During the last day of the WFO General Assembly, on May 23, attendees had the opportunity to participate in a full-day High-level Session that included four panels of discussions with global experts on Agriculture and Food Systems.The main topic of the debate was “Investing in Farmers’ Solutions for Resilient Food Systems with a Positive Impact on Nature”, which was analysed from four different perspectives. Mr Dimitri Houtart, BBC Rural Affairs Champion, moderated the panels.
WFO PRESIDENT’S OPENING REMARKS
The last day of the WFO GA 2023 started with the WFO President, Mr Arnold Puech d’Alissac addressing the attendees with a speech that highlighted how the world has suddenly changed, in the last few years, due to several conditions that have shaken the international community, in many ways. He underlined that these changes have created multiple crises in the agricultural sector, that the farmers are still struggling to cope with, especially the younger generations of farmers, who face these challenges in the present while taking the responsibility of leading the future.
The WFO President summarized those crises in ‘Four C’. “The first C stands for conflict” – he remarked – “Unfortunately, several devastating conflicts are disrupting people’s lives in different regions of the world, increasing food insecurity, and causing unimaginable damages and losses.”
Then he moved to the second C, the costs of production, which have increased everywhere in the world, with a limited margin for the farmers, who are struggling between the higher costs of inputs because of the uncertainty in their availability and the higher costs of energy for production at farm level.
“Climate is indeed the third C” – said WFO President – “the impact of Climate Change on Agriculture is affecting very strongly the predictability of harvesting, the seasonality of products, the planning capacity of farmers for the seeding period and the overall capacity of farmers to cope with all these challenges. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth C, has created disrupting conditions to the farmers’ capacity to access markets, also exacerbating their difficulties in trade at all levels, local with the lockdowns and global with the stop in the transportation sector, in all countries”.
Mr Arnold Puech d’Alissac then added a fifth C: “the one I like the most and it is also the spirit of this WFO Annual meeting, and it is the ‘C’ that stands for Cooperation among stakeholders, Co-creation from all the actors in agriculture, Co-development of policies, Capacity building of farmers. This ‘C’ is the one that sees all of us together addressing these challenges, adopting a multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral approach”.
Mr Arnold Puech d’Alissac closed his inspiring speech with an encouragement to all the WFO GA attendees to: “embrace the sustainability path with the farmers, starting precisely from the farmers’ solutions and scale them with investments, training, innovation, financial schemes, more efficient policies and programmes in the farming sector. Let’s make it together and I am sure we will win all together!
And with this, I would like to close and leave you with the sixth and last ‘C’: Choice!
Make the right choice and embrace the farmers’ way!
PANEL 1 – INTERNATIONAL TRADE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON NATURE WHILE ENSURING FOOD SECURITY
The panel discussion focused on how agricultural trade policy can improve farmer well-being, food security, economic growth, and environmental outcomes.
Esteemed speakers from diverse backgrounds contributed their expertise to the debate, sharing insights and perspectives.
The panel discussion featured the participation of AJ Mthembu, Acting President of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA); Doaa Abdel Motaal, Senior Counsellor, Agriculture, World Trade Organization (WTO); Fiona Simson, President of the National Farmers Federation (Australia) and newly elected WFO Board Member for Oceania; Kati Partanen, a farmer from Finland and WFO Board Member for Europe; Michael Keller, Secretary General of the International Seed Federation (ISF); Imelda Bacudo, Co-Chair of the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA).
Their diverse perspectives enriched the dialogue and provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities associated with international trade policy to unlock the potential of the agricultural sector to generate a positive impact on nature while ensuring food security.
PANEL 2 – FARMER-DRIVEN INNOVATION IS KEY TO UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR IN RESPONSE TO THE GLOBAL CRISIS
The High-level Session continued with an in-depth debate on how innovation can contribute to the resilience and sustainability of agriculture amid the global crisis.
The panellists included Theo de Jager, Board Chair of the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI); Ana Dias, Head of Biochemistry Excellence at Bayer Crop Science; Philip Thornton, Research and Innovation Strategist at Clim-Eat; Wouter Marinus Kool, General Manager of Rabobank Kenya; Lars Skjoldager Sørensen, Director Product Management Harvesters at New Holland Agriculture (CNH); Marco Camagni, Lead Global Technical Specialist Rural Institutions at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and James Blignaut, Economist and Member of the WFO Scientific Council.
Their expertise and insights contributed to a comprehensive discussion on scaling up farmer-driven innovation mechanisms as an opportunity to unlock sustainable growth in response to the challenges of feeding a growing population despite environmental and social obstacles.
PANEL 3 – REGENERATING LIVESTOCK FARMING. TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE, RESTORING ECOSYSTEMS AND ENSURING A HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS FUTURE FOR ALL
In the afternoon, the spotlight was on the potential of sustainable livestock in addressing climate-related challenges, restoring ecosystems and ensuring a healthy and prosperous future for all.
The panel gathered a diverse group of speakers with diverse backgrounds and expertise, including Katie Milne, Dairy Farmer from New Zealand and former WFO Vice President and Board Member for Oceania; Peer Ederer, Scientist and Member of the WFO Scientific Council; Jerome Barbaron, President, CropLife Africa & Middle East; Sareh Forouzesh, Deputy Director, Just Rural Transition; Shirley Tarawali, Chair of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL); Thanawat Tiensin, Director, Animal Production and Health Division (NSA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The discussion shed light on the potential of sustainable livestock as a driver for positive change, promoting biodiversity, restoring ecosystems, reducing emissions, and ensuring food security and livelihoods.
PANEL 4 – BEYOND THE CRISIS: LOOKING INTO LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS
The High-level Session concluded with an intense, powerful, and fruitful exchange on the multiple crises of the past three years, which have severely impacted the sustainability of food systems. The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread loss of life, pushed millions into poverty, and disrupted value chains. The global economy experienced its deepest recession since World War II, with a contraction of 3.3% in GDP in 2020. Moreover, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has further exacerbated existing burdens, such as bottlenecks in global value chains and market price volatility.
During these challenging times, the recurring theme has been finding solutions: farmers and their organizations, along with other stakeholders, including the private sector and multilateral organizations, have been working tirelessly to enhance resilience and find both short-term and long-term solutions.
The session highlighted the long-term solutions developed by various actors across the value chain to increase resilience, improve preparedness, and pursue fast and sustainable recovery approaches to make food systems more resilient in the face of adversity.
Esteemed speakers joining the debate included David Nabarro, Strategic Director of 4SD; Elizabeth Nsimadala, farmer from Uganda and WFO Board Member for Africa; Maximo Torero Cullen, Chief Economist at Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Adam Gerstenmier, Executive Director of Food Action Alliance; Tzutzuy Ramirez, Head of Climate and Nature at Syngenta Group; Sotha Sok, WFO Board Member for Asia.
Watch the Livestreaming HERE