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High-level sustainable agriculture dialogue in Kampala addresses urgent need for change 

(Last Updated On: 18 October 2023)

Kampala I On October 17, government ministers, executives from different organizations and experts from Eastern and Southern Africa commenced a dialogue aimed at improving the agriculture sector.

Convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and under the leadership of the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, the convention, ending Wednesday, is discussing regional common ground for mainstreaming sustainable agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The event is convened under the theme: “Promoting Sustainable Farming Approaches for Conserving Biodiversity and Enhancing Food Production.”

It is sponsored by IKEA Foundation which aims to promote a resilient and sustainable farming approach that restores and conserves biodiversity while enhancing food systems management across Eastern and Southern Africa.

The common ground dialogues on agriculture, according to the IUCN, ASARECA and other partners, in a joint statement represent a series of conversations across national, regional, and international levels, focusing on actionable solutions to common agricultural challenges.

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“These discussions aim to foster convergence on priority actions and policy instruments that incentivize land health in key agricultural value chains and landscapes. The dialogue builds on a momentum created from the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 that took place on 4 – 8 September 2023 in Dar-es-Salaam which underpinned the need for strategies and actions to support recovery and regenerative practices so as to achieve sustainable food systems,” says the statement.

The joint statement further reads, “It also addresses the pressing need to shift from prevailing agricultural paradigms that have prioritized production at the expense of soil health, water, biodiversity, and long-term sustainability. The event is a response to studies that link unsustainable consumption and production patterns to climate change, water depletion, biodiversity loss, and pollution crises. This has a direct impact on human well-being and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.”

In line with this regional common dialogue, Luther Anukur, Regional Director for IUCN Eastern and Southern Regional Office, stated, “This dialogue is a crucial step towards aligning agricultural practices with Nature with the aim of protecting biodiversity and natural resources as well as ensuring that farming communities will be able to adapt to climate change in the future.”

The event also highlights the critical role of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in promoting sustainable agriculture. NbS, based on the premise that healthy ecosystems provide essential benefits to humanity, simultaneously support biodiversity, reduce emissions, secure water resources, and enhance food security.

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“The prevailing agricultural paradigm, which focused on maximizing production through standardized processes, depleted soil fertility, degraded soil and above-ground biodiversity, and undermined the resilience of farming systems. To counter these challenges, we must embrace Nature-Based Solutions (NbS). NbS, when implemented effectively, secures significant benefits for humans, society, and the environment,” Minister of State for Agriculture, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga said.

Smallholder farmers, the backbone of global food production, are especially vulnerable to climate change. ASARECA, recognizing this challenge, has resolved to promote climate-smart agricultural innovations for enhanced productivity, resilience, and livelihoods of millions across the 15 ASARECA countries.

“This dialogue is a call to action for all stakeholders in agriculture. Together, we have an opportunity to transform the way we farm, ensuring the prosperity of both people and the planet,” said Dr. Enock Warinda, Executive Director of ASARECA.

Agriculture

During the two-day event, stakeholders will be able to share experiences and best practices in sustainable agriculture from various Eastern and Southern African countries; and identify priority actions for transforming food systems at both regional and national levels.

They will discuss fostering collaboration between policy decision-makers, farmer federations, ASARECA members, and private sector players in food systems in support of sustainable agriculture initiatives in the region.

Dr Yusuf Nkungula, Malawi’s Permanent Secretary for Natural Resources and Climate Change graced the event, stating, “Today’s dialogue marks a pivotal moment in our collective pursuit of sustainable agriculture. By prioritizing innovative and resilient farming practices, we are not only safeguarding biodiversity and natural resources but also securing a resilient future for farming communities in the face of climate change.”

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The partnership between IUCN and ASARECA is further bolstered by the support of IKEA, Pernod Ricard, and the French Development Agency. This coalition’s shared goal is to accelerate the global transition to sustainable agriculture, recognizing that adopting Nature-based Solutions is critical to addressing food and water security, climate change, and societal challenges.

By prioritizing land health through sustainable agriculture, organisers and participants believe the Kampala dialogue will improve crop production, biodiversity conservation, human well-being, and overall climate change resilience.

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