Best communications by a not-for-profit organisation 2016

The story of agriculture and the sustainable development goals

Farming First

Agency: Marchmont Communications

In 2015, the United Nations was tasked with defining a new framework of Sustainable Development Goals, which would guide global development policy and funding for the next 15 years. Farming First, a global agricultural coalition representing farmers, scientists, engineers, agribusiness associations and not-for-profit organisations, appointed Marchmont Communications to develop an advocacy campaign.

Farming First wanted to showcase agriculture’s potential within the Sustainable Development Goals, not only in tackling hunger and malnutrition but also in addressing rural poverty, gender inequality, poor health, climate change and environmental sustainability. For example, it claims that growth from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth from any other sector and has one of the highest potentials to mitigate carbon emissions.

Marchmont created a four stage year-long campaign targeted at negotiators for the United Nations, as well as policy makers, donors and global development practitioners. It first needed to raise awareness of the issue, defining the challenges and opportunities for agriculture within the Sustainable Development Goals. But it had to break this down: where are we now? Where must we get to by 2030? What role can agriculture play?

An interactive infographic, based entirely on trends and forecast data for 2030, was developed, that provided evidence and simple messages that could be shared. The campaign also had to help non-experts understand the complexity of the 17 goals and 169 specific targets, and see how agriculture could play a vital role in achieving these. For example, the second goal is to ‘end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’.

A leaflet from Farming First, created as part of an online toolkit, highlighted the facts, such as 227 million people in Africa who suffer from chronic malnutrition, and offered insights into how agriculture can address malnutrition, through biofortified foods, micronutrient-enriched fertilisers and improved agronomic practices.

Farming First curated a series of expert blog posts to build its advocates’ profiles, which also served to support three meetings held with UN negotiators. It also collected personal statements from farmers on how the Sustainable Development Goals might impact them.

The focus of the campaign was to ensure that agriculture and its related topics featured in the final policy texts related to the Sustainable Development Goals. In the event, a direct Farming First intervention in a speech at the UN led to the reinsertion of the term ‘hunger’ into draft text as an explicit global challenge to be addressed, while the text of the second goal, which related to agriculture, remained unchanged throughout negotiations.

Other relevant issues were all specifically mentioned in the final text, while a policy text on financing the goals mentions agriculture and food security, following intervention by the coalition.

‘This was a strong campaign with impressive outcomes,’ said the judges. ‘It had clear objectives and understood its audience.’