Nature+ Food: Key messages from the IUCN Congress Forum

Food Security was the main theme at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on Saturday 8 Sept. A high-level Leaders Dialogue took place and many sessions, workshops and meetings focused on conservation issues related to agricultural landscapes. Out of these, the following trends were noted:


"Tinkering at the margins does not help; food security needs structural changes. We can feed the world but we need to think more innovatively and globally" -- Amita Shah, Gujarat institute of Development Research.

Ecosystem services serve as a foundation for an integrated approach to food security

Ecosystem services and nature-based solutions can provide a strong foundation for rethinking food security and sustainable food production. Food production needs to integrate resilient ecosystems with diverse systems of production, taking into account community and gender rights.

There is a clear need to compile and disseminate knowledge to influence policy and practice, in particular around:
• The importance of diverse ecosystems in providing resilient food systems
• The importance of conserving wild resources that contribute to food security

As noted in a workshop, a joint statement of experts from biodiversity conventions made it clear:

Biodiversity can indeed help alleviate hunger and poverty, can promote human health, and be the basis for ensuring freedom and equity for all.”

The true cost of food needs to be reflected in price

"A sustainable way of life is only possible when prices reflect the real cost of production" -- IUCN Tweet

To promote food security, the price of food needs to reflect the actual cost of production including the impact on biodiversity and ecosystems – which is referred to as “natural capital accounting”.

To foster global food security there is need to create tools that measure the contributions of biodiversity and ecosystem processes to food production. It is essential that the benefits derived from natural systems that support food productions be taken into account when valuing the agricultural products -- especially those that are linked to maintaining crucial ecosystems services. Managers of agricultural systems need to be aware of the immediate and downstream environmental and social costs of food production. A base line standard for “natural capital accounting would go a long way to achieving this goal.

At a national, and even regional scale, it is crucial that the contributions of nature be recognized for their contributions to national/regional economies. To achieve global food security, social and environmental costs should be taken into account when calculating costs of food production. The discussion must go beyond profit and subsidies and focus on how to promote competitive advantage to those who internalize ecological costs.

To achieve global food security requires a spectrum of capacities ranging from local farmers/fishers to large industrial-scale production

Small and medium scale farming and community managed food production play an important role in food security as well as in conservation of natural resources. Lessons can be learned from small-scale fisheries in coastal areas, community-based forest management strategies that recognize the importance of traditional management systems, and promote sustainable livelihoods.

The role ecosystems play in augmenting rural incomes and providing resources for food production needs to be documented and communicated to policy makers.

As noted in the World Leaders Dialogue, there is no doubt that food production and conservation can be compatible if adequate policies are developed and implemented.

Trends and comments compiled by IUCN communications staff at Congress.

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