Our Involvement at the Civil Society Consultation for the FAO Regional Conference for Europe and Central Asia

Prior to the Thirty-thirds Session of the Regional Conference for Europe, representatives of the civil society – ranging from smallholders to fisher-people and pastoralists – gathered in a hybrid meeting on 8–9 May, to express and exchange their views on the main agenda items of the Conference, as well as on FAO priorities and work in the region. The consultation is an important means to channel civil society inputs into FAO planning processes.

Hans Bartelme and Lea Ilgeroth-Hiadzi, the representatives of the Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organisations (INOFO), and Cristina Grandi from IFOAM – Organics International participated at the consultation. They had the opportunities to share with the participants from civil society and FAO staff, the “organic” thoughts on the different FAO documents.

During the discussion on the road to transformative agrifood systems to ensure better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life – the “four betters” – in Europe and Central Asia, Hans Bartelme, a German organic farmer, shared his experience. He highlighted that organic farming and agroecology are the answer to most of the food systems challenges and it is not considered enough in the FAO document. He further stated later regarding the document on Sustainable food value chains for nutrition, that agroecology and organic agriculture promote a healthier nutritious diet that focus on more vegetables and pulses and good quality meat and dairy products. Agroecology and organic agriculture further support independent local bottom-up food scapes for rural and urban areas that supply their regions with healthy, nutritional food resources and strong knowledge in the population on healthy food choices.

Cristina Grandi, a representative from IFOAM - Organics International criticized the new FAO Strategy on Climate Change. This is because it did not take into consideration the conclusions of the scientific studies as well as some FAO documents that cited how agroecology, organic farming and agroforestry are recognized as integrated and holistic approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation.  

Lea Ilgeroth Hiadzi, as representative of INOFO and Naturland, expressed concern of the wider effect the war in Ukraine has on the discussions in Europe. She said that since the beginning of this war, they see specifically many conventional farming organisations under the umbrella of food-security pushing for withdrawal or suspension of programmes fostering biodiversity, organic agriculture and reduction of artificial fertiliser and synthetic pesticides in Europe. She added that this is a real threat for the pathway towards more sustainable and future oriented farming in Europe and they see this with great worry. The situation in Eastern-Europe is used to promote own interests with twisted arguments.

At the end she added “For real independent food security, we need a healthy environment, biodiversity, natural resources and more independence from fossil fuels and products like artificial fertilizers made with use of these. Making us dependent on big multinational agro-food companies does not strengthen the position of rural people, peasants, children and women. Therefore, the only way to promoting food security and sovereignty is by increasing budgets and supporting organic and agroecological farming, which make us independent, foster local value chains and protect the natural resources we have. Which also make Ukrainian farmers, and farmers globally better prepared to produce food if international supply chains fail”