A crowd-sourced vision for the future of agriculture
By Olivia Evans

What if all farmers could rely on effective systems to manage risk?

What if all food was produced without fossil fuels?

What if women owned the land they tilled and the food they produced?

What if farmers’ knowledge was the driver of innovations and investments?

To some, asking such “what if” questions is naïve and idealistic. People can become so jaded when faced with the harsh realities of hunger, climate change, and other global struggles that they lose sight of their ultimate goals and forget the power of their own imaginations. But to Oxfam, such high idealism is necessary in a world with high demands. To drive this point home, Gina Castillo, Agriculture Program Officer at Oxfam America, quoted Albert Einstein:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

In light of the importance of imagination, Oxfam asked world experts to envision what the best future of agriculture would look like—keeping the aforementioned guiding questions in mind. 

Expert contributors included FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva, IFPRI Director-General Shengenn Fan, IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze, Roger Thurow, Anna Lappé, and other big names. Perhaps the most interesting perspectives, however, came from local activists that don’t make the headlines as often. Read Bangladeshi activist Rokeya Kabir’s fiery comments arguing that women’s rights are critical to food security, and Nigerian Susan Godwin’s grassroots take on what it’s actually like to be a female farmer.  

Last December, 23 essays from these contributors were posted each day for two weeks in an online discussion blog. Just recently, Oxfam compiled these essays into one final report.  The organization found that while experts hotly debated on some issues, they also resoundingly agreed on others. The sweeping conclusion was that a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive agriculture system is indeed possible. Not surprisingly, the essays also revealed  general agreement that farmers are incredibly adaptive and creative—ultimately holding much greater insight into these agricultural matters than we “experts” do.  

Gain insight into what both farmers and experts think in Oxfam’s report. And stay tuned for a similar series to be released on the World Food Day website this September, where thought leaders will be asked: What would a sustainable food system look like?

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