Sustainable smallholder agriculture: Feeding the world, protecting the planet

Centre-stage events

22 February

What promise will Rio herald for agriculture?" A conversation with Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda

As the international community prepares for Rio+20 in June 2012, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANPRAN),  will speak with Naga Munchetty, international journalist and television presenter, on the prospects for elevating the role of agriculture in the climate talks.  Dr Sibanda will present her views on what global policy and investment changes are needed to ensure that smallholder farmers in developing countries can play a central role in meeting the multiple challenges of increasing their production to ensure food security while preserving the natural environment and coping with the effects of climate change.

At the centre-stage event, Dr. Sibanda will discuss the ways in which smallholder agriculture is impacted by resource scarcity and climate change – and how farming can and must become environmentally friendly. 

A leading supporter of the Farming First campaign, Dr Sibanda advocates a holistic approach to sustainable agricultural development. At FANRPAN, she coordinates policy programmes aimed at making Africa food-secure. Since 2009, she has led "No-Agriculture, No-Deal" global  campaign that has mobilized African civil society organizations to push for  the inclusion of agriculture in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations. Recently, Dr Sibanda joined some of one of the world's most influential thinkers and provocative voices as a member of the Guardian Global Development advisory panel as one of the world's most influential thinkers and provocative new voices on the future of agriculture.


23 February

Centre-stage with Bill Gates. Sustainable agricultural productivity: the key to poverty reduction

At 10.00 a.m. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will take centre stage to share his perspectives, with questions to follow from international broadcaster, Isha Sesay. Mr Gates will discuss the importance of agriculture and how sustainable productivity improvements can reduce poverty in developing countries. He will challenge both global players and national governments to adopt a new approach to supporting smallholder farmers.   

In the developing world, the foundation works to improve people's health and give them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. Its agricultural development work focuses on helping small farmers produce more, while protecting the environment, so they can build self-sufficiency. In addition to Mr Gates' role at the foundation, he is  co-founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation. In both his careers, he's thought about how to apply innovation to solve important problems.

High-level panels

22 February

High-level panel: Feed the world, protect the planet

Smallholder farmers live and earn their livelihoods in the world's most ecologically and climatically vulnerable landscapes and rely on weather-dependent natural resources. Their livelihoods are at risk because of climatic conditions, pressures on natural resources and volatile food prices and market conditions.

How can farmers maintain and increase crop yields and what are the environmentally-sustainable approaches to smallholder agriculture?  Are agro-ecological approaches the solution?

At 9.45 a.m. Nik Gowing,  will discuss and debate with a high-level panel on what it will take to ensure food security while protecting the environment. Panellists will share their views on different farming methods, and will highlight the importance of building institutions, investing in research and technology, and adopting and adapting new practices.


  • Dr Pamela K. Anderson is the Director General of the International Potato Center (CIP). CIP is one of fifteen international agricultural research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).  Prior to becoming Director General, she served as the Deputy Director General of Research at CIP and as Senior Entomologist at the International Center for Tropical Agricultural, in Cali, Colombia (1997-2002).  She has served as an advisor to the Federation of American Scientists, a Research Consultant at Harvard University, and a member of the Government of Ireland Hunger Task Force. Dr Anderson is an expert on emerging plant diseases. Her research has also included extensive work in agricultural entomology, ecology and plant virus epidemiology, and agriculture-human health linkages, always related to food security and income generation for resource-poor populations in the developing world. 
  • Nivedita Banerji  is the Co-Founder and Secretary of Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS). Over the last 20 years, SPS has grown to be one of India's largest non-governmental initiatives for water and food security, working with its partners on a million acres of land across 72 of the country's most deprived districts. The work of SPS shows that women-led, farmer-driven, location-specific watershed development combined with bio-diverse agriculture, other nature-based livelihoods and people-centred microfinance, can result in sustained higher incomes, empowered communities and benefitted millions of tribal people across central India.
  • Estrella Penunia Banzuela is the Secretary General of the Asian Farmer's Association for Sustainable Development (AFA), a regional alliance of national farmers organizations (FOs)  in Asia. Established in 2002, AFA is currently composed of ten national FOs in eight countries, representing around 11 million small-scale farmers, both women and men.  As a social development worker, Ms Penunia Banzuela spent all her professional years in the field of rural development, working with the farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples in various capacities such as community organizer, participatory action researcher, trainer, gender advocate, consultant, campaign coordinator, NGO executive/manager and networker.
  • Andre Leu is the President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the world umbrella body for the organic sector. Mr Leu has over 20 years of experience teaching at the tertiary level and holds university degrees in Communications and Adult Education. He has 40 years of experience in all areas of organic agriculture, including growing, pest control, weed management, marketing, post–harvest management, transport, grower organizations, developing new crops, and education, in Australia as well as in many other countries. Mr  Leu and his wife own an organic tropical fruit orchard, in Daintree, Queensland.
    Bruce McNamer is President and CEO of TechnoServe, a non-profit economic development organization that helps entrepreneurial men and women in the developing world to build businesses that provide jobs, income and economic opportunity. Before joining TechnoServe, Mr McNamer was a senior executive/founder at the start-up companies Verified Identity Pass (Clear ID), Appfluent Technology, and Varsity Group. He was an investment banker at Morgan Stanley and a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.  Mr McNamer was also a White House Fellow at the National Economic Council and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay.

23 February

High-level panel: From words to actions: Creating a sustainable future for smallholder farmers

At 11a.m. Naga Munchetty will host a high-level panel composed of policymakers who will discuss what partnerships, investments and policies are needed to ensure rural smallholder farmers can produce more food in an environmentally sustainable way. Who is responsible for the move towards more sustainable agriculture? What commitments are needed at global policy level? How are region-specific solutions put into action? And how will governments, the private sector, international organisations and farmers work together to accomplish this?


  • H.E. Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina, Nigerian minister of agriculture,served as Vice-President (Policy and Partnerships) for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a distinguished agricultural economist, with over 20 years of professional experience in African agriculture.
  • H.E. Marie-Josée Jacobs,  Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs. Ms Jacobs represents the Government of Luxembourg at the Council of Ministers of the European Union, both in the council's Education, Youth and Culture configuration and its Foreign Affairs configuration. Ms. Jacobs was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1984 and has held numerous ministerial posts since 1992, including Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development. Since 2009, she has served as Luxembourg's Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs.
  • Carlos Seré is the Chief Development Strategist at IFAD and heads the Office of Strategy and Knowledge Management.  Prior to joining IFAD, Mr Seré worked as Director General for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.  Before that, he worked for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) as Director of the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Montevideo, Uruguay.  From 1982 to 1990, Mr Seré worked as Senior Economist and Head of the Economics Section of the Tropical Pastures Program at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) in Colombia.