Accessibility links

Breaking News

What Rio Conference Means to Farmers

An Ashanink indigenous man stands before a poster promoting the launch of the Rio + 20 sustainable development conference in Brazil
An Ashanink indigenous man stands before a poster promoting the launch of the Rio + 20 sustainable development conference in Brazil

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Next week, leaders and officials from governments and nongovernmental groups will meet in Brazil for the Rio+20 Conference. The full name is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. It also comes ten years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

The meeting is June twentieth through the twenty-second. The Rio+20 website describes it as a chance to "shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want."

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has prepared a new report called "Towards the Future We Want." It says hunger reduction and sustainable development are highly connected. It calls for better governance of agriculture and food systems.

Food systems use thirty percent of the world's energy. Crops and farm animals use seventy percent of the water. Yet food losses and waste are high. The FAO says they add up to more than one billion tons each year, or almost one-third of all the food produced in the world.

The FAO says nearly one out of every seven people in the world is a victim of undernourishment. Seventy-five percent of all poor people live in rural areas. Most support themselves through agriculture and related activities.

The agency has estimated that food production needs to increase at least sixty percent by twenty-fifty to feed an expected population of nine billion.

The new report calls for doing "more with less" -- improving diets while reducing the effects of agriculture on the environment. Alberto Sandoval is a natural resources officer with the FAO.

ALBERTO SANDOVAL: "We have to make a transition on the way we produce food and the way we transform the food to bring it to the table to make sure that we have the eradication of hunger, that we reduce poverty and that we have a healthy and well-nourished population in the upcoming years."

Farmers operate five hundred million small farms in developing countries. The report says they need clear rights to resources like land and water. FAO nutritionist Florence Egal says production growth helps not only farmers but also others in related industries.

FLORENCE EGAL: "People who have no access to land or labor can actually generate income and add to local economic development through food transformation, through processing, through commercialization. So we believe it would also make sense in terms of job creation, in terms of job protection. And therefore we would be able to bring together the economic dimension, the social dimension and the environmental dimension. And I think this is very much the challenge that we are facing nowadays."

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I'm Jim Tedder.


Contributing: Joe De Capua