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Rio +20: Food security must be at heart of sustainable development

31. May 2012

    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) is calling for concerted efforts to tackle chronic hunger through sustainable agriculture at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD/Rio +20) taking place from 20-22 June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    At the conference, the EAA will highlight recent research and case studies that demonstrate the feasibility of scaling up agro-ecological food production. These methods are based on natural and sustainable processes that use local knowledge and support viable farming communities.

    The EAA is organizing two side events at UNCSD/Rio +20 and coordinating events related to food at the People’s Summit (details below).

    Agro-ecological methods privilege the use of natural locally-available resources, rather than costly external inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These methods also promote diversity in the agricultural production system, in contrast to industrial-scale monocultures. Technological innovations have an important role to play alongside traditional knowledge and practices, provided that their use enhances access to food among vulnerable people and does not harm the environment.

    EAA members have welcomed the G8’s commitment to improving food security in Africa, and have noted the “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” that was announced at the G8 Summit on 19 May. However, members point out that the inability of the G8 to significantly reduce the number of those chronically hungry, which remains close to 1 billion around the world, emphasizes that a more fundamental, systemic shift in policy and practice is desperately needed.

    Speaking after the G8 meeting, Paul Hagerman, from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and member of the EAA’s food strategy group, cautioned, “From our experience, we know that increasing food production alone is no help at all to poor people if they are not able to access that food. Private sector-led development, such as is being supported by the G8, is unlikely to benefit farmers with very small landholdings – those who are most likely to go hungry now.”

    “We need a new starting point,” stated Pablo Prado, from the YMCA in Guatemala and also an EAA food strategy group member. “We need a different kind of engagement where more structural things like global warming, food trade, agricultural models, consumption habits and energy expenditure can be discussed in light of the spreading capital crises and the occupy movement.”

    “We hope that the case that the EAA makes for scaling up agro-ecological approaches can sway some of those behind these billion dollar initiatives that in the end, don’t achieve food security for those who need it the most,” stated Peter Prove, EAA Executive Director. “The answer doesn’t lie in technological investments alone. The answer lies in empowering the knowledge and resources within communities themselves.”

    EAA side events at UNCSD/Rio +20:

    Agro-ecological farming can nourish the world: In practice, 16 June, 15:30 - 17:00

    (Co-organized with Franciscan International and the Dominicans for Justice and Peace)


    • Mr Leonardo Boff, theologian, philosopher (Brazil)
    • Miguel A. Altieri, University of California, and President of Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA) (USA)
    • Sr Placida, Franciscan Sister, Project Manager of a local agricultural development (Sri-Lanka)
    • William Chazda from Centre for Environmental Policy & Advocacy (Malawi)
    • Ms Maria Elena Aradas, Executive Director, CEFEDER, Research, Franciscan Center for Studies and regional Development (Argentina)

    Scaling-Up Agro-Ecological Food Production, 17 June, 11:00-12:30


    • Miguel A. Altieri, University of California, Berkeley, USA and President of Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA)
    • Hans Rudolf Herren (President of the Washington-based Millennium Institute and co-founder and president of the Swiss foundation Biovision. He co-chaired the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) until 2008 and won the World Food Prize in 1995)
    • Bishop Theotonius Gomes CSC, President of Caritas Bangladesh
    • Bishop Maurício José Araújo de Andrade, primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil
    • Wilfred Miga, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), a network with members across East and Southern Africa

    Food related events at the Peoples Summit:

    EAA has been working closely with the Ecumenical Coalition to organize faith-based actors and social movements participating in the “Ecumenical tents” at the Peoples Summit. EAA is coordinating the calendar for the food tents, in which topics range from food waste and post harvest losses to the nexus between agriculture, climate change and food security. EAA is also co-hosting/facilitating workshops with members, such as Food Waste and Post Harvest Losses (with EED) and Agriculture and Climate Change (with CIDSE).


    For more information contact: Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, +44 7821 860 723.


The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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