Taking farming to the United Nations
The challenges facing food production are as multiple and diverse as farmers themselves, as well as the fuel, food, fibre and ornamental goods which they grow. Mary Robinson works with her family in their Prince Edward Island farm and multiple agricultural businesses, while also representing North America’s farmers as Vice President of the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO). With members from across the globe, the mission of the WFO is to represent the farmers’ voice on the world stage. It is a body that lends insights to policy makers on a wide array of issues, such as sustainability, nutrition, and the different challenges of farming in different parts of the world. The overall objective is to create the conditions for the adoption of policies and programs that could improve the economic environment and livelihood of farmers and rural communities, and thereby strengthen the contributions of agriculture in tackling common challenges. Robinson found herself as a board member for the WFO after representing the agriculture community through other organizations, including as the first female President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. “Ultimately I want to support the agriculture sector while still working in my family’s agricultural businesses,” says Robinson. “One of the most important things I’ve seen through the WFO is how farmers in developing countries are managing challenges. Some of the biggest gains for those farmers, including some areas where they are [doing] subsistence farming, can be recognized by helping people embrace technology. It doesn’t have to be fancy either – it could be as simple as improved seed handling, or improved fertilizer usage to help increase yields and quality. Things like that can make tangible and impactful improvements to people’s quality of life.” Robinson reiterates that WFO has a global “farmers’ driven approach”, adding that she appreciates the privilege of being the WFO board member responsible for the relationships with the United Nations and UN Agencies in New York.