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Event Report

TICAD V Official Side Event
“Traditional Agricultural Systems and Food Security”


Contact: Evonne Yiu , UNU-ISP:

In conjunction with The Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) which was held in Yokohama, Japan, on June 1-3, 2013, UNU-ISP organized an official side event themed “Traditional Agricultural Systems and Food Security” on 2 June 2013, at Hall A of Annex Hall, Pacifico Yokohama, in Yokohama City, Japan. The event welcomed distinguished speakers from the United Nations University, World Agriculture Heritage Foundation, Embassy of Italy in Japan and the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA), who shared their views with an audience of 120 participants on the role of traditional agricultural systems in contributing to sustainable development of agriculture and food security, especially in Africa.

Addressing the audience in his opening remarks, Mr. Hitoshi Kodaira, Director of Rural Environment Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan(MAFF), underlined the importance to revisit the potential of small-scale traditional agriculture systems as the solutions to sustainable development and food security in a developing Africa, amidst the increasing trend of conversion to large scale farming in recent years. In this regard, it is of great significance to organize this event inviting prominent speakers to discuss the role of traditional agricultural systems from the perspectives of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems(GIAHS) conservation, sustainability studies and the Expo Milano 2015, with the objective to explore possible contributions toward enhancing food security and achieving the Millennium Development Goals in African development, such as eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and ensure environmental sustainability.

Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Senior Vice-Rector of UNU and Director of IR3S pointed out that conventional agricultural systems often emphasize on simplification of genetic resources and intensive use of inputs, though economical in the short term, often makes the systems extremely vulnerable to changes in the long term. He stressed on the concept of agro-diversity to address the risks in agriculture and changes in environment and enhancing resiliency of the traditional agriculture systems of rural communities in Africa through combining indigenous knowledge with modern technologies can contribute to food security and sustainable growth in African development.

Dr. Parviz Koohafkan, GIAHS Global Coordinator, speaking on importance of the roles played by small farmers in conserving traditional agriculture systems. Photo: UNU-ISP

Dr. Parviz Koohafkhan, GIAHS Global Coordinator called for the need to rethink about the conventional, large scale farming which is unsustainable and formulate new measures to protect traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities in the face of globalization, as well as to encourage indigenous populations to enter the global market without sacrificing their traditional eco-friendly sustainable lifestyles and value systems. The “Globally Important Agriculture Heritage System” (GIAHS) is thus an UN Partnership Initiative launched by FAO in 2002 in effort to help small farmers and conserve traditional agricultural systems, which will contribute to agricultural development and food security through “intensification without simplification” approach.

H.E. Domenico Giorgi, Ambassador of Italy to Japan, also shared on the Italian model of the "Filiera" ( or food supply chain) of network of small farmers as a model for traditional farming, and informed that some key issues of food security such as reduction of food wastes and food losses, knowledge and conservation of agricultural heritage for sustainable development of agricultural know-how and its relationship with the nature will be explored at the Expo Milano 2015.

Mr. Cheikh Mouhamady Cissokho, Honorary President, ROPPA said that while investment is critical in helping Africa to cope with the challenge of managing their natural resources in face of economic development and growing pressures of global environmental change, Africa must first be clear on what kind of production methods is sustainable for themselves and what markets to emphasize – export markets or domestic markets? Traditional agriculture derived from years of ancestral knowledge is not only invaluable heritage, but can produce with proper support to overcome problems facing agricultural development and food security in Africa; GIAHS could be one of such solution, and through creating a GIAHS network with Asia, Africa and Latin America.