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SDGA16: Time to unpack the take homes for Australian agriculture

The couple of weeks since the very successful SDGA16 Conference was held in Sydney have flown by and it’s a good chance to take stock on the discussion, ideas and aims put forward for how Australia can make a contribution to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.

The focus of the 2030 Agenda is directed at ending poverty and hunger, protecting the planet from degradation, all the while increasing global prosperity, equality and peace in a sustainable manner. The NFF saw SDGA16 as an important opportunity for farmers to be a part of the discussion around the role sustainable agriculture and food production will have in meeting the SDGs, becoming a supporting partner of SDGA16, as well as heading along to take part in the discussions.

SDGA16 was a great chance to see exactly what business and industry groups are already doing to work towards meeting the SDGs, building the 17 Goals and 169 Targets into the models, frameworks and plans that direct investment and provide the roadmap forward as we work towards 2030. While this is encouraging, various sessions throughout SDGA16 highlighted some stark examples of where there are some big challenges to tackle in Australia. Significant issues of food security, poverty and inequality are growing in Australia and working towards solving these issues is going to take a concerted effort from all.

The take homes for Australian agricultural

Australian agriculture is poised to make a real contribution to meeting our SDG aims at both a domestic and international level. Issues such as food security, changing land use, the rising costs of inputs and an increasingly variable climate already impact on our production systems., but as we move towards the end of our 2030 deadline and beyond, these issues will only becoming increasingly more difficult to deal with unless we tackle them now. Some real themes developed across the conference sessions about what Australia can do.

  • Australia needs to lead the world rather than feed the world. Australian agriculture will never feed the world but we are well placed to lead the world in developing innovative practices that allow us to produce more from less, while building resilience in our production systems and managing the environmental risks ahead of us. To do this will require an investment in R&D and the policy setting required to drive an innovative agenda that thinks big and thinks sustainably.
  • We need to change the way we think about food production. We produce enough food but do not distribute it evenly. So much so, that while levels of household food waste are around 4 million tonnes of food per year, 1 in every 6 Australians currently experience food insecurity with Foodbank Australia providing 644,000 of us with food relief every month. More than a third of this relief is provided to rural Australians, the people most engaged in our production systems. It’s time to address the growing divide between rural and urban Australia so that consumers have a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it came to be. We need to develop a national food security strategy and find ways to better use the food we currently produce. With our domestic demand for food only set to rise, it’s time to start getting our strategy right now.
  • Australian farms are the untapped potential in delivering on our SDG commitment. Both the Rice Growers’ Bitterns in Rice Project and the Australian Dairy Sustainability Framework show that changes in practice can deliver more sustainable products, while balancing agriculture and the environment, without hurting production or our bottom lines. With the conflict over access to our natural resources set to rise with consumptive demand, it’s time to work on how we can all integrate our NRM and production goals to deliver on improving biodiversity and sustainable resource use.

It’s time for collaboration

The closing plenary focused on the importance of the interlinkages of the SDGs off the back of a whole of conference session on SDG17 – Partnerships for Goals. The most important message coming out is that the SDGs are an indivisible whole and the close links between them mean that we cannot tackle one in isolation. Food security, for example, is closely connected to climate change and water security; good health and wellbeing are bound up with tackling poverty and sustainable consumption and production; and reducing inequalities depends on gender equality, quality education and decent work and economic growth.

Understanding how the goals interconnect and where we can focus our energy for maximum effect is going to be important in meeting the 2030 deadline.

It’s going to take collaboration from government, business, industry, educational institutes, community groups and grassroots movements to build the momentum and ideas to achieve the required change. Further, and as noted at the opening session, we can’t use the same thinking that got us into this mess to get us out. It’s going to take innovative practices, new approaches and new thinking about the way we go about things.

Here at NFF we already engage with the wider scope of the SDGs. We’re part of a recently launched coalition aiming to address the inequality of telecommunications access for remote families, ensuring better access and opportunities for education. Our workplace relations team focuses on ensuring that Australian farmers have access to workers when they need them to get crops out of the paddocks and into the supply chain, minimising food spoilage. Through our work in natural recource management we support our farmers in the management of their natural resources and ensure that there is a balance between agriculture and the environment. We do this in partnership with our members, Government and other industry and business groups and as we work on hitting our SDGs and targets it’s these kind of partnerships and collaborations that we need to foster.

So what’s next? What do you think? How can we start working towards meeting the 2030 Agenda?

__________

Edmund Hogan, Policy Officer, NFF Natural Resource Management

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