Women Forward International is exploring a partnership between the Sustainable Food Trust, Cornell University’s School of Agriculture, and New York University Abu Dhabi to generate a new model for sustainable farming and equitable food systems in the Middle East.
The mission of the Global Farm Metric project is to establish a common framework for measuring, monitoring, and understanding farm sustainability globally. This work will build on the research work carried out by our Cornell University team looking at capturing the role of women and girls on farms and looking at inclusivity on the farm, as owners and workers. We will enable gender disaggregated data for some of the indicators, especially around decision making and ownership of the farm and assets, as well as for opportunities on the farm and health and working conditions.
The program will include a literature review to understand what has already been researched in terms of inclusivity on farms in the region (smallholder/subsistence farms and larger commercial farms) and where there are already some established indicators used, how far these are aligned with those in the GFM.
The program will also provide a valuable opportunity to understand how women and girls’ role in farming is measured, monitored and understood in Abu Dhabi. It will also test a set of indicators to see how applicable they are to the local context and provide learnings on how to best measure the impact of farming on local communities, notably women and girls who are often not reflected but essential to building sustainable and resilient farming systems globally.
The Global Farming Metric
Over the past 6 years, the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) has developed an outcomes-based sustainability framework and tested it on different farming systems and farming landscapes across the UK. This has provided a ‘proof of concept’ and demonstrated the value of having a common set of robust indicators for measuring sustainability on farm that captures the social, environmental and economic impacts of farming.
Today, SFT manages a multi-stakeholder coalition of over 100 organizations including farming businesses, food manufacturers, retailers, banks, certifiers, governments and NGOs, collaborating to adopt and use the Global Farm Metric internationally. Some examples of on-going collaborations to enable the transformational change needed include:
Working with a team of researcher and practitioners at the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky and the Organic Association of Kentucky, with the curation and support of Women Forward International and the Donahue Charitable Foundation, the GFM framework has been adapted for farmers across the USA. It captures the wide range of established crop and livestock systems from Alaska through to Texas. Over the next year, our partners will be piloting the GFM with farmers in Kentucky with a particular focus on using the GFM to support small and historically underserved farmers to adopt climate-smart approaches.
With a Women Forward International supported team of academics at Cornell University and researchers from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUNAR) parts of the GFM framework have been adapted for smallholder farming systems in Malawi. The research focused specifically on indicators in the soil, social and the human categories to test suitability to the local farming context. Further work will broaden the scope of research to other categories in the GFM and ensure lesson learning for other smallholder farming systems.
As a member of the Regen10 platform (www.regen10.org ) we are working with leading NGOs including IUCN, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Food and Land Use Coalition and World Farmers Organisation, to create a system-wide shift towards regeneration food production over the next ten years. We lead the Frameworks Hub and are building on the knowledge gained in developing the GFM to roll-out an approach globally.
The Global Farm Metric in the UAE
Women Forward International and SFT’s in-house research team and network of researchers in the GFM coalition are well placed to accompany NYU Abu Dhabi students and researchers through the process of adapting the GFM for farming systems in the United Arab Emirates.
The GFM would enable the farm manager at the university farm to establish a ‘point zero’ with a baseline of data from which to measure changes across all 12 categories, from the farming system (animals, crops and pasture, farmers and workers and resources), to the natural system supporting farming (nature, water, climate, soil, nutrients) and the farm outputs (production, economics and community impacts).
It would then also provide a valuable pilot for other farmers and land managers in the UAE, the government and businesses to understand the state of the farming system, understand more fully the challenges of agricultural production in a changing climate and make more informed decisions in order to farm sustainably.
This feasibility study would complement the other work carried out to adapt the GFM internationally and would have potential value more widely across the region. We could also draw on our existing collaboration with SEKEM and Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development in Egypt to support this study and ensure it has significant impact for sustainable development across the Middle East.
Farm to Table: Equitable Food Systems in the United Arab Emirates