9 November 2016 – Agricultural experts and leaders gathered on 25-26 October in Nairobi, Kenya, to help develop an ambitious plan to transform global agriculture as part of the Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversification (GAPAD). The roundtable responds to the challenge of climate change and real threats to the production of the planet’s major crops in a hotter world, and was organised by CABI and the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC).

GAPAD is an initiative to support the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 (SDA 2030) adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. It responds to the Declaration on Agriculture Diversification, signed by world leaders during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 21) in Paris in December 2015. The Declaration calls for a global action plan for agricultural diversification.

Over 7 billion people currently depend on just four major crops to supply three-quarters of their food. By 2050, the global population is set to reach 9 billion. The world is already experiencing the implications of temperature increase and its impact on food supply. It is becoming increasingly accepted that, in a hotter climate, options for agricultural diversification are needed, which include a wider range of crops and cropping systems: increased species diversity and more resilient agricultural ecosystems that include new crops for food and non-food uses.

The GAPAD initiative directly addresses six of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 2 ‘zero hunger’, 7 ‘affordable and clean energy’, 12 ‘responsible consumption and production’, 13 ‘climate action’, 15 ‘life on land’ and 17 ‘partnerships for the goals’. Agricultural diversification will also eventually contribute to achieving SDG1 ‘no poverty’.

More than 30 people from five continents, all of whom were distinguished experts and leaders in fields relevant to agricultural diversification, attended the GAPAD roundtable forum. They included high-level representatives of the African Union Commission (AUC), the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa and the Australian High Commission together with representatives from research and development organisations and seven journalists. The aim was to start to develop a global action plan for agricultural diversification which will contribute to achieving SDG 2, ‘zero hunger’. It is envisaged that agricultural diversification can improve nutrition, enhance food security and help alleviate poverty amongst other benefits.

Next steps will involve a small group of respected and highly-qualified individuals distilling and refining the output of the Nairobi roundtable, integrating it with the outputs from GAPAD roundtables addressing the five other SDGs. The result is expected to be an authoritative, inclusive global plan for agricultural diversification in a hotter climate, which has the support of all relevant institutions.

It is anticipated that GAPAD will be formally launched in mid-2017. The plan for agricultural diversification will be submitted to the secretariat of UNSDA 2030.

In the meantime, GAPAD will seek to build a network of experts, stakeholders, institutions, governments, regional and international organisations, and distinguished individuals to support and champion this urgent and important initiative.

GAPAD is an initiative spearheaded by Crops for the Future and supported by the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture (AIRCA).

The roundtable in detail

After a formal opening by H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the AUC, and brief scene-setting presentations and discussions, participants, including the commissioner, quickly got down to work.

The participants developed GAPAD targets based on each of the eight SDG2 targets but focused on the role of agricultural diversification. They then identified the priority activities needed to achieve these targets.

During the closing session of the roundtable, participants were praised for the quality of the discussions over the two days and for the ambitious nature of the plan that was beginning to emerge. Given the complexity, enormity and importance of achieving SDG2, this approach was considered to be exactly what was needed. The roundtable participants agreed that the time was right to make an urgent start on the complex and ambitious process of agricultural diversification to meet the needs of a hotter world. It was noted that the participation of the AUC Commissioner throughout the two days of the roundtable was a very clear demonstration of the seriousness with which the AUC is taking GAPAD.

H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the AUC, said: “This meeting contributes directly towards the Growth and Transformation Agenda 2063 and the realization of the Malabo Declaration. I am reliably informed that GAPAD is the first global plan for how agricultural diversification can support a universally accepted agenda for sustainable development. This initiative will also guide global decision makers in their quest to achieve the aspirations and targets established in the UNFCCC Paris Agreement. The process of developing GAPAD through a comprehensive programme of symposia over a three-year period will build new knowledge, foster leadership, strengthen existing capacities, enhance networks and partnerships and generate new collaboration and undertakings. Key indicators of the success and likely impact of GAPAD will be the number of countries that endorse the plan, along with the number that elect to develop a National Plan of Action for its implementation.”

Speaking at the Nairobi forum Dr Dennis Rangi, Director General, Development, CABI said: “Global temperatures are predicted to increase by 2°C. This has serious implications for production of the major crops. As well as higher temperatures, climate change is likely to cause more volatile rainfall patterns with increased risks of drought and flooding.”

He continued, “Agricultural diversification will help humanity withstand the looming crisis through greater food and nutritional security, minimising environmental harm, alleviating poverty, supporting the wise use of land and helping to combat desertification. Diversification will also provide new opportunities for more environmentally sustainable agricultural systems, livelihood options for farmers and integration of community knowledge with scientific evidence and novel technologies. Crops that are currently underutilised can contribute to agricultural diversification, support more environmentally sustainable agricultural systems and provide new livelihood options for smallholders and the poor.”

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