22 July 2021
A transformation and investment in Irish agriculture is necessary to
meet sustainable food system ambition, an Oxfam and Trócaire report found.
Published in advance of the UN Food Systems
pre-meetings, the report assessed the Irish government’s ambition to be a ‘champion’
of sustainable food systems at a global stage. The report put forward 22
recommendations to improve sustainability in agriculture.
With ‘complex interactions’ between agriculture and food systems, the
report found that there are interconnected challenges of climate change,
biodiversity loss and food insecurity in the sector.
“A transformation is needed whereby food policies are centred on human
rights, social equity, women’s empowerment, economic security and prosperity,
environmental regeneration and resilience building to climate change and other
shocks,” Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said.
The report addresses both international and domestic challenges to
agriculture, and proposes solutions. These organisations advocate support to
small-scale food producers globally through sustainable transformation.
Further, Ireland’s trade and sustainable development objectives are ‘out
of sync’ and policy decisions to prioritise agri-food trade objectives are at
the detriment to sustainable development goals, according to the report.
“There is a critical need for agriculture and food system transformation
to prevent already at-risk communities falling into deeper peril.” Oxfam
Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken added.
Agriculture accounts for at least 30% of all
greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland. The report recognised an opportunity to
shift agricultural approaches and recommended that an urgent review of national
agri-food policies to reflect the emissions reduction target.
Other recommendations from the report include an establishment of a national
sustainable food systems body that would provide a space for stakeholder’s
voices to be included in decision-making. It also calls on a scaling up of
programmes with clear environmental objectives and investment in rural communities.
If implemented, it could help support Irish farmers shift into
sustainable practices, as the report also found current supports to encourage
sustainable farming inadequate.
At present, 81 per cent of national agricultural funding is directed
towards projects that are not described as sustainable. In some cases, farmers
are even penalised for their efforts to support biodiversity, according to the
Despite these shortcomings in Irish agriculture, Sustainable Food
Systems report researcher and author Sinead Mowlds, stressed that “Ireland has
a real opportunity to forge a new direction in implementing a sustainable food
systems approach if it is willing to address current shortcomings and make
Story by Sam Starkey
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