In the past few weeks we’ve seen a lot coming up about agriculture and its impact on the environment. Two overlapping UN meetings were addressing the subject – at the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA 2) in Nairobi, we saw a lot of focus on biodiversity, natural resources and agriculture, with the launch of a new report called “Food Systems and Natural Resources” discussing the challenges we face and calling for a move to ‘Resource-Smart food Systems’. The report highlights some important ways forward too, such as the need to sustainably intensify production, reduce food loss and waste, and improve energy and water-efficiency in food processing.
At the same time, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was also meeting. One of the items on the agenda was climate-smart agriculture. Two workshops were held on adaptation and on technologies, but the negotiations in the informal groups did not yield a conclusive way forward, highlighting the continued sensitivity of the issue to many countries.
The proliferation of concepts seeking to capture what are ‘sustainable’ agriculture systems – from resource-smart, to climate smart – are an important indication of the complexity of the task at hand. But it also can create some confusion among external stakeholders. We are going to see a lot of these issues converge as efforts to define the Sustainable Development Goals indicators intensify in coming months. Under Goal 2, measuring progress towards sustainable agriculture is one of the main dimensions. This will undoubtedly require grappling with the same issues raised at UNEP and UNFCCC these past weeks.