CFS Side Event: Agroecology, diversification, resilience & dietary diversity in times of pandemic

In the context of the Committee on World Food Security plenary session on 3 June 2021, IFOAM - Organics International led a side event:

How can diversification in agriculture based on agroecology ensure resilience and dietary diversity for family farmers at times of pandemic or crisis?

The event analysed the potential of crop diversification (inspired by agroecological practices) and its positive effects on farming families, not only during the pandemic but in any context of crisis. 

Watch the event

In the face of the current challenges the planet is experiencing, governments are exploring approaches that can substantially contribute to the transformation towards sustainability of food systems and nutrition. This transformation is urgently needed, made even more pressing by the current health and economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic.

The side-event will showcase nutrition-sensitive agriculture approaches based on agroecological practices and the improvement dietary diversity. Government representatives (from Nepal, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Pakistan) will speak about how peasant production systems responded to the pandemic and government actions to sustain and strengthen practices that hold the potential to transform into nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices. Experts will analyse and assess their experiences with solutions and practices from various aspects (economic, ecological, nutritional, gender equality), outlining the advantages of an approach based on nutrition-sensitive agriculture in giving comprehensive, systemic responses to combat hunger, poverty, malnutrition and the ecological crisis.

  1. Learn about initiatives based on agroecological techniques, sustainable production of peasant family farming, and women and youth enterprises.
  2. Understand how these experiences contribute to improving resilience and autonomy, even in times of crisis and in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
  3. Show the strategic value of the markets that are built from agro-diversity, social awareness, participation, geographic and organizational proximity, and their role in promoting sustainable food systems.
  4. The importance of the articulations and synergies between the actions of national governments with the work and approaches of other key actors to face multidimensional crisis scenarios.

In 2016 and 2018, Ecuador was able to recognize the essential role of family farming and the important link between producer and consumer to achieve resilience, emphasized Andrea Martinez of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. She adds that their strategy is to have a short supply chain (called CIALCO) that has different forms of distribution, but their model is the same: linking family farming (as well as hotels and restaurants) together with consumers. She underlined how, while 81% of farms are managed by women, the average working hours is 37 per week, on top of domestic work. They are now trying to gather more information on what domestic work consists of, which will help to create a more accurate assessment of the actual hours women work on agro-productive activities.

Sudha Khadka, Manager of Helvetas Nepal, explained how the local government is taking initiatives by, for example, providing safety nets to the most vulnerable and returnee migrants through food baskets, free meals, agri-input provisions, transport facilities, and youth- and returnee-focused agriculture.

The government is also raising awareness through local radios and mentorship approaches, especially ensuring that post-Covid food systems are adapted to the local conditions.

Mr. Ovais Zuberi talked about his project taking place in Pakistan (Shazday fruits), which helps farmers from remote mountainous villages to process the food they cultivate and later introduce it to the local and international markets. This project not only improves the lives of communities, but also delivers education programmes about better nutrition and hygiene so that communities stay healthy and thriving. 

Oscar Castaneda presented the project that he has been working on in Ecuador. He stated that the biggest challenge needing to be addressed is the fact that, despite the fact that 78% of the food being consumed comes from smallholder farmer systems, these very same farmers do not have access to enough food or nutritious diet. This is what the programme strives to address. To conclude, Castaneda highlighted how important it is to talk to communities and to community participants and develop a network of rural service providers, as well as bring a very clear connection between the people that are producing and those that are consuming.

How do you promote and encourage renewed appreciation for local and global diversity?

Sudha Khadka explains that at the local context they are working with parents and schoolchildren by creating awareness about how nutritious local products are and how the latter also provides a link with the markets. In urban areas, the solution would be to create demand for it, but also, to value it through two different programs of local Government.

Oscar Castaneda brings up the concept of how “traditional'' and “native” have a bad reputation nowadays. As this is part of fake news, we need to organize a movement where native and traditional people receive the reputation that they deserve.

What is the role of the business sector, and how, for example, all these agricultural approaches could be scaled up?

Ovais Zuberi explains how if we give much more variegated options of crops to the consumers, instead of main crops, consumers will be more willing to try different products, hence giving them a more nutritional balance and nutritional diversity. This can be achieved by interesting marketing, including messaging to the end consumer.