More than 3,000 players concerned by questions related to agriculture, biodiversity, food, and land use planning met in Paris, in the midst of COP 21, to attend the fourth edition of the Global Landscapes Forum (previously held in Warsaw, Lima and London). Objective 2015: to forge solutions to the great climate and planetary development challenges, thanks to sustainable land use.
In addition to its nourishing function, land is also a tremendous carbon sink. Soil is actually the #1 carbon reservoir in the world, with 615 billion tons held below the first 20 centimeters and another 2,300 billion at more than 3 meters deep.
Over and above its role within the natural ecosystem, land is also a source of jobs. For example, there are 570 million small farms around the world, 72% of them less than a hectare (2.5 acres) in size. These agricultural concerns provide a source of livelihood for 1 billion people, accounting for 40% of jobs and 70% of food needs worldwide.
And yet, these small-scale farms are going broke. Some farmers have fled toward increasingly overpopulated cities, where the demand for food can be expected to increase significantly. To meet this challenge and implement sustainable solutions, investments will be necessary.
Companies that purchase their supplies from these small farms are on the front lines of this effort. Thanks to their access to new technologies and cutting-edge research, they possess powers of innovation that country farmers simply do not. In this way, they can contribute to the creation of a new, sustainable economic model. And this was precisely the crux of the discussions held on December 5.
It is time to re-synchronize our food systems. Emmanuel Faber, Danone CEO
During his plenary-session speech, Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber opened the debate, asserting that “it is time to re-synchronize our food systems.” Based on that statement, the discussion was extended in a workshop led by the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (Livelihoods 3F), with the participation of its partners Danone and Mars, Inc., on the subject of “Shaping sustainable supply chains of the future: How to create links between smallholder farmers, companies sourcing raw materials, and the environment.”
Let’s get rich together!
During the first round table, Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mars, and Pascal de Petrini, EVP Strategic Resource Cycles at Danone, first revisited the strategic reasons that drove their companies and others to “reconnect” with individual farmers and promote sustainable agriculture. “Investing in small farms is not just a moral imperative; it’s good for business,” maintained Barry Parkin. Because for them, there is an urgent need to implement new agricultural models in order to increase production and ensure a sustainable supply, while still improving the farmers’ standards of living. This necessity was reiterated by Manoj Kumar, CEO of the India-based Naandi Foundation, who believes that this new world order needs to be created in consultation with rural communities, to ensure that everyone’s interests are being met.
While investing in thousands of small-scale farms may still seem like a risky bet to many, examples of project success stories are multiplying around the world.
While investing in thousands of small-scale farms may still seem like a risky bet to many, examples of project success stories are multiplying around the world. Tony Simons, Director General of ICRAF (World Agroforestry Centre), a research organization that works with the private sector on a large number of field projects, recalled that, more than the investment itself, it’s the method that counts. None of the stakeholders – be they companies, NGOs or farmers – can be the solution on their own. And in this shift toward resilient supply chains, farmers should be the primary drivers for change in the production of raw materials. As for companies, it is in their best interest to make long-term investments to secure their future supplies and boost their innovative capacities. “We purchase 180 different crops from the four corners of the world. And 90% of our suppliers are small farmers. So what would we do if they stopped their production?” Dominique Roques, Firmenich’s Head of Naturals Sourcing, later chimed in.
At a second round table, Marco Cerezo, Founder of the NGO Fundaeco in Guatemala, and Dominique Roques went on to spotlight the largest reforestation project in Guatemala. The initiative is being co-run by the Guatemalan Government, the Livelihoods Carbon Fund (the predecessor to the Fund for Family Farming) and Fundaeco, and aims to replant 5 million trees and other plant species, including coffee, cardamom and pineapple, and to enable 12,000 local farmers to boost their revenue.
“All of the reasons presented over the course of the day provide a clear justification for the creation of the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming,” concluded Bernard Giraud, President of Livelihoods Venture. Established just a few months ago, in partnership with Danone and Mars, and now further bolstered by Firmenich and Veolia, this second investment fund relies on a new, sustainable mechanism that is in line with social business. Its medium-term objective is to make the expression, “win-win,” a social, economic and ecological reality.
Find out more about Livelihoods Funds here.
Photo © : Livelihoods / Global Landscape Forum