High Level Panel 1: European Commission

Better Stewards Of The Earth:
How Can We Use Soil More Sustainably?

European Commissioner for Agriculture 

Time: Tuesday, 25. January 2022, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (CET)

The High Level Panel chaired by the European Commission brought together panellists representing government, international organisations and the farming sector, from across four continents, to discuss policy paths towards better land use and soil management.

Soils are essential for achieving a range of the 2030 Agenda’s SDGs, as aside from feeding society, they provide numerous ecological services, from water retention to carbon capture. It is therefore particularly alarming that the quality of the world’s soils have seen extensive degradation over the past century. While systemic challenges like climate change affect the whole global food system, they manifest differently in each region. Therefore, there are few ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions. Harmonising international standards for soil-protective and deforestation-free practices across the supply chain can go a long way towards improving land use across the world. However, this has to be complemented by specific solutions best suited for local conditions.

Panellists explored a number of regional initiatives to improve soil health, such as the EU’s Soil Strategy which provides funding for living labs and the EU Soil Observatory to map and tackle land degradation in all its forms. They stressed that innovation is key, but technologies may be around for decades before they make the “last mile” and trickle down to farmers. Governments can help by creating incentives that reward sustainable farming choices over short-sighted gains. Without the buy-in of food producers, it is not possible to protect soils and prevent further loss of fertile land. Ultimately, it is the shared mission of policy-makers and the private sector, incl. farmers themselves, to strike a balance between optimising yields from agricultural land and carefully managing it to ensure the long-term sustainability and health of the soil upon which the world’s food production depends – for today, and future generations.


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Panel Guests

Dr. Johan Swinnen is Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and Global Director of the Systems Transformation Science Group at CGIAR. Dr. Swinnen has published extensively on agricultural and food policies, international development, political economy, institutional reforms, trade, and global value chains.  He holds leadership roles for various taskforces, including the Food Systems Economics Commission and the Think20 Task Force on Climate Change, Sustainable Energy, and Environment.

Prior to joining IFPRI and the CGIAR, Dr. Swinnen was professor and director of the LICOS Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance at KU Leuven, lead economist at the World Bank, economic advisor to many international institutions, and guest professor at several universities, including Stanford University’s Centre for Food Security and the Environment.

Dr. Swinnen earned his PhD from Cornell University and holds honorary doctorates from University of Göttingen and the Slovak University of Agriculture. He is a Fellow of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association and the European Association of Agricultural Economists and served as president of the International Association of Agricultural Economists.

Member of the European Commission since 1 December 2019, responsible for Agriculture. Lawyer; Attorney.

Commissioner Wojciechowski grew up on a farm in Rawa Mazowiecka, a rural community in the Łódzkie region in central Poland. He holds a Master’s degree in law, having graduated from the University of Łódź Department of Law and Administration. His professional career as a judge spanned different levels up to membership of the Supreme Court of Poland. From 1995 to 2001 he held the important post of President of the Polish Supreme Audit Office.

From 2001 to 2004, he represented the Łódzkie constituency as a Member and also Vice-Marshal of the Parliament of the Republic of Poland – the Sejm. From June 2004 until May 2016, he served three terms as a Member of the European Parliament. He sat as a Member of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals from his first term and from 2014 to 2016 he was President of the Intergroup.

From May 2016 to November 2019, he was a Member of the European Court of Auditors.

Commissioner Wojciechowski has been the author and co-author of five comments on the Polish Penal Code, as well as the author of more than 100 articles and publications on criminal law in various Polish legal magazines. He also writes on socio-legal issues.

Is a Ugandan young agriprenuer, President of the Pan Africa Farmers Organization (PAFO) and also the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF). Elizabeth is a member of the United Nations Advisory Committee for The Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit 2021 and also a member of the AU – EU Cooperation task force on agriculture committee. she sits on the Global steering committee for Forest Farm Facility (FFF), is a Governing Council member for Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM) sits on the steering committee of Pan Africa Agribusiness Apex Body (PAAAB) and many other local farmers’ and cooperatives platforms. She is a passionate cooperator and farmer who has been at the fore front of championing digitalization of the agriculture sector through the EAFF farmers’ owned E-granary mobile initiative that virtually aggregates farmers for input, services and output markets. As a result of her efforts in supporting Farmers Organizations, she was recently Globally recognized by the World Farmers Organization as one of the women contributing to sustainable development.

Agricultural Engineer from the “Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile” (PUC), Master in Sociology (PUC) and Master in Public Policy at Duke University, United States). 

Mrs. Undurraga worked at the National Institute for Agricultural Development (INDAP) as National Head of Territorial Programs and Representative of the Ministry of Agriculture in the negotiation with indigenous peoples of the legal instrument that regulates indigenous consultation in Chile (2001-2014). 

Since 2018, María Emilia served as National Director of the Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (ODEPA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, where she promoted an important reform, creating the Rural Development and the Sustainability and Climate Change departments, highlighting the importance of the rurality for the country, and fostering collaborations between the public and private sector and civil society. In this period, she conducted the creation of the project called “Santiago is not Chile” together with 8 organizations that work in more than 200 rural communes in the country and coordinated more than 14 public-private working groups for the main issues involving the different sectors of the Chilean agriculture, forestry, and livestock. 

In 2020 Mrs. Undurraga achieved the enactment of the first National Rural Development Policy, involving 12 ministries in addressing the gaps of rural women, education, and connectivity in rural areas, among other areas. 


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