Patrick Mulvany


Patrick Mulvany is the Senior Policy Adviser for Practical Action.

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Posts by Patrick

  • Food… as if people and the planet mattered

    February 27th, 2012

    In the mists of the Kenyan highlands where tea bushes cling to steep slopes, women farmers provide good food for their families and communities with a surplus for the market. In the county of Kiambu, women, taking a lead from their late and beloved leader Wangari Maathai , the recently deceased Nobel Laureate environmentalist, in whose honour they planted a tree of remembrance, keep their diverse, productive and nutritious fields bursting with many food plants, bushes and trees. Their soils, enriched by the manure of their cows, goats and poultry, exude fertility. Their fields harvesting rain supplemented by water from wells provide a cornucopia of grain, fruit and vegetables. This is the central core of their food web extended by exchanges with neighbours and nearby communities and family members in town, with some food sold and purchased in the local market.

    The good news is that this is the majority food system – not giant supermarkets chained to industrial commodity production that is destroying livelihoods, local markets and the environment. Most food in the world – more than 70% – is grown, harvested and consumed locally.

    It is provided usually by women who are small-scale food producers – farmers, livestock keepers, fishers, urban gardeners and others – much of it, like the Kenyan farmers I visited, produced without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These inventive and skilful people know how to produce good, healthy food for their families, communities and, especially local, markets. They can secure our future food if their production systems can be supported and protected and if they are decisively involved in setting priorities for resource use, research, extension, investment and markets – a message that needs to be broadcast to decision makers who are gathering throughout the coming year to determine the priorities for food production and nutrition , responses to climate change and the governance of the planet’s environment .

    Food production practices need to recycle nutrients and protect natural resources rather than rely on fossil fuel dependent inputs that undermine long term productivity. These practices of small-scale farmers and livestock keepers enable them to develop resilient and biodiverse seeds and livestock breeds adapted to the local environment which, when used more widely, have been shown to increase overall yields in degraded systems by 50-200% . These are the practices developed and nurtured by small-scale food providers like the women of Kiambu. They and the many hundreds of millions of other small-scale food providers, including farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fishers and urban gardeners, on whom we depend for our food, need to have decisive input into setting priorities for resource use, research, extension, investment and markets, if sustained increases in food production are to be achieved.

    Achieving this requires convincing decision makers at all levels that small-scale food providers are the guardians of our food system. Decision makers are often driven by the mantra that food production must increase dramatically to fulfil the needs of the billion who are currently malnourished and sustain 9 billion people by 2050 and to do so on limited land and water resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on increasingly scarce fossil fuels. Therefore they are erroneously persuaded to back ‘ sustainable intensification of industrial production as a priority.

    What those who make decisions about our food system need to understand is that there is enough food in the world for everybody and much more could be readily provided using the existing skills of small-scale food providers. It is poverty that causes hunger not lack of production. In order to make the food system less dysfunctional, a more systemic change in production and power relations is required, with more equitable distribution of food produced as locally as possible.

    The food system needs to be securely based on small-scale ecological practices, which have higher productivity in the long term, as confirmed by the groundbreaking international agriculture assessment, IAASTD , to which Practical Action contributed significantly. The needed increase in production will not be achieved, equitably and sustainably, if food production continues to depend on resource depleting technologies that are promoted by global agribusinesses for universal application. Specific attention, research and action needs to be paid to the resilient forms of production, practised by small-scale food providers, that work with nature to raise productivity while restoring degraded resources.

    Yet these small-scale providers of the world’s food are under massive threat from the avarice of agribusiness corporations that are intent on capturing their markets, livelihoods and resources. Over many years, however, their organisations, especially our ally La Via Campesina , have shown how these threats can be mitigated and what changes in policy are necessary to secure future food supplies – all summarised in their food sovereignty policy framework .

    The food sovereignty approach to providing good, local food in ecologically and socially sustainable ways is the type of proposal that Schumacher would have supported, as new economics foundation fellow, Andrew Simms , said in an interview published in the Summer 2011 issue of Practical Action’s newsletter Small World :

    “The food sovereignty movement, for example, is an ideal manifestation of everything Schumacher believed in. It is a model of how you would apply Schumacher’s notions of subsidiarity and appropriateness of scale to the food system. Food sovereignty, with its focus on local food needs and making sure these are compatible with local ecosystems, is a living vehicle of the ideas and insights of Schumacher.”

    We support this approach, as summarised in our policy narrative , which shows how Practical Action’s values – justice, sustainability, diversity, democracy, and empowerment – describe the fundamental components that need to be in place to realise our vision of an equitable food system. These values allow us to analyse systematically the current state of global and local food systems, establishing the extent to which they contribute to the realisation of this vision.

    In the same way, we can better understand how it is that the food and agriculture system is failing. By identifying where it is that the food system falls short of these values, it becomes possible to ascertain the changes that are necessary at all levels if we are to move closer to the vision of world in which the right of people to sufficient food and to food sovereignty is realised in ways that also protect the environment on which we all depend.

    We are committed to realising this vision – to develop a food system as if people and the planet mattered – a system that emulates the good work of the women of Kiambu.

    Patrick Mulvany, Senior Policy Adviser to Practical Action,
    Kiambu, Kenya


    This is an extended version of an article published in Practical Action’s newsletter Small World , Issue number 53, Spring 2012

    See tribute to Wangari Maathai

    See ‘Who will feed us?’

    See website of the Civil Society Mechanism of the UN Committee on World Food Security

    See paper on the links between climate change and agriculture

    See Civil Society joint statement on the key agricultural issues to be considered at the Rio+20 conference

    See Report of Oliver De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Agro-ecology and the Right to Food , which reveals that small-scale sustainable farming would even double food production within five to 10 years in places where most hungry people on the planet live.

    See reflection on the Beddington Foresight Report on global food and farming

    IAASTD, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, is the groundbreaking international scientific assessment to which Practical Action contributed significantly. Practical Action was one of the six NGO members of the governing bureau of the assessment which reported in 2008. See and for details

    Even in the 1970s Schumacher had already declared that “present-day industrial society everywhere shows this evil characteristic of incessantly stimulating greed, envy, and avarice.” See: Modern Industry in the Light of the Gospel , b y E. F. Schumacher

    See the website of the International Farmers’ Movement

    See UK Food Group publication Securing Future Food: towards ecological food provision

    See the Synthesis Report of the Nyéléni 2007: Forum for Food Sovereignty

    See full interview with Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation

    See Practical Action’s policy narrative on Food and Agriculture

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  • UK needs scientific research into agroecology – not GM

    January 26th, 2012

    The greatest challenge facing agricultural scientists is how to work with farmers producing more ecological and healthier food – not GM, argues Patrick Mulvany, Senior Policy Adviser, Practical Action and Chair, UK Food Group

    At the start of 2012 we should be energised by the news that BASF, the German chemical and seeds giant, has decided to pull out of genetically modified plant development in Europe. This is testament to the effectiveness of public pressure and “ another nail in the coffin for genetically modified foods in Europe ,” as Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth said.

    But beyond successes in GM skirmishes, we should remind ourselves why we should be optimistic about the defence of the food system which feeds most people in the world, and thus be clearer about the research policies and practices needed to enhance it.

    •   The dominant food systems in the world are local, small-scale and organic food webs, not giant supermarkets chained to industrial commodity production that is destroying livelihoods, local markets and the environment. 70 per cent of the global population eats local food grown and harvested mainly by small-scale farmers, gardeners, livestock keepers and artisanal fishers – and they do this mostly without recourse to proprietary chemicals and seeds.
    •   There is a rising tide of support, backed by the International Agriculture Assessment ( IAASTD), for more ecological, environmentally-friendly and health-enhancing approaches to food production that will enhance agricultural biodiversity, soils, water and climate. It’s matched by an equally strong rejection of corporate control over, and speculation in, food, production and landgrabs.
    •   European and international debates on the food system are raising awareness and increasing pressure for political accountability in: changing Europe’s CAP Common Agriculture Policy); enforcing global environmental governance at Rio+20 and the climate change and biodiversity conventions; defining a Global Strategic Framework for securing future food by the renewed UN Committee for World Food Security ; and resetting priorities for global agricultural research at GCARD2012 (Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development).
    •   The International Peasant Farmers’ Movement, La Vía Campesina, and related social movements, which represent the views of the world’s small-scale food providers, have a well-developed policy framework, Food Sovereignty. This would secure future food if their more ecological production systems can be supported and protected and if they are decisively involved in setting priorities for resource use, investment, markets and agricultural research, development and production.

                     They know what needs doing and how to do it.

    Yet, it seems the research establishment, in hock to Big Agriculture, is blind to these needs and opportunities. The Financial Times reporting on the BASF decision to relocate its GM research to the USA quoted a senior researcher in biosciences, Professor Jonathan Jones from the Sainsbury Lab in Norwich as saying: “ The psychological damage is that it will tell the next young people who might want to go into plant science that they can’t bring anything exciting to market… and it also discourages government support if [GM technology] is not going to be deployed in Europe.”

    He may be correct with his second point if UK government priorities are still wedded to promoting GM technologies – perhaps some neo-colonial dream in which the UK fixes a new world order that will secure commodity supplies from other countries using their cheaper labour and our (proprietary) technologies and knowledge.

    But ‘ psychological damage of young people’ ? Isn’t this more likely to be the result of the ‘cognitive dissonance’ caused by such an extreme mis-match between what is needed to feed the world and what they are being asked to do by Big Science?

    Today, there can be no greater scientific challenge in the food system than how to shift it towards a more ecological and healthier form of production and consumption that can be controlled locally. These systems are more productive per area of land or drop of water – and more sustainable, carbon neutral, biodiverse, resilient and locally determined – than industrial commodity production. Science should embrace the challenge.

    A new generation of agricultural scientists could be encouraged, building on the example of many pioneers, to work with knowledgeable small-scale food providers to enable that shift to take place. Using improved tools for analysing biological, economic, legal and social systems they could enrich understanding, enhance local knowledge and practice and strengthen local communities’ and social movements’ control over the use of their common resources for securing localised food systems.

    Big Agriculture and Big Science won’t like this – it won’t enrich corporate coffers – but the majority will.

    We should build on the energy generated by the food sovereignty movement that calls for public support and better governance to transform the food system.

    Now is the time to keep up the momentum and to gather enthusiastic young people into democratically controlled agricultural research, development and production systems fit to realise food sovereignty.

    Also posted on the Ecologist, 25th January 2012

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  • Celebrating World Food Sovereignty Day

    Upper Rd, Thika, Kenya, Thika
    October 16th, 2011

    2011 Blog Action Day on 16 October – World Food Day – is, naturally, themed around food

    Dateline: Thika, Kenya

    As the cicadas chirp, the frogs croak and the October full moon bathes
    the flame trees of Thika, I’m celebrating the successes of our ally
    PELUM Kenya on a balmy evening with friends from 3 continents who have
    gathered to defend agricultural biodiversity and food sovereignty. We have
    been finding ways of strengthening the knowledge systems of small-scale
    food producers, mostly women, who provide most of the food for Africans
    and, indeed, as they do for many in the rest of the world, including Europe.

    Recently, at the Nyeleni Europe 2011 forum for food sovereignty we committed to
    rename 16 October as World Food Sovereignty Day. There are many related
    events in the UK over Sept and Oct that are celebrating the realisation of food
    sovereignty worldwide. It started with the UK Food Group conference, on 27
    Sept “The Food Producers” with speakers from African, UK and International
    farmers’ movements.

    On 18 Oct the APPG agroecology and War on Want are urging people to
    join the food sovereignty revolution.

    It encourages us, as we were urged at the Small is… festival last month in our lively Sunday morning session on ‘food’, to: Be inspired; Be energised; Challenge, resist, and dismantle those who destroy local food production; Champion the knowledge and skills, the technologies of the small-scale food providers who feed the world; Defend their position internationally, including in the discussions about land grabbing, agricultural investment, food speculation, nutrition, governance and more, which are being discussed this coming week in Rome at the UN’s Committee on world Food Security (CFS) at which I will be representing the organisation.

    We do this in our policy work on food and agriculture and our
    public awareness projects such as EuropAfrica: towards food sovereignty.

    Join us in alliances that support the  social movements of these small-scale
    food providers who will our secure future food.

    Celebrate 16 October by calling for Food Sovereignty now!


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  • Wangari Maathai – an inspiration

    Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi
    October 8th, 2011

    “We have a special responsibility to the ecosystem of this planet. In making sure that other species survive we will be ensuring the survival of our own.” Wangari Maathai

    Our beloved sister Wangari Maathai, whose last journey I am observing in Nairobi as I write this, is making her last journey from the St Luke’s funeral home via Uhuru Park (which she saved from Moi’s clutches – he wanted to build a vast 62 storey office and retail complex on the park adorned by a large statue of Moi) to Karioko crematorium, carried in her coffin of bamboo and water hyacinth.

    She was an amazing woman, who I had the privilege to meet several times in London and Kenya, where she invited me to her home and we planted trees with local women. As I said in the UK Food Group conference, she was a tower of strength, the only person to successfully challenge Moi who lived in fear of her. She saved forests, campaigned for poor women, political prisoners and activists in Kenya. She campaigned ardently against extra judicial killings by agents of the State.

    Her work transformed the environmental movement not just in Kenya but globally. In 1984 she received the Right Livelihood Award (most recently given to our ally GRAIN and from then on honours were piled on her including the Nobel Peace prize – the first for an African woman and the first for an environmentalist.

    The Kenya staff, and especially country director, Grace Mukasa, told me that they see the work of the Green Belt Movement as exemplary of the style of campaigns in broad alliances that we should also be engaged in.

    The State Funeral was hugely hypocritical with, mercifully short, speeches by representatives of the same institutions that spurned, beat, bullied and imprisoned her; the President recognised her achievements but made no commitments to continue her work.

    The only touching moment was when her little granddaughter helped plant a tree in her memory.

    The struggle continues, as many commentators have been saying – each person committing to plant trees, one for every year of her 71 years of life – and defending the interests, livelihoods and commons of the people, especially women.

    Wangari Maathai was an inspiration to many of us who work at Practical Action and we should all do our utmost to take forward her great work.

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  • Perspectives on Global Food and Farming Futures

    April 18th, 2011

    Perspectives on Global Food and Farming Futures – next steps for policy ( the Beddington report ) by Patrick Mulvany, Senior Policy Adviser, Practical Action and Chair, UK Food Group. His contribution at the Westminster Forum on Food and Nutrition on 31 March 2011, follows a cautionary comment at the time of publication of the report in January 2011, which can be found here on Practical Action’s website.

    The almost formulaic Westminster forum on food and nutrition, sponsored by the Crop Protection Association, did not facilitate discussion about the need to radically change the food system to one that is healthy, lower input, biodiverse, ecological and sustainable and in the hands of the people who produce most of our food – the hundreds of millions of small-scale food providers in all regions – who are striving to realise foodsovereignty.

    The Forum achieved what it was designed to do. It generated a sense of well-being among decision makers, big science and industry participants, as reflected in food industry blogs, that ‘business as usual’ – the continued strengthening of corporate power over food supplies and supporting research systems, especially for biotechnology – is not threatened by this government project. Indeed, the Forum demonstrated that the report opens opportunities for new funding and political support for UK science and industry.

    The Beddington report was an expensive exercise in undermining the landmark UN/World Bank sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), approved by 58 governments. IAASTD, in its 22 Findings, called for a radical change in science, technology and practice towards a more agroecological and knowledge intensive form of food production in order to eradicate hunger, improve equity and restore the environment, all of which are being damaged by the increasingly promoted industrial food system. Practical Action was one of only 6 NGOs on the governing Bureau of this assessment.

    Token contrary voices were included in the Forum. One was mine and an edited extract of my contribution can be found here

    I ask this question, for whom is the Report designed?  It is clearly designed to impress somebody, but who?  Is it the Chief Executive Officers who gathered in Davos at the World Economic Forum?  Is it Government Ministries and programmes?  Is it industry?  Is it in fact a bid for funding and for acceptance of new technologies, particularly GMOs, wrapped in green clothing?

    I think there are some serious questions to be asked of this report. It is not really acceptable to many of us, and I am sorry that it has not been able to build properly on the IAASTD process, neither in content nor in process.

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  • Blind faith – Biotech scientists’ report skews off target

    Brussels, Belgium, Brussels
    January 24th, 2011

    The UK’s Foresight report, Global Food and Farming Futures, delivered by the UK’s Chief Scientist John Beddington on 24 January 2011, provides few surprises and offers no new proposals.

    It could have been different and saved the taxpayer a lot of money had government and the scientific establishment not been so ‘willfully deaf’ about recognising and taking forward the findings of the World Bank and UN sponsored global scientific assessment of the future of agriculture – the IAASTD reports (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) – approved by the UK government and 57 others in 2008.

    IAASTD confirmed the proposals of the small-scale farmers’ movement La Via Campesina for securing future food and realising food sovereignty. It found that small-scale, more agroecological and organic production methods, based on local knowledge and especially women’s skills and protected from damaging globalised markets, were the way forward to avert hunger, improve equity and restore the environment now and in the next 40 years.

    What the Foresight report does do, though, is make the almost desperate plea that for UK science to be involved in what it claims is globally relevant research for food and agriculture the UK must embrace GM foods – a somewhat odd conclusion given that most people in the world eat GM-free food produced locally by small-scale food providers – farmers, livestock keepers, artisanal fishers. Perhaps that is the motivation for investing so much time and money in the Foresight process – to force acceptance of GM foods in the UK? Once accepted, and it does not matter if the GMOs proposed by Beddington et al are ecologically attuned or patented or not, it will open the floodgates for the Monsantos and Syngentas to swamp British and European agriculture and our food system with their single gene and rather ineffective seeds and the GM food products that result. Watch the documentary “Food Inc” and its portrayal of the dysfunctional GM dominated US food system that forces farmers to brink of existence, if you want to know what could lie in store

    The way forward, as we are informed by the small-scale food providers themselves, is to secure future food through biodiverse, climate-resilient, ecological practices of the majority of local food providers, protected within the framework of food sovereignty. These are the most productive methods using land and water efficiently, increasing agricultural biodiversity and maximising ecosystem functions in every locality. If UK science could get off its biotech pedestal and find ways of supporting social movements, that are working to strengthen their members’ local, diverse small-scale food systems, then it might become relevant.

    Practical Action has first-hand experience over more than 40 years of working with small-scale food providers of their ability of to grow enough food for themselves, their communities and provide excess for the market. What they say is their priority is to have protection of their rights: to have access to, and to be able to grow, food, using their GM-free seeds and livestock breeds; to access and use their land and the water they need for their crops, livestock and fish ponds; to have exclusive access to their coastal fishing grounds, which should be protected from industrial fishing boats; and to have their markets protected from speculators and underpriced imports. They want these rights guaranteed in the framework of food sovereignty, and research to support their ecological food provision, so that they can continue to feed the world. Now, there’s a challenge for UK science and for the UK government in its advocacy in international negotiations.

    Patrick Mulvany, Senior Policy Adviser, Practical Action
    Brussels, 24 Jan 2011

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  • My view on Channel 4’s ‘What the Green Movement Got Wrong’

    Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
    November 9th, 2010

    Channel 4 television showed a biased and factually flawed ‘documentary’ What the Green Movement Got Wrong on Thursday 4th November followed by a slightly more balanced debate, which I personally witnessed from the audience. It caused a small storm of reactions in UK media both before and after screening.

    A letter of complaint about bias and the non-representation of legitimate Southern voices from the global South, was sent to the head of Channel 4 by 50 individuals/organisations from the South. This letter can be seen here and was referred to in the Guardian article on 4th November. Further comments from Africans can be seen here.

    Up until 8th November, the only comments that had been in the newspapers had come from what the media consider ‘environment’ organisations and commentators (see examples below).

    To balance this out, World Development Movement coordinated a letter to the Guardian newspaper in order to add a viewpoint from ‘development’ organizations, including ourselves, expressing concern about the bias of the ‘documentary’. The letter is titled “Greed not Greens Cause Hunger“, signed by Deborah Doane, Director, World Development Movement; Andrew Scott Director, Policy and Programmes, Practical Action; John Hilary, Executive Director, War on Want; and me, Patrick Mulvany, as Chair, UK Food Group.

    Its main points are that the documentary was biased, as seen from a development perspective, that the solutions to hunger lie elsewhere and that sustainable food production methods are needed, not GM.

    We call this form of production ‘ecological food provision’, methods that have been developed by small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk over millennia. They are resilient and provide not only healthy food, produced as locally as possible, but they also secure livelihoods and sustain the environment and biodiversity. For more on this see the UK Food Group Briefing “Securing Future Food“. Genetically engineered crops and livestock containing elite, patented genes, have no place in these systems.

    What is needed are diverse, multi-trait, crops and livestock that can adapt to local ecosystems, through careful selection and development by the small-scale food providers themselves. This is what has given us the agricultural biodiversity that feeds the world.

    Channel 4 would be advised to make another documentary to describe why these small-scale producers, for example those who are represented by the international farmers’ movement La Vía Campesina, who provide food for most people in the world, are not calling for GM technologies, especially those that are beyond their control. They are calling for political will from governments to take on the corporate lobbyists and protect their land, natural resources, ecological production systems and markets, so as to realise food sovereignty. (For more on this, see the Practical Action Briefing Paper: Food Sovereignty: towards democracy in localised food systems)

    Pasted below are links to further articles and commentary as well as the responses from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace and a link to the documentary and debate, which can be seen on line until the end of November 2010.

    What the environmental movement got right: activists respond to Channel 4 film – The

    When will Stewart Brand admit he was wrong? | George Monbiot | Environment |

    C4’s What the Green Movement Got Wrong: environmentalists respond | Environment |

    Greens angered over C4 claims they ’caused starvation’ – Africa, World – The

    What the Green Movement Got Wrong: A turncoat explains – [See Comments] –

    And from the environment organisations themselves

    What the green movement got right | Greenpeace

    Friends of the Earth: What Channel 4 got wrong about the green

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  • News from Nagoya – Biodiversity, Agriculture and Climate Change

    November 3rd, 2010

    I was not able to go to 10th Conference of the Convention on Biodiversity,CBD/COP10, in Nagoya , the first COP I’ve missed since 1996, but have been following its proceedings closely online and kept up to date. We were jointly responsible for the CSO position on Agricultural Biodiversity that was presented at the COP. The Conference came to a close after a lengthy 3 weeks of negotiations at 2:59am last Saturday morning. The Independent had high profile front page coverage later that morning.

    The results of the Nagoya negotiations underscore the value to all of us of this multilateral Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for sustaining life on Earth, even if the results were less than we had hoped and caused significant concern among many delegates from Africa And Latin America, especially Bolivia*. See ENB report of CBD/COP10

    The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing and the 20 voluntary Aichi Targets**, the most publicised results of the conference, may halt the decline in biodiversity and its ecosystem functions by 2020 but other decisions could have more immediate impact.

    • Governments also agreed the Nagoya/Kuala Lumpur supplementary Protocol which makes corporations and others liable for any damage caused by the international spread of GMOs.
    • They agreed in the agricultural biodiversity decision to build on the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) which would ensure global food production becomes more ecological, productive and biodiverse.
    • They also banned any public or private geoengineering projects, experiments and adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat: the Royal Society and its partners should now be obliged to cancel its Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative and put its weight behind the CBD process, recognising the collective decision of 192 governments that it is the CBD which should govern geoengineering policy.

    The UK government / DEFRA, a strong supporter of the CBD ensure its policies and programmes also reinforce ALL these vital multilateral decisions and reduce its commitment to funding more REDD projects***.

    All in all the outputs from Nagoya are many times better than those that have been and are likely to be achieved in other multilateral forums including: the global conference in The Hague this week on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, about which many CSOs have expressed concern including Practical Action and about 100 others from across the world; and the climate change conference, UNFCCC/COP 16, in Cancun in December, which will agree nothing of particular use for changing behaviours of the mega-polluters, unless things change dramatically.

    The stakes are high and much could yet be achieved if the challenge of biodiversity conservation and development, realised to some extent in Nagoya, is explicitly added to what Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food said in his Guardian Blog on World Food Day about climate change and agricultural development being tackled in tandem: “We can improve the resilience of agriculture to climate change by combining diverse crops on the same farm, by planting more trees, and by developing water harvesting techniques to moisture the soil. The classic “green revolution” approaches should be fundamentally rethought to achieve this. Agriculture, now part of the problem of climate change, should be made part of the solution.

    CBD Blog

    More on


     * Despite the hype, there were very strong concerns expressed by several governments, especially from Latin America, that the new ‘innovative funding mechanisms’ that have been agreed may not deliver significant benefits to local communities; that they are thinly veiled licences to commodify and privatise nature; and that these mechanisms will also be linked to carbon trading in the frame of the climate change convention. Bolivia did the right thing in the final plenary and got good text into a crucial decision expressing concerns about ‘innovative financing mechanisms’ and against TEEB, a precious UK-supported project that will increase pressure to commodify and privatise nature; and Bolivia also managed to include the first reference in a formal UN decision to the energetic and purposeful Cochabamaba World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. See ENB report of CBD/COP10


     ** The Aichi Targets include one on genetic diversity: “By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species,  is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented  for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity;”


     *** Below is the official statement from the UK minister. Others can unpick the language better than me but beware the “£100m for international forestry projects”… The money comes from the new international climate finance included in the Comprehensive Spending Review, which will include new money for the UK’s contribution to REDD+ … Many fear REDD will increase the commodification of forest carbon and is unlikely to reduce the exploitation and destruction of forests and their biodiversity, see, for example, Friends of the Earth International’s December 2009 publication REDD Myths.

    UK: Statement From Environment Secretary- New Agreement Reached In Nagoya

    Source: Department For Environment Food And Rural Affairs

    Published Monday, 1 November, 2010 – 03:53

    Caroline Spelman today welcomed the new agreement reached in Nagoya for setting targets to protect the natural environment.

    Caroline Spelman said:

    “These have been long and hard negotiations, but we have successfully achieved a new global plan to help protect our natural environment. We have also agreed an historic protocol which has been 18 years in the making, establishing a regime where developing countries will allow access to their genetic and natural resources in return for a share of the benefits for their use.

    “The new agreement states we will take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of habitats and species in order to ensure that by 2020 our natural environment is resilient and can continue to provide the essential services that we would otherwise take for granted. This will secure the planet’s variety of life, our well being and help eradicate poverty.

    “We have also secured an agreement to link climate change, global poverty and biodiversity together in protecting the world’s forests, which is essential if we are to achieve our aims in these areas. This was a key objective for the UK and this week I announced £100 million specifically to fund biodiversity projects in forest regions.

    “I and my colleagues from other EU member states have learnt the tough lessons from other negotiations and worked tirelessly at this conference to find common ground amongst nations so that this agreement can be reached.

    “We will now take this binding framework forward and put the key elements into effect in the Natural Environment White Paper to be published in spring 2011.”

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  • World Food Day

    September 27th, 2010

    “Feeding people is easy” says Colin Tudge in his eponymous book – so why do we live with the scourge of hunger?

    There is currently enough food in the world but greed limits access. Now, nearly one billion people go to bed hungry each night while both the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk who provide food for most of the world’s peoples, and the environment upon which they depend are being trashed. Enough food is available today but is not distributed equitably. More could be made available for the world’s growing population but only if we embrace localised, ecological production methods – our current lurch into industrial food is unsustainable. We need a radical change in our food system, one that prioritises people’s need for food produced sustainably and as locally as possible. World Food Day, on 16th October, provides an annual reminder of this scourge and our obligations to change the system.

    From bottom to top we need change…

    Practical Action has worked for many decades with poor communities that are adapting technologies such as compost making, floating gardens and different forms of rainwater harvesting to secure their food supplies. We engage with movements of small-scale food providers, such as La Via Campesina, the global peasant farmers movement, in their call for food sovereignty – increasing control of localized food systems. And we join them in lobbies of governments and international agencies to call for the radical changes needed.

    We have the opportunity to promote a better food system. Since the 2007/8 speculation driven global food price crisis and the riots in 30 countries that sparked a rapid response from many fearful governments, food and agriculture have been at the top of the political and news agenda. There are many proposals, meetings, conferences, programmes that are meant to find solutions… but will they?

    In September, Governments met in New York to wring their hands over their abject failure to move towards realising the Millennium Development Goals – one of which is to halve hunger.

    In October, they meet in Rome to set in motion a new system for governing global food and agriculture so that hunger is eliminated, rural livelihoods secured and the agricultural environment restored, but vested interests will undermine this.

    Later, they meet in Nagoya, Japan to lament their failure to halt biodiversity losses yet if they ensured the necessary changes in food and farming towards more ecological and biodiverse production that would reverse these losses and keep biodiversity alive on-farm.

    And in December, they meet in Cancun to stem climate change; little will be agreed, yet millions of the world’s small-scale food providers have climate-friendly solutions that will be ignored. While global governance is needed, at present it is not delivering: shadowy corporations, more interested in capturing markets and ecosystems to fuel profits, keep the solutions at bay.

    With the heightened popular interest in food, now is the time to take action, contesting the inaction of governments and unreservedly promoting the diverse and productive food system driven by millions of small-scale producers that we know will deliver – food sovereignty. Following in the footsteps of our prescient founder EF Schumacher, who called for a multiplicity of local solutions proliferating into an unstoppable movement for change, Practical Action is committed to help realise this

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