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It is time for action, not agendas - South African Agricultural Minister
7 December 2011
Ben Rootman
Junxion Communications


"The time is over for compiling agendas on agriculture's future – it is time for action," says South Africa's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Officially opening Agriculture and Rural Development Day at COP17 Joemat-Pettersson said the climate talks are also about a call for action for climate-smart agriculture.

"The time is over for elaborate technical and scientific advice - agriculture is no longer discussed in broad descriptions. We know the specifics and these need to be put into action to ensure that we continue to feed an ever-increasing population. However, it is essential that the way forward needs to be determined with the farming communities.

"The South African government is committed to climate-smart agriculture. It has a common goal to use agriculture to feed its people and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The acknowledgement of agriculture gives recognition to the sector's contribution as an economic driver for the government's new growth path strategy. "Agriculture is no longer a social involvement programme, it is a serious commitment to ensure food security, whilst at the same time ensuring climate-smart developments," she said.

"Agriculture should be central to the COP17 negotiations. Do not give negotiators and politicians too many choices – give them successful examples of climate-smart agriculture and identify the way forward. In this way agriculture - and people - will be the beneficiaries."

The President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice and former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson said COP17 must deliver a work programme for agriculture that links climate change and food and nutrition security.

"Achieving food security and climate justice is doable. Climate change is making a bad situation far worse but, even so, it comes down to political choices and policy decisions. If we believe that solving the problem of hunger and food security is a priority, a question of justice and fairness, then it is not beyond our power to resolve it," she said.

"Time is running out for world leaders, who must go beyond rhetoric and deliver real change. The hungry cannot wait. Unless decisive action is taken now, vulnerable populations will grow hungrier, food markets will be increasingly unstable, and the world will remain completely unprepared for the challenge of feeding nine billion people by 2050."

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network's Chief Executive Officer, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda said her organisation believes in the triple F bottom line for sustainable climate-smart agriculture - feeding the farms and family and feeding the fiscus.

"About 70 per cent of the world is fed by smallholder farmers. The majority of these are cultivating rain-fed land. How do you expect these farmers to apply climate-smart agriculture if you do not assist them with modern-day amenities such as access to the latest information, processed seeds and affordable fertilisers?

"Organised agriculture needs to ensure that the providers of the world's food basket are informed, have access to the latest scientific information and have the vision of at least earning an honest income."

About youth involvement Sibanda said young people are mainly interested in upswing agriculture and not so much in hands-on farming.

"Today we see many farmers older than 70 years. To them farming is a retirement job, not a business. This does not auger well for the modernisation of agriculture. We will only attract young people if we can convince them that agriculture is not for paupers but a high-tech, high-income occupation. By applying the triple F bottom line we can move closer to practical climate-smart agriculture," she said.

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