Washington, 10 May 2023 (IICA) – Investments to foster agrifood system innovation and promote climate smart agriculture are steadily increasing worldwide, thanks to public and private sector collaboration. This was announced during the opening plenary of the Aim for Climate Summit (Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate) – a joint initiative by the governments of the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The initiative, which has brought together more than 500 stakeholders from the public and private sectors, with a view to increasing investment in climate smart agriculture and innovation for agrifood systems, was opened in Washington by Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, and Mariam Almheiri, the Emirate’s Minister of Climate Change and the Environment. Also in attendance were the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Otero, along with other authorities from government and international organizations.
The three-day AIM for Climate Summit has attracted public policymakers, industry leaders, producers, civil society representatives, scientists and researchers from across the world. The aim is to accelerate the implementation of innovations to guarantee food and nutrition security. Close to 50 governments from across the world are participating in the initiative.
On the first day of the Summit, Vilsack held a public discussion with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Vilsack remarked that, “Climate change is continuing to affect agricultural practices in all countries and a solid global commitment is called for to tackle the challenges we face and to build sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems”.
“We need to work together to advance food security, through the use of innovative technology. We must ensure that new technologies and best practices are accessible not only to large agricultural companies, but also to small farmers”, he insisted. Vilsack announced that the United States will increase to 10 billion dollars its investment in research to reduce methane gas emissions – one of the most powerful greenhouse gases from livestock production.
Minister Almheiri gave her assurance that the United Arab Emirates, which is slated to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) at the end of this year, is committed to enhancing international cooperation to improve agrifood system sustainability.
Almheiri remarked that, “This initiative reflects our decision to create more modern and sustainable agrifood systems, which will enable us to tackle water scarcity and the shortage of arable land in many countries, while contributing to poverty eradication throughout the world”.
Gore recalled that some 10 years ago he began to apply regenerative agriculture practices on his farm, such as direct seeding, crop rotation and agroforestry. “I was raised half on the farm and half in the city”, he said. Agriculture is in my blood, and it is the reason I became so interested in preserving the environment. On the family farm I learned about protecting natural resources”.
“New technologies sometimes come slowly. Therefore, the real innovation is the shift over to regenerative approaches. It is vital that we measure the level of carbon sequestration in the soils. It is one of the most effective ways to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and farmers should be compensated for it”, argued Gore. He also pointed out that the climate crisis is mainly due to fossil fuel use.
Gore also honed in on an issue that is extremely important to IICA, namely soil care, which the Institute has transformed into action through its Living Soils of the Americas initiative. The initiative is co-led by Rattan Lal – the world’s leading soil authority, who also heads the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (CMASC) at The Ohio State University.
“There is a lot of innovation (applied to agriculture) There is my friend Rattan Lal at Ohio State University. He is one of the most important soil scientists and winner of the World Food Prize three years ago. He has been to my farm many times and helped us to design a small, cheap tool to measure carbon sequestration. It is light enough for a farmer to carry and it is going through trials right now. It is as effective as other very expensive technology. We must figure out a way to precisely measure carbon in the soil, because it is very important. Once these devices are being mass produced, we will have to set up the legal framework to allow legislators to contemplate legislation that will formalize these payments to farmers for carbon sequestration. We have a bipartisan group of supporters for innovation in agriculture in the United States Congress”, said Gore.
IICA to participate in panel discussion on innovation
On Wednesday, May 10, IICA Director General, Manuel Otero, will join other speakers, including Laura Suazo, the Honduran Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock, in one of the AIM for Climate Summit panel discussions. The discussion will be entitled “Innovation for Integrating and Mainstreaming Agriculture in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – Lessons Learned from Africa, Asia and Latin America”.
Along with presenters from Africa and Asia, Suazo and Otero will discuss the challenges faced by Latin America and the Caribbean when proposing or implementing agricultural actions included in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which governments present under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Otero stated that, “At the AIM for Climate Summit we are seeing enormous interest in accelerating innovation and introducing knowledge-intensive agriculture. The public and the private sectors are working together more and more, with the participation of international organizations, academia and civil society. IICA is committed to deepening this collaboration”.
According to the IICA Director General, “Issues such as genetic improvement, optimized fertilizer use, better waste management and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are priority concerns of an agriculture sector that is seeking to produce increasingly more, with fewer resources”.
While in Washington, Otero held meetings with the winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics and IICA Goodwill Ambassador, Michael Kremer, and senior executives from major global entities. He will also meet with Minister Almheiri; Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; and Ilan Goldfajn, the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).