Where’s the food?

INAUGURATION DAY – It took a while for me to find the room, but I made it! There was an enormous gathering inside of an annex deep within the maze of additional corridors sutured onto the arena. During our first day at the conference one of the most exciting events took place – the very first workshop on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA).

Typically, when people think of “the COP” the first thoughts that pop into their head do not have to do with farms or pesticides, let alone the intricacies of agricultural systems. However, agriculture is one of the most important (if not the most) sector of any country’s national economy. In addition, today’s trends in agricultural practices in both developing and developed countries are far from sustainable. For instance, livestock farming may be an important source of livelihood for farmers but cattle are also a sizable source of greenhouse gas emissions. Congruently, climate change also poses a major threat to food security and nutrition.

In a response, KJWA was created during the UN Climate Conference COP 23 in November of 2018. The idea for this workshop had its public inception during a side event where nearly 120 experts from national and international plan This creation was a nod to the importance of agricultural infrastructure and a step in the direction of making concrete and unique mitigation and adaptation plans for the future. With the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization, there was technical support provided this past year for implementing the rough drafts of the for how their ideas of climate action will be on the ground.

All of this work led them to that moment during the opening speech of the first workshop. The first portion consisted of a series of presentations from the different major entities involved. Each took their time while explaining what they had to offer. Whether it be scientific knowledge, technical guidance or climate finance, each entity laid out how they fit into a part of the puzzle. I’ve got to admit, that this portion was very bureaucratic – the tone was dull and the intent seemed to aimed at fulfilling an obligation.

Slightly disappointed, we broke for lunch and I began to wonder what was the purpose of calling everyone into that room. I spent half of the day observing diplomats just going over things that we could offer. Where was the passion? Where was the action? How will we all be able to eat in 50 years?!

Upon returning to the conference room I could tell that the next segment would be framed very differently. The delegates were carefully arranged around the table so that there was enough space for the majority of each delegation to have easy access to the microphone. There was much more chatter among groups and they were much more assertive in the ways that they spoke with one another. This second half of the workshops was for discussion of views!  Some countries had plans. Some even had pilot studies in the works. For instance, Zambia’s new aim is to integrate their agricultural sector into their general adaptation plans for the future. This included identifying and addressing climate change adaptation measures for the agricultural sectors across 11 other countries under the National Adaptation Plan (NAP-Ag) with the financial assistance of the German Federal Ministry. Thus far, they have created training courses in areas such as cost-benefit analysis, gender mainstreaming, and impact evaluation.

Having never seen such a breadth of detailed national plans that incorporated a seemingly collectivist attitude, I was star-struck. The thought of flaws in the planning hadn’t crossed my mind until the final segment of the day’s workshop began – the plenary discussion. If there was anything worth witnessing that day it was how dialogue works between diplomat from countries with differing stances on agricultural issues. Uruguay noticed several flaws in the proposals, noting that “There should be 3 modalities. 1. KJWA should provide guidelines on what elements should be taken into consideration when promoting agriculture 2. There should be a platform for exchanging knowledge 3. KJWA should map their intentions.” I compared this statement to Kenya, which began “They did not respond to the questions on what are they going to do with the five workshops. How can they help us? There has to be a framework.” It became obvious that some country’s economies are heavily invested in the success of agriculture. Their dependence on this sector pushed them to be more vocal about errors they noticed, to refine approaches and see ideas realistically. Adopting this state of mind seems critical for KJWA success.

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