April 22, 2015

Guest Commentary - Agriculture: The Common Thread Connecting the Sustainable Development Goals

By Susan Carlson, Women’s Committee Chair, World Farmers Organisation and Farming First spokesperson
 
This year we have an incredible opportunity to shape the priority areas of the next fifteen years of global development, through the formation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We can make sure that the proven ways to tackle worldwide issues such as hunger, poverty and environmental sustainability feature high on the agenda. As a farmer, one sector is close to my heart that holds unparalleled potential to make the ambitious targets the United Nations is challenging us to reach, become a reality.
 
This week, I am joining the agriculture coalition Farming First in New York to meet with SDG negotiators to highlight how agriculture is the common thread that runs through many of the Sustainable Development Goals, not just those pertaining to hunger.
 
As the Chair of the Women’s Committee of the World Farmers Organisation, I spend a lot of time with women farmers all over the world who produce a vast proportion of our global food supply. So let’s begin with gender equality (goal five). We know that female farmers can produce up to 30 percent less than their male counterparts, mostly due to differences in their access and use of resources, and that bridging this gap could reduce global hunger by as much as 17 percent. But we also need to remember that farming is a business, and by boosting women’s yields, we will boost their income, having a knock-on effect on their nutrition (goal two), health (goal three), and their children’s education (goal four).
 

 
When it comes to the issue of saving water, both developed and developing countries are struggling to meet this challenge. Just this weekend California has implemented new emergency water conservation regulations. To sustainably manage water, we need to look at one of the sectors using and relying on the most water – agriculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, for any given country the average withdrawal for agriculture is 59 percent with higher levels in the more arid regions of the world, even though it is important to note that much of the water used by farmers going back into the natural water cycle.
 
Nevertheless, channeling research and funding into initiatives that will reduce agriculture’s dependence on water is going to be a key component of reaching the Sustainable Development Goal on water (goal six). Countries that have adopted drip-irrigation are saving a lot of water; it is estimated that drip irrigation saves up to 60 percent more water than other methods.
 

 
Similarly taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (goal thirteen) cannot be discussed without mentioning agriculture, which is simultaneously the biggest culprit and biggest victim of climate change. If we look at this with a positive spin, we have a lot to gain from investing in agriculture that is “climate-smart” that helps farmers both adapt to, and mitigate climate change. In fact, it is estimated that every $1 invested in agriculture results in a reduction of 68kgC of emissions. 
 

 
These statistics build a strong case for agriculture’s role in achieving many of the United Nations’ targets, which we are bringing to the attention of negotiators and policymakers at the United Nations this week. Farming First has even produced a fully interactive online essay that explores “The Story of Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals,” packed with facts, infographics, videos and further resources to illustrate the profound impact that prioritising agricultural approaches to the SDGs could have.
 
We cannot hope to meet the Sustainable Development Goals unless agriculture’s role is fully understood. Investing in sustainable agriculture remains the best bet for fighting not only hunger but also poverty as well as managing the earth’s finite natural resources. So let’s bet on agriculture for the SDGs.

Explore Farming First’s new interactive essay “The Story of Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals for more on this topic.
 

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to announce a new blog series, Policies for a Nourished Future, which reviews domestic and international policies meant to address issues of global food security. For the next eight weeks, we will discuss areas of importance to the future of food such as technology, waste, and resilience, and the policies meant to address them. Without robust and proactive policy frameworks, nourishing our growing world will become increasingly difficult and expensive. The first piece in this series explains the Global Fragility Act and how it relates to food security.





| By Khristopher Nicholas

Next Generation 2019 - We All Gotta Eat

Our first post in the Next Generation blog series is by Khristopher Nicholas, PhD candidate in nutrition science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.