The Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD)

Durban, South Africa – This was the third such ARDD day – the first was during the Copenhagen COP, and some of us went along on the 3rd to keep an eye on what was going on. The ARDD is organised by “a consortium of major actors in agriculture and rural development” including Rockefeller Foundation, the Global Donor Platform to Rural Development, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and plenty more. See: http://www.agricultureday.org/about.

One reason why this is so important for GFC is that many of this consortium want to bring REDD+ and agriculture together under what they are now calling climate-smart agriculture. For example, FAO wants to “build bridges” between REDD+ and agriculture in order, it says, to address agriculture’s role as a driver of deforestation. It proposes what it calls an integrated landscape approach to bring the whole land surface, including forests and agriculture into the different carbon finance funds, CDM, Green Climate Fund and NAMAs.

Of course finance is a major issue. Governments are certainly not prepared to commit the funds that are required. We are going through major economic turbulence and collapse, caused by the finance sector, and the governments of the North have bailed out the banks. Yet still we are told that the markets will save us. And, of course, in the context of the UNFCCC, these are the carbon markets. Currently carbon markets are failing. The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) is the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world. On Monday 21st November 2011, Carbon permits fell to the lowest level seen since February 2009 – around 8 euros. Traders playing the markets are saying the price could fall as low as 3 euros.

So it seems that the World Bank intends to make a big effort to try and boost the carbon markets by massively expanding them to cover forests and agriculture – effectively trying to put the whole landscape into the market. The World Bank is a member of the Global Donor Programme, part of the Consortium behind ARDD.

Promoting an agriculture programme in SBSTA

Now for a few words about the ARDD itself. The two people who opened the event were:

• Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa

• Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development and CGIAR Fund Council Chair.

A major aim of these two speakers and the event as a whole was clearly to promote the call for a programme on agriculture in the SBSTA – the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to the Climate Convention. Such a programme is strongly opposed by La Via Campesina, who represent millions of the people the ARDD consortium claim to want to help. It is also opposed by many networks and countries in the South, but is wanted by New Zealand, Australia and other Northern countries. Now some African governments are also calling for it, led by South Africa.

The organisers of the meeting produced a letter from ARDD to COP17 calling for an agriculture programme in SBSTA. See http://www.agricultureday.org/openletter.

Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO and Head of Mission, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) spoke as if she had been trained by a public relations firm: she spoke like an advertising promotion and kept saying No agriculture, no deal, and calling on the minister to “take our message to the COP”.

Climate-smart and sustainable intensification – what do they mean

These terms have recently appeared in the discourse about agriculture. They are supposed to lead us to the brave new agriculture of the future. We are told that climate-smart agriculture will increase agricultural productivity sustainably, promote climate change adaptation, mitigate by removing and reducing GHG, and support food production … and support development goals… Although we are assured it will help smallholders, it could equally well benefit industrial agriculture. Sustainable intensification, apparently, means producing more from the same piece of land while reducing the environmental and climate impacts. But new terms won’t solve our problems. We know what is needed – all that is missing is the political commitment to develop the right policy frameworks.

During the ARDD day there was a lot of talk about the importance of supporting smallholder farmers. But this observer can’t help wondering if this just indicates that the language has changed, but not the fundamental approach. La Via Campesina, an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers said today: “a whole week has passed at the COP 17 talks and La Via Campesina is severely dismayed at the attempts of the developed countries to further escape their historic responsibility to make real emission cuts and push for more false and market based solutions to the climate crisis”.

Helena Paul, Econexus

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