A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Posted 7:26 PM by Tevita
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting holds two panel discussions in consideration of agriculture, rural development
Source: United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Date: 24 Feb 2009
From : Relief Web
Commission on Sustainable Development Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting 3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development today held two expert panel discussions on policy options to address barriers and constraints to agriculture and rural development.
Convened to lay the foundation for the Commission's seventeenth session, which is slated to take place from 4 to 15 May, the Meeting aims to highlight obstacles, best practices and lessons learned across six thematic priorities: agriculture, drought, desertification, land, rural development, Africa and interlinkages and cross-cutting issues.
Norman Uphoff, Professor of Government and International Agriculture at Cornell University, kicked off the morning's panel on agriculture by emphasizing that the present model of "modern agriculture" might not be sustainable in the twenty-first century. Among the reasons was that a projected 50 per cent growth in demand for food by 2050 faced several overwhelming constraints, including shrinking arable land, a general increase in adverse climate conditions and the likely rise in the costs of energy and petrochemical products.
As an alternative "post-modern" model, he suggested "agro-ecology" as a means to promote the growth of root systems while focusing on increasing the abundance of soil organisms. By taking a management-oriented approach, agro-ecology practices seek to capitalize on the existing genetic potential of soil and plants to produce higher yields at lower costs. Already available, those methods could make sustainable improvements in livelihoods and raise production levels at the same time.
Sara Scherr, President and Chief Executive Officer of ECOagriculture Partners, underlining the potential of ecologically oriented agriculture to enhance rural livelihoods, said "eco-agriculture" could also conserve or restore ecosystems and biodiversity. As a system of managing agricultural landscapes, it boosted ecosystem services by creating or expanding conservation areas and minimizing agricultural pollution in production areas. Farming systems could also be modified in ways that contributed to climate-change mitigation.
To protect agriculture sustainability in 2009, she said it was critically important to ensure that the agreements coming out of the climate change conference scheduled for Copenhagen in December placed high priority on land-use systems for mitigation and adaptation. A global summit to frame a long-term "green strategy for food security" should also be convened, while national facilities should be established to help farming communities plan for agriculture, the environment and climate resilience.
During the ensuing discussion, a number of speakers said that recent volatility in food prices had demonstrated the urgency of moving towards sustainable agriculture and rural development. Several delegates pointed out that direct partnerships provided critical targeted support in the absence of major changes to international trade agreements, and due to the failure to eliminate harmful agricultural subsidies in the developed world.
While some delegates emphasized the value of niche crops, particularly organic ones, a representative of the business and industry major group suggested that, while organic agriculture might open niche export markets to farmers, it could not feed 9 billion people in a sustainable way without incurring intolerable environmental costs. Meanwhile, India's representative said her country had learned that an optimal combination of organic cultivation and fertilizers was extremely useful in enhancing overall crop production.
Opening the afternoon panel on rural development, Tim Hanstad, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Development Institute (RDI), stressed that among the four elements of successful rural development -- basic health, basic education, infrastructure and pro-poor land policies -– the latter played an outsized role. Access to land largely determined food security, status, wealth and power in rural communities, and land policies should strive for relatively egalitarian access to and distribution of land, secure tenures and the empowerment of local communities and governments. Done right, the formalization of land rights increased the value of land, putting money in the pockets of its owners and encouraging investment by farmers. That in turn fostered higher economic growth in general across an entire society.
Representing Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN), panellist Rosalud de la Rosa said the challenge ahead was to create an integrated approach to sustainable rural development for all policymakers to follow. To do that, gender equity was vital in expediting sustainable development and a significant human right for women worldwide. Even though a high price was paid when gender issues were neglected, there was little political will to achieve gender equality in agriculture and rural development.
With women comprising a substantial majority of the agricultural workforce in many low-income countries, however, such attitudes were themselves unsustainable, she said. Women farmers must be at centre stage and partnerships must be formed to make that happen. Greater collective action among women was also needed. To that end, WOCAN had developed a rural women's leadership course and was collaborating with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Heifer International in an attempt to restore agricultural to the development agenda.
Responding to those presentations, some speakers underlined the importance of water systems and energy services in rural development and others called for the integration of rural development into national and international stimulus packages aimed at addressing the global economic and financial crises. Alongside developing countries like Namibia, developed ones such as the United States emphasized the need to address disparities between rural and urban areas with a view to reducing rural-to-urban migration, particularly among young people.
Several speakers suggested that empowering rural people and communities to manage their own social and economic destinies through strong institutions would enhance development efforts. Many delegates, like the representative Tonga, who spoke on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), also underlined the need to integrate traditional cultural knowledge and land-tenure systems into rural development strategies.
Gerda Verburg ( Netherlands), Commission Chairperson, chaired both the morning and afternoon panel discussions.
In the panel discussion on agriculture, the Commission also heard from representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), European Commission (on behalf of the European Union), Senegal (on behalf of the African Group), Jamaica (on behalf of AOSIS), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Developing States), Oman (on behalf of the Arab Group), United States, Indonesia, Canada, China, Federated States of Micronesia, South Africa, Switzerland, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Netherlands, Norway, Malawi, Argentina, Algeria, Iran, Russian Federation, Nigeria, Japan, Chile, Libya, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Marshall Islands, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Barbados, Cambodia and Namibia.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine also made a statement.
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