Reflections on #COP26 – food security climbs the agenda

With the eyes of the world focused on Glasgow over the past two weeks, NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy reflects on COP26 and his participation at the event and global efforts to tackle climate change.

In the first of a series of blogs, Martin discusses the contribution made by farming industry representatives from around the world where challenges go beyond climate change to food security and basic survival. He writes:

In a united front, all four UK farming union Presidents took to the stand and stage on #FarmersDay, highlighting that our farmers and crofters are already on their journey towards a sustainable and productive future, growing our ability to produce climate-friendly food at the same time as protecting nature and the planet.

That day, we also met representations from German, Canadian and African farmers and went on to meet industry representatives from all corners of the globe. What struck me immediately was, regardless of the incessant rhetoric being bandied about branding agriculture as part of the problem, food production was clearly moving higher and higher up the agenda. This became more apparent as more events heard from parts of the world that were really struggling to produce enough food.

In a view shared by other panelists, Fawn Jackson, who represents more than 60,000 cattle producers from the Canadian Cattle Farmers Association, was very keen to highlight the importance of sustainable food production.

However, sustainability was not the biggest issue for the next speaker.

Food was what Elizabeth Nsimidala, President of the East Africa Farmers Federation was most concerned about. She represents 80 million, yes 80 million, smallholders in 10 East African countries. Her views and comments brought a stark reality to what is important in life and made our UK concerns look nothing worse than a bad day at the market.

The serious droughts that they face and concerns about how they can feed their country was a wake-up call to the packed audience on how important food security really is.

Later, we had the opportunity to have dinner with the President of the World Farmers Organisation, Theo De Jager from South Africa. He is a man full of life and seriously passionate about agriculture.

However, during the conversation, he happened to mention the harsh reality of crime in his country. Most young farmers under 40, instead of going out with their mates and enjoying themselves when they get the chance, spend most of their time patrolling vast areas of farmland to protect themselves. Theo told us that, on average, one farmer is murdered in South Africa every five days.

Talk about a stunned silence. Believe me, it is pretty difficult to tell people like Elizabeth and Theo that we have it tough right now.

Given the fact that COP 27 will be in Africa next year, hosted by Egypt, there will be a growing focus on how many nations will have the ability to produce food.

Whilst I was extremely heartened to hear that food security is climbing the agenda, I could not help but feel for those countries that are facing the brunt of climate change now.

There are so many things we take for granted and do not value nearly enough. Food is one of them.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is a tenant farmer in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire Branch chair, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin went on to be Vice-Chair before chairing the committee for three years. He was elected Vice-President in 2017 and elected as President in 2021.

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