Thursday, December 5th, 2013...10:25 pm

Conversation Series: An Interview with Dr. Hans Hoogeveen

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Interview with Hans Hoogeveen, Vice Minister for Agriculture, the Netherlands

By Tameisha Henry and Greg Sixt


Q: How is the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) different from other sustainable agriculture initiatives?


A: The difference is that in the past, we have worked in silos, but CSA is abandoning that flawed approach. CSA has a focus on sustainable agriculture and increasing productivity, qualitatively and quantitatively.  CSA also includes a central focus on food and nutrition security and climate change. In summary, CSA embraces these three pillars in practice, not only in theory. What is also different is that up until now we have been working mainly through governments and government projects – they have driven the programs with designated funds and have neglected the private sector. CSA better integrates the private sector. We know that if you don’t include the private sector we will not succeed because they have the knowledge about markets and value chains. This is necessary because we cannot increase agricultural production without including a focus on climate change and utilizing the latest innovations that allow us to grow more climate change tolerant crops with fewer inputs.


Q: What do you see as essential for successful implementation of the CSA Alliance?


A: The CSA Alliance will strongly rely on the commitment of the private sector and NGOs. If it’s only driven by governments, we will have the same results as in the past. The Alliance will only succeed if we have multi-sectoral involvement and investment in programs and projects. We are confident that if the will and the interest of the companies are there, the funding will come.


Q: There has been discussion here both in favor of extension services and against. How do you see extension fitting in to the agenda?


A: Extension service is one of the most crucial elements for the CSA Alliance’s success. For example, the Netherlands is a small country but is the second largest exporter of agricultural products. This “Miracle of the Netherlands” was achieved using three pillars: 1) entrepreneurship; 2) farmer cooperatives;  3) science/knowledge-based agriculture. Both 2 and 3 have been driven by extension service – translating and disseminating the science to farmers. Effective extension service will need to be incorporated if we want to achieve food security.  We have to learn from past mistakes in extension. Specifically, the incorporation of indigenous knowledge and local culture are necessary to ensure a people-driven approach.


Follow up question: Extension systems in many countries are terribly underfunded. Do you see a financial mechanism for funding extension in developing countries as part of the CSA Alliance? Does Private Public Partnership have a place here?


A: There is certainly a funding mechanism in the CSA Alliance for extension. There should be sufficient funding from donors for this, in particular from our established relationships with international organizations, governments, the World Bank, and other NGOs.


Q: There has been much discussion at the conference about bringing farmers to the table and the especial vulnerability of women to the impacts of climate change. How will the CSA Alliance bring women and women’s groups to the table?


A: It is crucial that we find new ways to attract and get women farmers to the table. Women are the drivers of agriculture, particularly in developing countries, and should therefore be the drivers of change. Without their involvement, substantial and sustainable change will not happen. Women must have access to finance and access to land and this can only be achieved if they have a seat at the table.


Thank you to Dr. Hoogeveen for his time and insights.


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