Small scale producers, women farmers, pastoralists, landless agricultural workers, and poor consumers are amongst those most severely impacted by food insecurity, biodiversity loss and climate change.
More than a quarter of the world’s population, some 2 billion people, do not have regular access to nutritious and sufficient food. At the same time, industrial agricultural systems are contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss, both above and below ground levels.
In addition, food insecurity is now being exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The World Food Programme is warning of a doubling of those globally who are facing hunger and food insecurity due to the pandemic.
Without a change in our current approach, the global agricultural food system will not deliver on the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. It is clear that current agricultural and food policies are leaving a large number of the world’s poorest people behind.
For these reasons, there is an urgent need for a global transition towards more sustainable and equitable agriculture and food systems.
A sustainable alternative
We urgently need food systems that deliver on the right to adequate food for all, while building resilience to climate change and other challenges. Agroecology is a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to farming that offers an alternative to the current broken system.
Trócaire’s projects around the world that support agroecological approaches demonstrate the potential for economic, social and environmental benefits, both on and off farm. Amongst the benefits of these agroecological approaches are the creation of employment opportunities, the production of diverse crops that support nutritional diets, improve soil health and build resilience to increasingly volatile climates.
Providing finance for agroecology is one key element of supporting sustainable transitions in food systems. This is especially relevant for small-scale farmers who lack capital and are interested in moving away from their dependence on inorganic and expensive external inputs, such as chemical fertilisers.
Yet new research that Trócaire has supported finds that while the European Commission and European countries are major sources of agricultural overseas development assistance, there is very limited investment in agroecology.
Indeed in the case of specific member states, including Ireland, it is impossible to know what, if any, support is targeted towards agroecology. The term is not recognised as a category for reporting agricultural spending.
Next year’s UN Food Systems Summit, provides members, including Ireland, with a unique moment to recognise the importance of neglected agricultural and food systems approaches, including agroecology, to the delivery of zero hunger and the wider set of sustainable development goals.
The preparatory process for the Food Systems Summit provides Ireland with an opportunity to develop a food systems approach that acknowledges the value of agroecology in progressing the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.
There is growing food security, climate and biodiversity scientific literature that endorses agroecology, an approach that places the interests of those most impacted by food insecurity and climate change to the fore.
Ireland can demonstrate renewed international leadership on food and nutrition security by articulating a vision of sustainable food systems that acknowledges the value of agroecological approaches and enables their wider adoption through relevant policies and strategies.