Climate-smart agriculture takes center stage at CGIAR's Development Dialogues

U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairman Rajendra Kumar Pachauri delivers a keynote address at the CGIAR Development Dialogues held on Sept. 25 in New York. Photo by: Kate Evans / CIFOR / CC BY-NC-ND

Hundreds of industry experts and leaders gathered Thursday in New York to highlight the importance of climate-smart agriculture to feed a growing world population without destroying the environment.

The all-day Development Dialogues event hosted by agricultural research alliance CGIAR came on the heels of Tuesday’s launch of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture at the U.N. Climate Summit.

It was a one-two punch meant to convince the international community — and policymakers in particular — that we need to get smarter about the way we produce food. If we don’t, speakers warned during Tuesday’s conference, the result could be catastrophic.

At the current agricultural growth rate, Africa will need to import food for 75 percent of its population by 2020, said Jonathan Wadsworth, executive secretary of the CGIAR Fund Council, while Nobel Peace Prize laureate and U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change head Rajendra Kumar Pachauri warned that agricultural yields will decline further if temperatures continue to rise and water resources decrease. Agricultural expansion is already causing 80 percent of deforestation worldwide, noted Blake Ratner, research director at WorldFish.

GACSA aims to equip half of the world’s small-holder farmers with tools for climate-smart agriculture. CGIAR, for its part, has pledged to invest 60 percent or more of its $1 billion annual budget in “helping 500 million farmers adapt to more stressful growing conditions.”

“We need to stabilize the planet,” said the consortium’s CEO Frank Rijsberman. “We need to take our innovations to the farmers.”

Research and innovation is needed especially at the intersection of agriculture, food and nutrition, health and the environment, Rijsberman suggested in a recent interview with Devex. The importance of research was also a key theme on Thursday.

“Farming is knowledge-intensive,” said Gerda Verburg of the Netherlands, who chairs the Committee on World Food Security. “We need more investments in research.”

And there is growing awareness of the linkages between agriculture and other areas. Shawn Baker, director of nutrition at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — a big supporter of CGIAR — said the nutrition community now finally recognizes the importance of the first 1,000 days in a newborn’s life.

How can health, nutrition or other experts work together to ensure babies survive and thrive in their first 1,000 days of life? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.