In the opening session of Agriculture and Rural Development Day, which was held today in parallel with Rio+20 and focused on “agriculture’s journey from Durban to Rio+20 and beyond,” the main questions the speakers addressed were “where is agriculture going and how can it get there.”
The first speaker, Jorge Alberto Portanova Mendes Ribeiro Filho, Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply, considered these questions from the perspective of where his country’s agriculture has come from over the last 2 decades. It has made a remarkable journey indeed.
Strong investment in research and technological innovation has helped triple Brazil’s food production since 1992, moving the country from dependence on imported food to self-sufficiency and turning it into a major food exporter. In the process, agriculture has helped reduce poverty by creating jobs and raising incomes. Moreover, said Ribeiro, Brazil has demonstrated that agricultural development, by striving for “clean food systems,” can be “in harmony with a modern vision of sustainable development.”
In subsequent remarks, Izabella Vieira Teixeira, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment argued that “only a myopic vision could see the goals of food security and environmental preservation as being incompatible.” And she urged the agricultural and environmental sectors to build bridges of dialogue that lead to reconciliation between the goals of a competitive agriculture and reduced deforestation.
This was also a key message from Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development and CGIAR Fund Council Chair, who observed that, since the last United Nations Climate Change Conference at Durban, South Africa, the dialogue on this issue, having emerged from “sectoral silos,” now extends increasingly across sectors. She urged ARDD participants to hold a “landscape day” next year, which reflects this focus on integrated approaches to landscape management. She also advocated a “sense of urgency” about getting research results into the hands of rural people.
In that regard, she said, Brazil’s achievements are “frankly humbling” for the rest of the world; “this is not the same country that hosted the Earth Summit.”