On 30 April 2021, the “Regional Dialogue on Empowering Women to Manage Sustainable Food Systems and Enhancing Agrobiodiversity in the Asia Pacific Region” (hereafter “the dialogue”) was held successfully online. More than 100 participants from international organizations, research institutions, governments and other stakeholders attended the dialogue to share their experiences and insights on gender, food security, and agrobiodiversity in the Asia Pacific region. This dialogue is hosted by UNEP together with UN Women, ICIMOD, and ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, and coordinated by UNEP-International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP). Dr. Linxiu Zhang, Director of UNEP-IEMP, served as the chair of the opening session and moderated Session 1 on Setting the scene: gender, agrobiodiversity and sustainable food system in Asia Pacific. Prof. Yiching Song, a Senior Research Affiliate of UNEP-IEMP, gave a presentation in Session 2 to showcase the work carried out at UNEP-IEMP together with partners.
In the opening session, Director Zhang welcomed the speakers and participants and introduced the background, aims and significance of the dialogue. Four eminent keynote speaker from UN Agencies, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of Convention on Biological Diversity, Dechen Tsering, Director of UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and Kerstin Stendahl, Head of Ecosystems Integration Branch of UNEP delivered inspiring opening addresses to the dialogue.
UNEP-IEMP Director Linxiu Zhang moderating the opening session
Keynote speakers speaking at the opening session
In session 1, the representatives from UN Food Systems Summit task force, UN Women, ICIMOD and ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity shared their initiatives and actions on mainstreaming gender, biodiversity and sustainable food systems for sustainable development, and demonstrated the importance of women empowerment.
Representatives sharing insights in session 1
In session 2, the speakers from research institutions and local communities from the Asia Asia Pacific countries shared their experiences and thoughts on gender equality and agrobiodiversity.
Representatives presenting at session 2
One of UNEP-IEMP’s Senior Research Affiliates and Founder of Farmer’s Seed Network, Prof. Yiching Song, made a presentation titled “Empowering Women for Resilience and Sustainability: The Case of Qinghai Project and Beyond”. By displaying the data about the small household farming, the gender ratio of farming labor, and the overall food systems, she pointed out the urgency of agribiodiversity conservation and women empowerment. She shared on-the-ground experiences by introducing the project jointly conducted by UNEP-IEMP and Farmer’s Seed Network with other partners, including training sessions, workshops and community-based activities. Then, she emphasized the women’s role in facilitating community development, keeping healthy food systems, and providing suggestions to the policy making, especially in response to the COVID-19 and climate change. Finally, professor Song concluded her presentation with the remark that small farmers and poor women are not vulnerable groups and challenges, but our hope and opportunities for resilience and adaptation, and that empowering women and equity is the key for our survival and sustainability.
Prof. Yiching Song, Senior Research Affiliate of UNEP-IEMP and Founder of Farmer’s Seed Network, presenting in session2
The dialogue concluded with a lively discussion session. Speakers responded to questions raised by participants and carried out interactive discussions about the topics. It is generally agreed that women are the agent of change and transformers. They are the custodian of biodiversity. But more support should be given to enable women playing a much significant roles in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, in food and nutrition security, and climate change adaptation, and etc.
The dialogue is a follow up action and in response to the results of the South-South Cooperation Forum in 2020, aiming to bring together key experts and practitioners in the area of gender, food security, and agrobiodiversity in the Asia Pacific region to showcase good practices from actions on the ground to policy making process as well as to explore partnership opportunities to further collaborate on the topics of sustainable food systems.
The conclusions and recommendations of the dialogue will be summarized and provide support for the next three major international summits, including the 2021 UN Food System Summit, the 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) in October, and the 26th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC COP26) in November, so as to make contribution to the development post-2020 GBF as well as other major policy agendas.
For more information of the dialogue, please click here.