last fall the shortfalls of commitments towards achieving the SDGs. SDG2 is central to almost all SDGs, yet the number of hungry and malnourished has been increasing steadily for the past three years to raise the unbelievable number of 820 million hungry people. Achieving SDG2 is feasible in our lifetime. We must stand united in the fight towards Zero Hunger and the CFS is the most prominent forum bringing together all actors who have the ability to find solutions for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Emerging is the Secretariat of the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) and will be coordinating the business delegation to CFS, which will bring over 200 individuals from the entire agri-food value chain. We will also be hosting four side-events. If you are in Rome for CFS, you are kindly invited to attend them:

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After 75 years, agriculture and nutrition meet again

This post was originally written by Jessica Fanzo and Derek Byerlee for IFPRI.

One in a series of guest blog posts from leading voices in global development on achieving long-term sustainability and growth while ending hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

A history of shifting global priorities in the fight against hunger

For the third year in a row, the recently-released FAO State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition report highlights global increases in undernourishment after decades of decline. Meanwhile, the report notes, no region is exempt from widespread micronutrient deficiencies and the rising trend in overweight and obesity. The same week in June, we published a piece in the journal Global Food Security looking back 75 years to the pioneering 1943 UN Conference on Food and Agriculture in Hot Springs, Va., where the first international commitment to ending hunger was made.

That conference set the goal of “freedom from want of food, suitable and adequate for the health and strength of all peoples” that should be achieved “in all lands within the shortest possible time.” Seventy five years after this clarion call, as well as the dozens of similar global declarations made in the interim, it is sobering that various complex forms of malnutrition persist in most countries.

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National Forum on Agri-Food: Competing in a New World Order

I was involved in a Canada Food Brand Project dialogue earlier this year and I want to draw your attention to an upcoming event as part of that work. The Canada 2020 National Forum on Agri-Food: Competing in a New World Order is taking place on November 6-7, 2019, in Ottawa. You might be interested in attending this key event designed to shape priorities for the next agri-food policy agenda, immediately after the federal election.

Details can be found here: www.canada2020.ca/canadafoodbrand