A new vision for agriculture
momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.

Carlos Sere
Personal account

Rio +20: what implications for agriculture and global governance?

Carlos Sere,

Chief Development Strategist
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Interview by the UN News Centre

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Rio +20 Conference, was held from 20th to 22nd June in Brazil. Twenty years after the Earth Summit, world leaders came together to make commitments for sustainable development. If the results of this summit were well below the expectations and the hopes of many of the participants, particularly NGOs, the event was nonetheless an opportunity to address fundamental questions for the future of the planet, particularly agriculture, food security and global governance. Below we invite you to read an interview with Carlos Sere, Head of Development Strategies of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), conducted by the UN News Center a few days before the summit, which summarizes the issues of this conference in terms of agriculture and governance1. As he points out, the real challenge is to successfully and comprehensively address the various issues related to agriculture, poverty, environment, water and development. Without true agricultural and global food governance, which would allow us to coherently and concertedly address such interdependent themes, the challenges of the 21st century cannot be addressed.

Momagri Editorial board

UN News Centre: What is the global food situation at the moment?

Carlos Sere: The food situation in the world is that we have a rapidly growing population, rapidly growing incomes, changing consumption patterns, people eating more animal products, vegetables, fruits, oils, and all of this is compounding to a very rapid increase in the total amount of food needed.

At the same time, the resources of the world are finite and we’re getting more and more to the limits of what we can do. So this means that it’s getting tighter, if you want, and therefore we have seen very high volatility in the recent past. So a drought in Australia or Russia would rapidly increase the price of wheat, especially because there are no large buffer stocks to control the markets. We took food for granted for many years, but right now food has become a very critical and strategic issue.

One other very important dimension which has changed is the fact that due to the rapid increase in oil prices, the world is looking at renewable energy sources and a lot of the renewable energy right now is bio-ethanol produced from corn. So we are now connecting the food market and the energy market. All of that adds a lot of volatility.

UN News Centre: How does volatility change countries’ policies on food stocks?

Carlos Sere: Well, fundamentally, countries used to think that if they didn’t have a good harvest in their own countries they could buy it in the world market. Suddenly, with the food crisis in the last few years they realized that sometimes even if you want to buy it, there are countries that are putting export bans. So there is some comeback to think more about self-sufficiency in food rather than just having the money to buy food, which was thought to be good enough.

UN News Centre: Is there a specific goal for Rio+20 regarding food security and sustainable agriculture?

Carlos Sere: Really, for us at IFAD, our own specific goal is to make sure that in the discussion in Rio the importance of food and the importance of smallholder farmers are central in the debate.

Smallholder farmers control a very significant part of the land, the water and the labour in developing countries. It is absolutely essential to think of this big resource when you’re thinking about food. Many people frequently forget that and consider smallholder farmers just as a social issue.

We’re emphasizing that it is an absolutely critical component of sustainable world and land use, not just of the food these people produce, but they control a lot of the land which provides other environmental services, for example, carbon sequestration. We are really trying to make sure that smallholder farmers remain central in the new sustainability paradigm.

UN News Centre: What can the public do to contribute to food security and sustainability?

Carlos Sere: People making individual decisions of what they consume, of how they live, are obviously important. But the most important part is good governance of the political processes which lead to these decisions. Engaging in the political process, in the debate, understanding these issues, and making sure that the views from the population are brought into these processes... that, I think, is what really would make a difference.

If we can get the right policy environment and ensure that the right type of policies are put in place… that will have a major impact on people’s lives.

UN News Centre: What do you think will be the main challenge that food security and agricultural sustainability will face in Rio+20?

Carlos Sere: I would say that the real challenge for Rio is that we do realize we need to work in complex partnerships. We have all tried to do our best in our sectors, some of us work in agriculture, others work in environment, others work on water, etc. The real challenge is we realize that in the future these sort of simple sectoral approaches won’t work. If we want to deal with poverty, we need to deal with agriculture, with social policies, with the environmental dimensions, because they’re all inter-related.

I think our challenge in Rio is to think in those terms, find new ways to get the governance of these processes to function across sectors and still find ways to do that in a manageable way. Because the world is complex but as human beings we only have a certain capacity, a span of what we can manage. Thinking up new ways in which, through partnerships and collaboration, we find ways to handle these complexity in a better way than what we have done up to now, that’s the real big challenge for Rio.

1 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42262&Cr=Sustainable+Development&Cr1=
Page Header
Paris, 16 June 2019