The Food Forever Initiative
3 August 2017
Marie Haga | Marie's Corner
2.5 can mean anything. Percent. Degrees. Kilometers. Kilos. Centimeters.
For everyone connected to biodiversity it has a very special meaning. And if you stumble into someone who happens to work with agricultural biodiversity, it is likely that he or she is genuinely excited about the number 2.5.
Target 2.5 under goal number 2 in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) speaks about the urgent need to conserve agricultural biodiversity. It says that we, as a global community, need to safeguard what is left of agricultural biodiversity by 2020 in order to ensure food and nutritional security.
Although arguably fundamental for our survival as a species, agricultural biodiversity has seldom made it to major international agreements broader than its immediate arena. Now it has. It is an important milestone and a further obligation not only for those working in this field, but indeed all of us.
Agricultural biodiversity is recognized as essential for food and nutritional security. Its conservation is also doable, technically possible and relatively inexpensive. The question is therefore: why on earth hasn’t it been done yet?
Many of us believe it is due to a lack of awareness. It took a great amount of work to get to 2.5. But it’s not enough. Decision-makers in the private as well as the public sector quite simply do not know enough about agricultural biodiversity to get this fundamental work done. I include myself in that. I was in parliament and government for several years and was no stranger to the issues around nutrition and agriculture. But it was only after having had the privilege of joining the Executive Board of the Crop Trust that I fully realized how fundamental agricultural biodiversity is to those issues – not least in the context of adapting agriculture to climate change.
That’s why I’m so excited about the Food Forever Initiative. It brings together eminent personalities dedicated to helping deliver on Target 2.5. It is not an implementing agency. It cannot take any responsibility away from national governments or international organizations. It is quite simply a dedicated group of people and organizations coming together to do what they can to underpin implementation of Target 2.5 by informing the broader audience – from consumers to policy-makers and those in between- how absolutely essential agricultural biodiversity is for our future.
Food Forever was launched on the occasion of the Stockholm Food Forum on 12 June. A big thank you to the EAT Foundation for including Food Forever in the Forum.
The Initiative is chaired by HE the President of Mauritius, Dr Ameenah Gurib Fakim, who is joined by a group of high-level Champions from science, civil society, the public and private sectors, and Partner Organizations. The process to involve Partner Organizations has just started, and we extend an open invitation to all interested parties. The Secretariat supporting Food Forever currently consists of representatives from the Dutch Government and the Crop Trust.
Food Forever is not meant to be awfully demanding for those involved: they’re all busy people. But that’s the point. The idea is that Champions make the most of the outreach opportunities afforded to them by their busy schedules to make a point of including agricultural biodiversity in their respective agendas.
And guess what: things are already beginning to happen. It was exciting to participate in the 4th Global Botanic Gardens Congress in Geneva at the end of June, and to see the enthusiasm of that particular community to get involved in Food Forever. There are 3000 Botanic Gardens around the world, and more than 500 million visitors annually. In other words, a great platform to reach out to the general public, who in turn can influence decision makers. We are in discussion with individual Botanic Gardens as well as Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) about what they can concretely do as part of their normal activities to further the cause of the plants that feed us.
World Wildlife Fund For Nature (WWF), one of the first Partner Organizations, has called a meeting for early September to see how we can develop joint initiatives. There already are lots of creative ideas on the table.
And there is more to come. We are working with Champions to target key meetings they’ll be attending, as well as making plans to present Food Forever and its mission at major conferences, not only scientific but also financial, to raise bring awareness to the private sector and international investors.
Here at the Crop Trust, we are truly grateful to all the enthusiastic individuals and organizations who have joined us in helping setting up and launching Food Forever. Together, we can and must help achieve this vital task for humankind. Target 2.5 is supposed to be achieved by 2020. 2.5 is also 2.5 years. We have no time to waste.
We are also grateful to our Executive Board that has given us the confidence to kick off Food Forever. Without the wholehearted support of the Board it could not have been done.
Best regards from all of us in Bonn,