Soil and Not Oil: Sustainable Agriculture is Good for both Food Security and Climate

Geneva, May 11, 2010

Agriculture in developing countries has great potential to improve food security and to contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Promoting sustainable agriculture particularly through soil conservation and enhancement therefore should be a priority. This was a key message from CUTS International Breakout Session on "Improving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change", organized on 11 May in Geneva, Switzerland as part of UNCTAD Public Symposium. The Session recognized the critical need for substantial investments in agriculture to improve both production and productivity. Lack of adequate investments coupled with the dumping of subsidized food by OECD countries has turned Africa from a net food-exporter into a net food-importer.

The panelists from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), OXFAM International, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) agreed that a coordinated process was urgently needed to address the impact of climate change on food security. UNCTAD also emphasized the importance of addressing challenges relating to sustainable soil fertility and use of exhaustible resources as inputs in fertilizers, remarking that the focus should be on soil, and not oil. "Avoid conflicts, promote coherence, enhance coordination, measure impacts, and pool resources" said Massimiliano Riva, Trade and Capacity Development Specialist of UNDP.

"Early, fair and pro-development outcome of the WTO Doha Round trade negotiations will be important" said Isabel Mazzei, Senior Policy Advisor, OXFAM International. Doha deal should allow developing countries to protect their small farmers.

Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary-General CUTS International moderated the Session. In his concluding remarks, he emphasized the complexity of the issue and indicated the need for more in-depth discussions as well as imaginative solutions.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Mehta also addressed a plenary session of UNCTAD Public Symposium. Speaking under the theme "Alternative Development Strategies: Towards More inclusive and Sustainable Development Paths", he presented three-point action plan for inclusive and sustainable development of developing countries: institutionalize democracy, strengthen independent judiciary, and improve governance.