Why World Environment Day matters

Today, I’d like to take this opportunity on World Environment Day to discuss the importance of MEDA’s work and the agricultural sector’s impact has on the environment.

World Environment Day has been held annually on June 5th since 1973 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and is the world’s most important day for the environment. The event offers an opportunity for people around the globe to come together and raise awareness about environmental action. This year is notable because it marks 50 years since the first international meeting on the environment at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.

The food and the agricultural sector are critical areas of our work that are significantly impacted by the environment and climate change. However, on a global scale, these sectors are part of the reason for our changing environment. As our population grows, so does our food consumption, putting a strain on our food resources. To keep up with increasing demands, we continue to harm our environment by expanding our agricultural practices. According to statistics from Our World in Data, the environmental impact of the agricultural sector is staggering. Food and agriculture account for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and they also use 50% of the world’s habitable lands.

One of the most interesting statistics relates to deforestation. Ten thousand years ago, the world had 6 million hectares (14.8 million acres) of forest, but in 2018, that amount was only 4 million hectares (9.8 million acres) as we transitioned more land for crop and pasture use. This loss is alarming, but the time it took for the forests to disappear is indicative of the rapidity of the changes in the last hundred years. Indeed, 50% of the forest loss occurred from 8,000 BCE to 1900 CE, while the other 50% occurred from 1900 to 2018. The speed at which we lost our forests recently is very distressing and emphasizes the need to improve our food and agricultural practices. The impacts of the agriculture and food sector also threaten biodiversity. Thousands of species are being driven to extinction through overexploitation (hunting, fishing, gathering plants) and agricultural land-use changes. Significant change is required to ensure that we do not destroy our planet for our food needs.

At MEDA, we focus our work on agri-food systems that provide decent work for systemically marginalized communities, including women and youth. We understand that these human activities are changing our planet at an unprecedented rate, so we strive to create positive environmental outcomes by integrating environment and climate change-responsive interventions in our projects. We use our financial and technical expertise to build and implement green growth and climate action. Environment and Climate Change (ECC) policies are essential to MEDA as it helps ensure that our projects are successful in the long term and that our clients can thrive for the rest of their lives.

But more work needs to be done. Organizations, companies, countries, and ordinary people need to do their part to ensure that our environment is protected and preserved so that animal species, such as the Great Blue Heron and the Blue Jay, can continue to thrive #OnlyOneEarth

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