Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Kick the silos to tackle SDGs

08 Jan 2016

We are a growing population living on this small planet, our only home. Each of us has the right to a healthy life, as agreed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all the nations of the world just a few months ago.

Our planet is finite and therefore we need to be smart in the way we manage its landscapes and seascapes so that they provide each of us with the support we will need to reach the SDGs. Although there are 17 SDGs, the stated vision is that they are interlinked.

Food is at the heart of sustainability – changing how we produce, and consume food can radically change both human, and environmental health for the better. Therefore, the sound management of food production systems is fundamental for both environmental sustainability, nutrition and health, and thus central to the Goals.

What do we mean by multi-functional landscapes and seascapes? Multi-functionality refers to the multiple commodity and non-commodity outputs that are jointly produced by agriculture. Non-commodity outputs could be related to public goods, such as clean air or a biodiverse landscape.

In the spirit of multi-functionality and sustainable development, a lunch panel session was organized at the recent Global Landscapes Forum called Landscapes and seascapes for food, nutrition and the environment: Exploring the business, policy, and science connections. This was a joint partnership between the EAT Initiative, represented by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Bioversity International and the CGIAR.

Panelists share experiences and ideas on convergences between science, policy and business at the GLF, Paris, Dec 2015. Credit: Bioversity International.Led by Bioversity International Board Member and Former IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefevere, panelists Johan Rockström (Stockholm Resilience Center), Sara Scherr (EcoAgriculture Partners and Bioversity International Inc US Board of Trustee), and Patrick Holden (Sustainable Food Trust) participated in a candid and vibrant discussion on the convergence of science, business and policy solutions focusing on sound management of food production systems as fundamental for both environmental sustainability and nutrition security.

They gave examples of their viewpoint of how well-managed multi-functional land or seascapes can support the planet and how we can collaborate across sectors to achieve the mutual objectives of environmental sustainability, nutrition and health.

So, how can we achieve the SDGs holistically?
Here are four key points from their discussion:

1: Food production systems need to align with goals to achieve healthier diets.
To achieve healthier diets from more sustainable food production systems, we need to manage them for multiple benefits. These multiple benefits should provide diversified production that aligns with achieving health goals. Production should include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and small animal source foods.

“Thinking at a landscape scale is useful for understanding how land is used for food and non-food products; for looking at ways of how to grow more nutritious foods; and where mainstream agricultural elements integrate with landscapes. We need to look at relationships between agricultural diversity and nutritional diversity.
Johan Rockström

Livestock in the Barotse floodplain. Credit:T.del Río2: Multi-
functional approaches generate multiple ecosystem benefits, beyond production.

Another way to achieve sustainability goals would be to use a multi-functional approach to production systems. In this way multiple ecosystem services could be generated to benefit society, beyond food production in itself. 

“It is possible to develop food production systems that operate inside the planetary boundaries, we have ample evidence from landscapes around the world. However, there remain major barriers. One of the exciting things about putting sustainability principles into action, meaning no chemical fertilizers or synthetic pesticides, is that eventually after five crop rotations, which allow for healthy nutrient cycling of the land, crop yields, the health, diversity and resilience of the system will improve in time.”
Patrick Holden

3: Need for policy realignment.
Policies on both the demand and supply side need to realign toward both food-based dietary and sustainability goals.

“There needs to be greater influence on national policy. For example many partners in the United States are working on landscape management and its link to food and nutrition security, but a lot of information is just not reaching the public. If we could raise awareness to shape policies on this topic, we could begin to address realistic demand and supply needs.”
Sara Scherr

4: Business models must consider access to healthier foods and ensure resilient production landscapes.

Business needs to develop new models, standards and approaches that contribute to the access to healthier foods that are produced in ways that support vibrant communities, and resilient production landscapes.

“When we started, there was no business case, so we had to write the prescription of what we were doing on the back on an envelope and took our story to the consumers. I wrote the first draft of the dairy standard and helped to start the development of the organic market in England. The whole organic market project was treating the symptoms but not the cause of the problem. It was a general failure to internalize the cost of sustainability. It confined the growth of the market to a kind of glass ceiling of some of the barriers to the uptake of sustainable agriculture on a bigger scale. And there is now a need to tackle the structural barriers to adoption of sustainable agriculture on a large scale. We are now on the verge of doing that.”
Patrick Holden

There was only one challenge of the session; too little time to continue the rich conversation on the interesting convergence of ideas and ways forward.

The session built upon previous discussions around the concept of landscape and seascape “multi-functionality”, the goal of which is to enable healthier diets derived from landscapes and seascapes that are sustainably managed for multiple outcomes.

Next steps will include a revision of the paper 'Healthy People, Healthy Planet' on the same topic, a partnership between EAT, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Bioversity International and CGIAR, as well as further activity at the 2016 EAT forum.

Watch the session here:
Find out more about the event: Landscapes and seascapes for food, nutrition and the environment: Exploring the business, policy, and science connections.

This lunch session was a product of the Stockholm Eat Initiative theme on Multifunctional Landscapes and Seascapes and is the result of a collaborative effort of CGIAR (Bioversity International, CIAT, and CIFOR) with the Stockholm Resilience Center. 
This work is part of Bioversity International's Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems  and Resilient and Productive Farms, Forests and Landscapes Initiatives. 
Read more about how agricultural and tree biodiversity can help meet multiple Sustainable Development Goals and targets.

1: Agricultural landscape in Chile. Credit: Pablo CM Bancoimages CL
2: Panelists share experiences and ideas on convergences between science, policy and business at the GLF, Paris, Dec 2015.
Credit: Bioversity International.
3. Livestock in the Barotse floodplain, Zambia. Credit: Bioversity International/ T.del Río