Timeline

Innovation and Agriculture

We promote balanced and informed discussion about how to support the innovative activities of small-scale farmers
July 2017

New Publication on Reinvigorating the Public Sector: The Case of Food Security, Small-Scale Farmers, Trade and Intellectual Property Rules

In this recently published paper in the Society for International Development (2017), QUNO’s Food & Sustainability Representative Susan H. Bragdon explores the two interlinked trends of using market-based solutions to end hunger and the weakening of the public sector in ensuring local and global food security. She argues that both of these phenomena play an important role in the creation of a modern food system that is harming the health of people and planet. Therefore, she calls upon governments to define and assert their appropriate roles in the protecting the public interest in food security and emphasizes the need for a revitalized public sector. 

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March 2017

QUNO’s Food & Sustainability Releases Three New Publications

Programme Representative Susan H. Bragdon authored three new publications, which were published in March 2017 and are now available online as well as in hard copy.

Are Small-scale Farmers at the Table? Reflections on Small-scale Farmers’ Participation in Global and National Decision-Making provides background and perspective on small-scale farmer representation in international discussions related to food and nutrition security, innovation, climate change, human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals; and makes six recommendations for how multilateral institutions that host negotiations or dialogues can encourage and facilitate the participation of small-scale farmers.

The Foundations of Food Security – Ensuring Support to Small-scale Farmers Managing Agricultural Biodiversity argues that the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) agreements established by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the Convention on Biological Diversity, or the Nagoya Protocol are, and will continue to be, insufficient for generating the benefit necessary to support the innovative activities of small-scale farmers in conserving, managing, and actively developing the majority of the world’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. 

The Evolution of Rights and Responsibilities over Agricultural Biodiversity explores the concerns driving relevant international instruments with the goal of increasing the understanding needed to achieve coherence and mutual support. The paper concludes with suggestions on how to create a system that supports the critical role that agricultural biodiversity plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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March 2017

The Time is Ripe for Governments to Strengthen Sustainable and Food-Secure Farming

In November 2016, QUNO hosted an expert consultation on the role of the public sector in supporting small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity. Over 15 participants from around the world, representing a variety of professional backgrounds, convened to discuss how best to assist governments in determining their roles in ensuring food security and to develop tools for the public sector to create national food policies with small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity at their center. 

One of the outputs of this consultation is The Time is Ripe for Governments to Strengthen Sustainable and Food-Secure Farming, a call-to-action for the international community to mobilize resources for a more proactive role of the public sector in supporting small-scale farmers, their seed systems and the protection of agricultural biodiversity. Furthermore, the paper calls upon national governments to engage in consultation with small-scale farmers to identify what they require in order to effectively engage in activities to support the conversation and sustainable use of biodiversity and to achieve secure livelihoods.

QUNO would like to thank all the participants for their valuable contributions in making this collaborative effort possible. 

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March 2017

QUNO Submits Written Input to the Berlin Charter on Rural Development and Food Security

In March, QUNO submitted a written contribution to The Berlin Charter on rural development and food security that emphasized the importance of small-scale farmers as an agent of change. Support for small-scall farmers is particularly important in the context of rural development and the need to make rural life and the activities of small-scale farmers an attractive option to youth. The Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) invited an international group of high-level experts to develop the The Berlin Charter, which will be presented as an input to the BMZ International Conference on Rural Development entitled One Hunger, Future of the Rural World. This conference will be held in Berlin on April 27-28, 2017.

The Berlin Charter highlights major global trends, challenges and in particular arising opportunities for rural areas. Its aim is to portray a modern and innovation-driven development vision of the rural world, closing with a call for action to the international development community. The Charter is intended to motivate decision-makers to step up to support rural development. More broadly, the Charter is supposed to serve as a roadmap and an inspiration and finally as a reminder of how important rural development is for achieving sustainable global development.

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March 2017

QUNO Submits Written Input to Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food in Humanitarian Contexts

In March 2017, QUNO attended an informal discussion on the Right to Food in humanitarian contexts organized by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Ms. Hilal Elver. Our Food & Sustainability and Peace and Disarmament programmes submitted a joint statement emphasizing the importance of agricultural biodiversity, small-scale farmers, and informal seed systems in humanitarian contexts. QUNO highlighted that resilience is central to any sustained response to food insecurity in crises or crises-prone situations and small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity are central to resilience. Therefore, thoughtful and targeted rehabilitation is necessary to build and consolidate peace while contributing to food security and rural development after a humanitarian crisis has subsided. The full statement is available below.

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March 2017

QUNO Food & Sustainability Programme Delivers Oral Statement at Human Rights Council

The Clustered Interactive Dialogue (ID) on Sustainable Environment and on the Right to Food was held at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. During the event, both the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Mr. John Knox, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Ms. Hilal Elver, presented their findings.

In an oral statement, delivered by Nora Meier, Programme Assistant for Food & Sustainability at the Interactive Dialogue, we commended Mr. Knox for his report and thanked him for recognizing the explicit connection between agricultural biodiversity and global food and nutrition security and the ability to adapt to climate change and other abiotic and biotic stressors. Furthermore, we highlighted that industrial agriculture is the largest driver of biodiversity loss and causing harm to the health of people and our planet. We ended our oral statement by asking Mr. Knox: “What action should States take separately and jointly to support the role of small-scale farmers in managing agricultural biodiversity in order to mitigate and prevent the negative impact on enjoyment of human rights arising from loss of biodiversity?”

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February 2017

QUNO Attends 33rd IGC on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at WIPO

In February 2017, QUNO attended the opening of the 33rd session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. While the last two sessions were concerned with Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge respectively, this week’s meeting will focus on Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs). In particular, the member states will be debating the development of an international legal framework to protect TCEs and will intend to narrow existing gaps and reach common understanding on core issues. This includes the continuing negotiations around policy objectives, beneficiaries, scope of protection, administration of rights, and exceptions and limitations.  

QUNO welcomes the opportunity to be part of this session and will continue to monitor the progress of the negotiations this week. It supports the statements made by the Chair and the Indigenous Caucus, which called on member states to contribute to the Voluntary Fund, which depends on voluntary contributions of member states, has been depleted since 2014. Therefore, the IGC has not been able to provide direct funding for representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to participate in the IGC sessions.

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February 2017

QUNO contributed to GAFSP Monitoring and Evaluation Plan

In February 2017, QUNO’s Food & Sustainability Programme was asked to contribute to the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) document, which is intended to serve as a reference to all Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) stakeholders. The updated plan will guide all new projects in the GAFSP portfolio going forward: on what is required at each stage of the project cycle, including applying and reporting against the GAFSP indicators. GAFSP emphasizes the role of monitoring and evaluation and learning on their website (see link below). Their M&E Plan reflects the strong results-oriented nature of GAFSP fund.

QUNO commends GAFSP for its transparency in seeking input from a wide range of interested parties at this early stage in developing its plan. In her written contribution submitted to the Working Group, Programme Representative Susan H. Bragdon voiced concern with “using [crop] yields as an indicator with no modifier […].”   Industrial agriculture may have increased the yield of some crops but this has come with high environmental costs. Susan therefore suggested “if increase in yields is an indicator, it needs to be yield per units of water and energy and environmental externalities” […], such as Greenhouse Gas emissions, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, Susan emphasized the importance of including “impact on diversity grown and consumed […]” Susan noted this is of particular importance in light of dietary simplification being a cause of ‘hidden hunger’ and the nutrition transition that underpins obesity. Throughout the M&E report, Susan also highlighted the need to explicitly include agricultural biodiversity, in-situ and on-farm, as being critical to the long-term sustainability of any intervention for food and nutrition security.

QUNO is looking forward to the publication of the finalized report and welcomed the opportunity to contribute. 

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January 2017

QUNO attends Global Donor Platform for Rural Development in Brussels

QUNO’s Food and Sustainability (F&S) programme representative Susan H. Bragdon attended the AGA this year to discuss the Agenda 2030 and how the new framework of global development priorities can be supported to achieve food and nutrition security for all.

Today, half the world’s food is produced by 1.5 billion small-scale farmers. However, while small-scale farmers contribute so much to global food security, they are often poor or very poor, and food insecure themselves. Of the hundreds of millions that go hungry daily (almost 1 billion), millions are rural, poor small-scale farmers. Decline in small-scale farmer livelihoods has increased rural-urban migration rates, as 54 percent of the world population now lives in urban areas, which is reducing food production and eroding food security (UNDESA, 2014).

QUNO therefore appreciated the opportunity to participate in the AGA, in particular in the discussions around the role of agriculture considering the new SDGs and the challenges of climate change as they relate to food security, small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity. 

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January 2017

QUNO Attended 16th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Rome 30 January – 3 February 2017

QUNO’s Food and Sustainability (F&S) programme representative Susan H. Bragdon attended the 16th regular session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at the FAO headquarters in Rome from 30 January to 3 February 2017. She closely followed the session, regional consultations, and side events as well as the one-day special event on the Contribution of Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture to Resilience.

The F&S programme team welcomed the opportunity to attend this event and was encouraged by the cross-sectorial work that has been done as well as by the reports and plans of action on plant genetic resources that have been produced.  

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October 2016

QUNO to Co-Host Side Event at Committee on World Food Security in Rome

On the occasion of the CFS 43 in Rome next week, QUNO will co-host a side event with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The side event is entitled ‘Who Will and How Will We Feed Humanity’ and will be moderated by QUNO’s Food and Sustainability representative Susan Bragdon.

A panel of four speakers, representing the private sector, civil society and farmers, will be trying to find complementarity between contrasting approaches to achieving food security and nutrition. Discussions around how to achieve food security and nutrition and the related targets of Agenda 2030 are often polarized — and charged. How core challenges are framed, often rooted in a particular ideology or perspective, lead to different and sometimes contrasting approaches to solving them. Discussions on the role of trade and the value of on-farm innovation and biodiversity will be enriched as a result and lead to practical outcomes.

Panelists will describe how their organizations contribute to the food security of hypothetical nations, how their interventions articulate with one another, and identify appropriate roles for governments. The side-event will be opened by Manuel Flury, Co-Head of the Global Programme Food Security at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

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June 2016

QUNO releases policy brief on intellectual property and small-scale farmer innovation

The relationship between intellectual property (IP) and small-scale farmer innovation is far from straightforward. The majority of innovation in agriculture is not driven by the promise of exclusionary rights that some IP tools afford — it takes place on the farm and is a collaborative and incremental process, the outcomes of which cannot be attributed to individual rights holders.

However some IP tools – when carefully selected and adapted to suit domestic circumstances – may have the potential to help drive small-scale farmer innovation or, at minimum, allow the space for it to occur unimpeded.

This paper discusses how alternative or sui generis plant variety protection systems, collective and certification trademarks, and geographical indications may encourage on-farm innovation.

On the other hand, IP tools that are more conventionally believed to incentivise innovation in agriculture (i.e. patents, UPOV-style plant variety protection systems, and less commonly trade secrets) have the potential to impede on-farm innovation.

Policy makers at the national level should take into account the value of small-scale farmer innovation for national and global food security when developing national food security strategies, and take advantage of the flexibilities allowed under the WTO TRIPS Agreement when implementing IP legislation that reflects the realities of domestic agricultural sectors.

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April 2016

Research paper: Access to seeds: lessons from the access to medicines debate

Access to seeds.jpg

This new research paper considers what lessons the access to medicines debate provides for those concerned with protecting farmers’ access to seeds. Taking the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as its point of departure, this paper explores implications for interested parties at the international and national levels, as well as for multilateral institutions themselves.

Key messages include: 

1) The importance of public opinion and pragmatic coalition-building in raising the political capital to deal with sensitive negotiating topics;

2) The need for national governments to use TRIPS flexibilities in the same way that many already have for safeguarding access to medicines;

3) The urgent need for sustained, productive collaboration between relevant multilateral institutions to clarify the governance structure for plant genetic resources. By doing so they can help ensure farmers' continued freedom to experiment with, store, exchange and re-use seed - essential practices for maintaining biodiversity and achieving food security.

The paper, prepared by QUNO Programme Assistant Patrick Endall (Food & Sustainability, Climate Change) is available here, or by clicking on the link below.

All QUNO work is published under a Creative Commons license.

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February 2016

QUNO presents at international colloquium on global governance

On 4-5 February, QUNO's Food & Sustainability representative travelled to The Hague, Netherlands, to attend and present at a colloquium at the International Institute of Social Studies. Susan was among a diverse set of speakers examining the intersections between global governance and politics, climate justice and agrarian / social justice.

Her paper calls for a reinvigoration of the public sector, with a particular focus on food security, small-scale farmers and intellectual property rules.

 

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January 2016

VIDEO: Susan Bragdon talks about our Food & Sustainability programme

In this video, which is excerpted from a longer film shown at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) World Plenary Meeting held in Peru in January 2016, Susan Bragdon discusses the work of our Food & Sustainabilty programme. 

The Food & Sustainability programme of the Quaker United Nations Office addresses the complex and intertwined issues of trade and innovation policy and how they relate to poverty, hunger and food insecurity. We look at these issues with a particular focus on small-scale farmers, including fisherfolk, forest dwellers and pastoralists, a critical yet largely unheard voice in trade and innovation policy-making. Our work is collaborative, providing the space where it is safe to think, share and explore creative alternatives to a food system that does not work for the majority of the world’s population. 

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January 2016

QUNO Food & Sustainability publications now available in four languages

Three of QUNO's recent policy briefs from the Food & Sustainability programme are now available online in up to four languages. All QUNO work is published under a Creative Commons license. Copies of all QUNO publications can be downloaded free by following the links below, while hard copies are available on request to quno@quno.ch.

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January 2016

QUNO demonstrates policy tool at Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Over the past year, QUNO has been developing an interactive tool to help shape coherent food security and trade policies. Attending the Global Donor Platform's annual event in Geneva this week gave us the opportunity to present our progress and discuss ways of taking it forward with a broad variety of grant-giving institutions.

Each year the Donor Platform for Rural Development selects what they believe will be the most relevant topic to them in the coming year. For 2016 the focus is on policy coherence between trade and rural development, a theme that resonates strongly with our Food & Sustainability work. We were therefore able to constructively intervene in sessions, while gaining a better understanding of the issues as-seen from a donor perspective.

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December 2015

Policy Brief: Small-scale farmer innovation

This policy brief consolidates lessons learned from two sources:

The key message arising from both is that small-scale farmer innovation systems are unique relative to more ‘formal’ agricultural innovation systems. For this reason, the types of policies that are put in place to encourage innovation in agriculture require a fundamental reconsideration.

Read the brief in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, by clicking the links below.

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November 2015

New Report: Small-scale farmer innovation systems - a review of the literature

Small-scale farmer innovation systems have remained an abstract and elusive concept - this document seeks clarification by presenting a review of the academic literature on the subject.

In it, we call for further evidence-based research documenting small-scale farmers' contributions to food security, livelihood improvement and agro-ecosystem resilience. Through this, we hope small-scale farmers may become more visible in policymaking and more supported within national innovation strategies.

Read the full report below:

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October 2015

Small-scale Farmer Innovation Systems: Report on the First Expert Consultation 26-27 May 2015 in Geneva

In May 2015, QUNO convened a small expert consultation in Geneva to discuss the emerging concept of small-scale farmer innovation systems. The event brought together 19 participants from across 12 countries, providing a platform for discussing first-hand experiences of innovation at this level. The experience of one of the attendees - Joe Ouko, a farmer from Kenya, features in the 93rd edition of Quaker News ('Starting small', p.11): http://issuu.com/quakers-in-britain/docs/quaker_news_93_4f36b9a9828ae7/1 

Over the course of the two days, detailed information was shared, gaps highlighted, working relationships established and future directions explored. The report, which can be accessed by clicking the link below, represents a synthesis of what was discussed; something that will be valuable in informing QUNO’s work moving forward.

Read the report, as well as a literature review of small-scale farmer innovation systems, below:

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