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FAO Symposia

In 2018, the International Agri-Food Network coordinated delegations to two major Symposia hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy: 

FAO 2nd International Symposium on Agroecology, April 3-5, 2018

Agroecology brings together scientific disciplines, social concepts and practices. The scientific core of agroecology is based on applying ecological concepts and principles to optimize interactions between plants, trees, animals, humans and the environment. In addition, agroecology places social issues at the centre of solutions for a sustainable and fair food system. As a set of practices, agroecology provides multiple benefits to society and the environment, by restoring ecosystem services and biodiversity. Thanks to its integrated approach, agroecology is key to boost food and nutrition security, while improving the resilience of agro-ecosystems.

In 2014, the 1st International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition provided an opportunity to share experiences and build the evidence base on agroecology, as well as reaching a consensus on the priorities for achieving more sustainable food systems through agroecology. It also endorsed FAO’s role in supporting further implementation and promotion of agroecological approaches.

Following the international symposium, FAO facilitated a Global Dialogue that involved approximately 1,350 multi-stakeholder participants from 162 member countries, taking part in a series of regional meetings in 2015 and 2016. The Global dialogue showcased the important contribution of agroecology. The 2nd International Symposium will synthesize and build on the outcomes of the regional meetings, and provide an opportunity to share and discuss policies that can help scale-up and scale-out agroecology in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Highlights of IAFN’s work at the Symposium on Agroecology included:

  • Hosting a special dinner and panel discussion on Agroecology for Member States, attended by over 50 guests. The event was moderated by Mr. Donald Moore, CEO of the Global Dairy Platform and 2017-18 Chair of the IAFN. 
  • Members participated in bilaterals with key member states.
  • Participation by 17 members of business and industry in the full agenda of the Symposium, with focus on a panel on Multistakeholder Dialogue and Engagement. 

FAO International Symposium on Agricultural Innovation for Family Farmers, November 19-21, 2018

At this event, which took place in the build-up to the start of the Decade of Family Farmers 2019-2028, the FAO brought together over 600 participants from governments, IGOs, civil society, private sector, and the research community to discuss agricultural innovation.

The objectives of the Innovation Symposium were: 

  1. To serve as a global knowledge sharing and partnership platform to better understand the potential of innovation in agriculture to address the Sustainable Development Goals, with a special focus on supporting smallholder and family farmers; 
  2. To increase understanding of the drivers of innovation and the main constraints; 
  3. To propose processes, pathways and interventions needed to unlock the potential of innovation in agriculture and scaling up inclusive innovations;
  4. To celebrate inspiring success stories of innovation and innovators in sustainable agriculture;
  5. To act as a catalyst for boosting partnerships as well as public and private investments to foster and scale up agricultural innovation.

The Symposium was characterized by two fundamental approaches to innovation for family farmers: the first views innovation as something that needs to be provided to farmers, with a focus on further engaging young farmers, while the second views farmers as innovators with a proven history of defining creative approaches to agricultural challenges. Despite these two competing approaches, all attendees agreed that family farmers, who produce 80% of the world food, should be at the core of policymaking around innovation. There was also widespread consensus on the fact that innovation does not only pertain to technology, but all processes, practices, products, and social and institutional changes that meaningfully impact the pursuit of SDG2. The event’s working definition of agricultural innovation was “the process whereby individuals or organizations bring new or existing products, processes or ways of organisation into use for the first time in a specific context in order to increase effectiveness, competitiveness, resilience to shocks or environmental sustainability and hereby contribute to food security and nutrition, economic development or sustainable natural resource management.”

The official Symposium photo album is available on FAOs Flickr account, here: 

Key achievements for IAFN during the Innovation Symposium included: 

  • A delegation of 45 registered attendees, including 9 youth representatives, from 17 countries. 
  • A special event on Tuesday, November 20th: Investing in Innovation, a panel discussion and roundtable talks with 25 private sector innovators. This event was attended by a full house of 60 people, including many ambassadors and high-level representatives, and was moderated by H.E Maria Cristina Boldorini of Argentina. 
  • A continuation of the Future of Farming side event held during CFS45, this time with new speakers and perspectives. The event was moderated by H.E Yaya Adisa Olaitan Olaniran of Nigeria. The side event was well attended by 55 Symposium attendees. Speakers at this event were: 
  • 2 speaking roles by members of the youth delegation at the Youth as Drivers of Innovation event, moderated by H.E Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands. 
  • A moderator’s role held by Ms. Hlami Ngwenya of South Africa. 
  • Earlier in the week, over 40 private sector representatives attended the 1st CFS Intersessional Event on the Food Security and Nutrition Impacts of Urbanization and Rural Transformation on Lower-Income Groups. XX (BRIAN) interventions were made by members of the private sector over the course of this event. 

Other highlights of the event included:

  • The announcement of two awards:
    • Award for Digitalization and Innovation for Sustainable Food Systems (USD $40,000): for innovations that impact more than one level of supply chain and strengthen the link between farmers and consumers
    • Award for Innovations that empower youth in agriculture and food systems (USD $20,000): For innovations that empower youth (under 35) in agriculture and food systems
    • The nomination forms, terms, and conditions for both of these awards can be found here
  • An announcement by H.E Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands that he will be leading a proposal to create a Youth Council to the Rome-Based agencies. 
  • FAO’s Director General announcing the creation of a dedicated unit on Innovation within FAO. He also announced the creation of an Innovation Fund, to facilitate contributions from the private sector. 
  • The full Chair’s Summary of the Symposium can be found here