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SEARICE’s Executive Director Speaks at the CBD Cop 24 Agroecology Panel


PANEL ON AGROECOLOGY. (L-R) Jean Lanotte, France; Georgina Catacora-Vargas, Plurinational State of Bolivia; Nori Ignacio, Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE); Mariann Bassey, Friends of the Earth Congo; and Joji Carino, Forest Peoples Programme.

Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis

SEARICE Executive Director, Normita Ignacio, spoke at the panel on Agroecological Approaches and Biodiversity-Friendly Practices to Increase Productivity during the Convention of Biological Diversity Conference of Parties 24 (CBD COP24) held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on November 25, 2018. 


Below are the key points she made during the panel discussion.

Moderator: How does SEARICE support the scaling up of agroecology in Southeast Asia?

Normita Ignacio: SEARICE works in eight countries in Asia, mostly Southeast Asia. We work in partnership with multi-stakeholders, including farming communities, local government units, national CSOs and relevant national government institutions. Whenever possible, we work with the Department of Agriculture and National Research Institutions. For instance, in Lao PDR, our main partner is the Agricultural Research Center of the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute. In Bhutan, we work with the National Biodiversity Center of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest. Most developing countries would have food and nutrition security as national priority. We try to link our program with the national government strategies, framing and designing the implementation in such a way that it will contribute towards the achievement of the national goal. This helps in generating national support to our program and at the same time in mainstreaming our work on agroecology. The growing concern on the impacts of climate change is another opportunity to promote agroecology as an important measure to help adapt to, as well as mitigate, the impacts of climate change.

Key to our strategy is the link of our work on the ground with local and national policies. We use farmer field school not only as an empowering learning methodology but as a tool for policy advocacy. The field trials and farmers’ experimentations provide concrete evidence on the significant contribution of agroecology to household food and livelihood security, biodiversity and over-all health of the ecology. We use these evidences to raise awareness of stakeholders including policy makers and also to inform government policies and programs. This strategy enables us to integrate agroecology in local and national policies. For instance, in the Philippines, we are now in the process of developing the IRR [implementing rules and regulations] of a municipal agriculture code which becomes part of local policies through an ordinance. A number of municipalities and provinces are now using this as a model to develop their own agriculture code. In Bhutan, we were able to integrate sustainable agriculture, including agricultural biodiversity conservation, in the 10th five-year plan of the country. Whenever possible, we also organize a participatory process of developing and/or amending National Seed Policies and Seed Laws. We’ve done such process in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and, currently, the process of Seed Law amendment is on-going in the Philippines.

At least once a year, we also organize a regional partners’ meeting to exchange experiences, share good practices and lessons, and help each other in addressing common challenges. This micro-macro link, the link of grassroots innovations with policy work, South-South exchanges and engagement in key international policy discussions help a lot in scaling out and scaling up our work in Southeast Asia.

Moderator: What is the role the CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] could play in support of agroecology and biodiversity friendly agriculture?

Normita Ignacio: The interdependence between agroecology and biodiversity is quite obvious. Hence, the role of CBD as the key international treaty for the protection of biodiversity and life on earth, is very crucial in support of agroecology. Since its landmark Decision in 1996 – COP III/11, which calls for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agricultural Biodiversity – CBD has had a decisive role in developing policies and practices that would conserve agricultural biodiversity, which is at the core of Agroecology. Since then CBD and its Protocols have had a lot of important decisions that have significant implications to agroecology. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets for instance have set very important goals and targets. If met, almost all the targets can contribute to Agroecology. In particular, Targets 7, 8, 13, 16 and 18 are crucial to agroecology. The big challenge is how to meet these targets. 2020 is just around the corner, yet we are still far from achieving many of these targets. It is concerning enough that “there has been limited progress, and, for some Targets, no overall progress at all.” 

It is even more alarming how the progress that has been made already could be undermined by current developments. The contentious issues discussed last week and being deliberated until now, particularly the issues of gene drives, synthetic biology, and DSI, can have an overwhelming impact to agroecology. CBD has the mandate to ensure that the objectives of the Convention are not undermined and previous decisions such as the application of precautionary approaches and FPIC are recognized and upheld in considering the introduction of any new and emerging technologies. Governments are under international obligations to protect and respect indigenous knowledge and to ensure that assessments of the impacts of new and emerging technologies include full participation of indigenous and local communities.

Moderator: What do you think are the reasons why agroecology is not moving forward as it should? And what can CSOs do?


Normita Ignacio: I think one of the key reasons is the lack of political will. Many governments that claim to support agroecology are the same governments that endorse and promote technologies that contradict the principles of agroecology. On the one hand, they would say that they believe that it is very important to transform agriculture into agro-ecological practices especially in the face of climate change. Yet on the other hand,  the same governments are developing legislations that marginalize smallholder farmers who are practicing agroecology. Government policies and programs are mostly favoring industrialized agriculture. We need to walk the talk and move beyond lip service. The CSOs are ready to help. We work closely with IPLCs and with government’s genuine support, smallholders who feed around 80% of the global population can continue to do their noble task of feeding the world.



Target 7 

By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.

Target 8 
By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Target 13 
By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.

Target 16
By 2015, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is in force and operational, consistent with national legislation.

Target 18 
By 2020, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.


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