SR on the Right to Food Delivers His Final Report to the Human Rights Council

Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter delivered his last report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. He held the post from 2008 until 2014, and has during that time published a number of important reports and observations on the necessity of switching over to a sustainable global food system based on environmentally benign production methods such as agroecology.

Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food addresses the Council of Human Rights. Image by UN Geneva, via Flickr CC.
Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, addresses the Council of Human Rights. Image by UN Geneva, via Flickr CC.

His report today focused on the need to strengthen both democracy and diversity in order to fix our food systems. During his presentation, he stressed that politics should be used to reach beyond the current system which singularly enables the maximization of agribusiness profits. Indeed, “objectives such as supplying diverse, culturally-acceptable foods to communities, supporting smallholders, sustaining soil and water resources, and raising food security within particularly vulnerable areas, must not be crowded out by the one-dimensional quest to produce more food.” He added:

“At the local, national and international levels, the policy environment must urgently accommodate alternative, democratically-mandated visions.”

De Schutter stressed that truly democratic food systems start at the local level, and that therefore local communities as well as cities should have the right – and indeed the responsibility – to determine the best way to ensure the right to – sufficient and culturally appropriate – food to all their constituents. National strategies are however necessary to support and enable these local decisions.

“Governments have a major role to play in bringing policies into coherence with the right to food, and ensuring that actions are effectively sequenced, but there is no single recipe.”

According to the Special Rapporteur, “in some cases, the priority will be to promote short circuits and direct producer-consumer links in order to strengthen local smallholder farming and reduce dependence on imports. In other cases, the prevailing need may be to strengthen cooperatives in order to sell to large buyers under dependable contracts. National right to food strategies should be co-designed by relevant stakeholders, in particular the groups most affected by hunger and malnutrition, and they should be supported by independent monitoring.

Finally, he also called on international organizations to create a global framework that allows national food security strategies to be implemented successfully and that provides particularly developing countries assistance in that realm. Furthermore, he drew attention to the dual responsibilities of developing and developed countries to each do their part in alleviating food insecurity:

“Other global governance bodies must align themselves with the strategic framework provided by the CFS. The WTO, for example, must not hinder developing countries undertaking ambitious food security policies and investing in small-holder agriculture. […] Wealthy countries must move away from export-driven agricultural policies and leave space instead for small-scale farmers in developing countries to supply local market. They must also restrain their expanding claims on global farmland by reining in the demand for animal feed and agrofuels, and by reducing food waste.”

Continue reading “SR on the Right to Food Delivers His Final Report to the Human Rights Council”

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s Celebrate with a Women In Agriculture Link Roundup!

The celebrations surrounding today’s International Women’s Day have given rise to a number of great resources recognizing the importance of women in agriculture. Instead of writing my own contribution, I thought I’d give you a handy link roundup for your surfing and perusal pleasure – have fun! From Food Tank: 23 Women Changing Food. Is … Continue reading Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s Celebrate with a Women In Agriculture Link Roundup!

2014 Declared the International Year of Family Farming

It seems in December there is always a surge of announcements that the next year will be dedicated to one cause or another. For 2014, it’s now supposedly the Year of the Brain, the Year of Crystallography, the EU-Russia Year of Science, but also…

The International Year of Family Farming!

The FAO launched a big new campaign in the end of November to draw attention to the importance of family farming – as opposed to agribusiness – with the following key messages (taken from their website):

“Family Farming is the predominant form of agriculture both in developed and developing countries

There are over 500 million family farms in the world.

Their rural activities are managed and operated by a family and rely predominantly on family labour.

They range from smallholders and medium scale farmers, to peasants, indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fisherfolk, pastoralists and many other groups in any region and biome of the world.

Family farmers are an important part of the solution for a world free from poverty and hunger

In many regions, they are the main producers of the foodstuff consumed every day in our meals.

Over 70 percent of the food insecure population lives in rural areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Near East. They too are family farmers, especially smallholders, with poor access to natural resources, policies and technologies.

All kind of evidence shows that poor family farmers can quickly deploy their productivity potential when the appropriate policy environment is effectively put in place.

Facilitating access to land, water and other natural resources and implementing specific public policies for family farmers (credit, technical assistance, insurance, market access, public purchases, appropriate technologies) are key components for increasing agricultural productivity, eradicating poverty and achieving world food security.

Continue reading “2014 Declared the International Year of Family Farming”

“Science ≠ Production, and Production ≠ Food Security” – A Message to the World Food Prize

You guys. This is one of these speeches where I just want to yell “hear, hear!” after every single sentence – and it is all the more remarkable where Dr. M Jahi Chappell, the director of agroecology and agricultural policy for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, made this speech: at the World Food … Continue reading “Science ≠ Production, and Production ≠ Food Security” – A Message to the World Food Prize

A Life In the Day of a Ugandan Woman Farmer

What does a day in your life look like? Getting up, brushing your teeth, breakfast, off to work, maybe go to the gym on your way home to justify the indulgences at the dinner party this weekend?

What do you worry about? I’m sure about important things, but let me hazard a guess that it doesn’t include the following: whether you will have food tomorrow, whether your kids will be able to read and write, or whether you will be able to save up enough money to support yourself at an existence level once your body becomes too tired for bone-breaking daily labor.

Women’s groups, such as here the Kitokolo group, can be an important support system for women farmers to share resources and skills.
Image by Trees for the Future, via Flickr CC.

This BBC documentary podcast on a life in the day of Polly Apio, a women farmer in rural Uganda, gives us a very human and touching insight in the life of those whose daily existence depends on their toil, and in the process brings up multiple questions – on the difficulties of subsistence agriculture, on gender equality, legal or cultural, on the importance of education – and yet, inspires us to share. To hope. To be satisfied with the little (or plenty) we have. Since after a day of working from dawn till dusk, Polly Apio concludes with: “It’s been a good day.”

Find the episode from October 21st here in the BBC archive! It’s called ‘Women Farmers’.

Continue reading “A Life In the Day of a Ugandan Woman Farmer”

A Genius Idea for Gender, Climate Change Resilience and Food Security

Yesterday I went to a really inspiring event put on by the GIZ under the topic of “Gender, Climate Change and Food Security”, which highlighted different aspects of how gender (in)equality can be highlighted in climate change negotiations and how women are affected by the challenges of adapting rural self-sufficient farming communities to the future of climate change – both as victims and as powerful initiators of change. One idea that stood out to me is as simple as ingenious and combines so many aspects of successful development work – helping people make better stoves!

In many parts of the world, such as here in Mali, women spend much time and travel far to collect firewood as fuel for their daily cooking.
Image by United Nations Photo, via Flickr Creative Commons.

Continue reading “A Genius Idea for Gender, Climate Change Resilience and Food Security”