UN Expert Group Meeting: Sustainable Agriculture in Africa

For the poor of the world, improved agricultural productivity and reduced land degradation is vital. The United Nations, the World Bank, and other bodies are currently making tremendous investments in African agriculture. How researchers can contribute to ensuring that these resources are put to best use was the main question for the expert group meeting, organised by the United Nations, together with environmental economists from the School of Economics, Business and Law, University of Gothenburg. The 27 participants included researchers, agricultural consultants, ministers and aid donors.

Three-quarters of the world’s poor are dependent on agriculture. The fact that the World Bank last year chose agriculture as the theme of its principal annual report, the World Development Report, reflects the importance of agriculture in reducing poverty and achieving the United Nations Millennium Goals, which are the eight goals that world leaders agreed on in 2000 with a view toward cutting poverty by half by 2015.

The expert group meeting, which was held at the School of Economics, Business and Law in Gothenburg on 16-17 April, was organised by the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), together with researchers from the Environment for Development Initiative, (EfD), which is an environmental economics capacity building programme, initiated by the Environmental Economics Unit at the University of Gothenburg.

The conference, which receives financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), was entitled Sustainable land management and agricultural practices in Africa: Bridging the gap between research and farmers.

“We will be discussing how research can be applied in order to make a difference in helping farmers, planners and decision-makers to improve agricultural productivity in African countries. Because the existing knowledge is not being sufficiently utilised, we will be focusing on the link between research and practical farming”, said Gunnar Köhlin, researcher in environmental economics, and the director of the Environment for Development Initiative, before the meeting.

“In Ethiopia alone, USD 6 billion is being invested in land management during a period of 15 years. By involving national and international researchers with an understanding of African agriculture we hope to be able to contribute to an optimal use of these resources”, explains Gunnar Köhlin.

One major goal of this meeting is to create networks that will utilise the knowledge of researchers to evaluate agricultural methods, and provide guidance to agricultural consultants and farmers. Another practical goal is to identify opportunities to apply the agricultural methods that have proved to be successful. A third goal is to contribute to an updated research agenda for sustainable agriculture.

Participants included representatives for research institutes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden and Norway. Both the Ethiopian and Kenyan Ministries of Agriculture was represented, as was Sida, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

For more information, please visit http://www.efdinitiative.org/news-press/workshops-etc/workshops-archive/un-expert-groupmeeting-sustainable-land-management-in-africa

Contact: Gunnar Köhlin, researcher in environmental economics, School of Economics, Business and Law at the University of Gothenburg, and the Director of the EfD. +46 (0)31-786 44 26, 0705-35 05 08, gunnar.kohlin@economics.gu.se

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