Ecosystems and Food

04 December 2008 | News story

What role for conservation in enhancing food security for the rural poor? This was the question posed to a multi-stakeholder panel brought together at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona.

An estimated 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger in the world. This is a critical issue of our time. The crisis in access to food by impoverished groups in the developing world highlights the negative effects of current food production and trade models. The conservation community has been pointing for some time to the negative impacts of the same drivers on biodiversity and ecosystems. 

Food security in the long term needs appropriate management of the ecosystem services that directly and indirectly underpin people’s access to adequate, nutritious food. These services are largely undervalued or ignored in planning and policy-making. At the same time the conservation community has paid little attention to its potential role in enhancing food security.

At the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, IUCN hosted an exploratory workshop to start a dialogue on the role of conservation in enhancing food security for the rural poor. The multi-stakeholder panel included Mohamed Mukhier of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Jane Madgwick, CEO of Wetlands International; Lindiwe Sibanda of the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network in Southern Africa; Juan Gonzalez of Syngenta International; and Toby Hodgkin of Bioversity International.

The outcomes of the workshop confirmed the relevance and urgency for the conservation community to work on food security issues, as well as an interest among the participants to work collaboratively. While recognising the complexities of food security and the need to reflect more on the linkages with ecosystems, participants called for IUCN to work with its Members and Commissions to facilitate multi-sectoral dialogue and to generate, synthesize, package and disseminate knowledge to help influence relevant policy processes. 

IUCN is currently carrying out a scoping study on managing ecosystems to enhance the food security of the rural poor, with the support of IUCN Member Ecoagriculture Partners. The outcomes of this workshop are contributing to this reflection on how IUCN could engage meaningfully on this important issue.

For further information please review the workshop report or contact Georgina Peard at georgina.peard@iucn.org