"Rapid progress in agricultural innovation that can combat climate change and support family farmers is essential if the Goals for Sustainable Development are to be achieved," said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at the opening session of the first International Symposium for Family Farmers.
"We seek to develop sustainable solutions that can be easily replicated across countries and regions, while being inexpensive. We need to better understand innovation processes and the factors that lead to innovation. We must also look for concrete solutions, identify priority interventions and develop strategies that will then multiply these successes," he added.
Family farmers represent nearly 800 million people and have long been agricultural entrepreneurs and innovators. They manage nearly 75 percent of the world's agricultural land and produce about 80 percent of the world's food. Strengthening their capacity to innovate is particularly crucial today to meet the future food demands of a population that will reach nearly 10 billion people in 2050, in the context of climate change.
"Innovating to improve the conditions of family farmers and overcome the challenges that hinder the transition to agro-ecological systems should become an increasing priority," said Inga Rhonda King, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, during the opening session.
"The next decade will shape the contours of national and global food systems for generations to come. We must ensure that agricultural innovation creates a food system that can adapt to climate change, while being sustainable," said Paul Winters, Associate Vice President in charge of the Strategy and Knowledge Department of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The Director-General also announced the creation of a new Innovation Award for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, in partnership with the Swiss Government. Individuals, private companies and institutions are invited to submit their work that will contribute to achieving the global Zero Hunger goal.