I peek around the corner of the grocery store. Well, I guess ‘store’ is a misnomer – distribution point, maybe? I am shy at first because I am wary of being an obnoxious foreigner, treating Havana as an open-air museum full of entertaining quirks that actually make up Cubans’ reality. But the clerk waves me … Continue reading State-Sponsored Food Security: The Cuban Case. Does It Work?
I can’t forget the wistful stares. “How lucky you are to come and visit us! We’d like to travel as well and see the world.” Legally, there is no problem anymore since the exit visa requirement was abolished in 2013. Yet, economically it is impossible for the vast majority of Cuban citizens. Average public-sector … Continue reading Cuba: Lessons to be Learned for Sustainable Living?
I am back from Cuba and have a long list of posts in my mind, both from the conference I attended and from talking to Cubans on the street. Coming soon. However, these days I can’t stop thinking about a topic closer to home, at least mentally – the Greek/European tragedy unrolling over the last … Continue reading Greece: Food Insecurity At Europe’s Doorstep
The cool thing about being in Brussels? Showing up at a lunch meeting across the street from your office and have the chief statistician of the FAO and the director of the WFP Brussels office explain how they arrived at estimating the state of food insecurity in the world. I will talk more about the … Continue reading World Food Day: The Numbers #WFD2014
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.
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.”
Have you heard of agroecology? This is a holistic agricultural production system that is similar to organic methods, but yet not exactly the same. The Christensen Fund has made a great infographic that compares and contrasts the agroecological with the conventional system from sky to soil: As this handy policy brief explains, “based on a … Continue reading Agroecology: The Alternative of the Future?
On Wednesday, as anticipated, the House of Representatives passed the Farm Bill after a 2 year impasse with 251 to 166 votes. The Democratic leadership of the Senate has already endorsed it, making it likely that it will pass the Senate floor as well in the coming week and be on President Obama’s desk soon. Media and lobby group reactions, as well as politicians’ own levels of satisfaction, were an extremely mixed bag. One frequently cited commentary came from Rep. Tim Walz (a Democrat from Minnesota):
“Of course it’s not perfect. If you want perfect, you’ll get that in heaven. This place is closer to hell, so this is a pretty good compromise that we have come up with.”
Let’s go through the main features, shall we?
Hey from Malmö! I am on a whirlwind trip around Southern Sweden and Denmark, so i might check in less frequently, but still wanted to share this NYTimes op-Ed by Mark Bittman on how to feed the world, in which he only requires three pages to roll up the entire debate about quantity vs. distribution … Continue reading How To Feed The World
This weekend, David Cameron hosted the G8 “Hunger Summit” in Northern Ireland, resulting in promises, pledges, praise – and a lot of backlash from African civil society, who this summit was supposed to help. What was the problem?
(the IF campaign actually had a really good promotion video.)
Prior to the summit, Cameron announced his goals – trade, taxes, and transparency – and stressed the continued importance of the G8, since “as eight countries making up around half of the world’s entire GDP, the standards we set, the commitments we make, and the steps we take can help solve vital global issues, fire up economies and drive prosperity all over the world.” He promised that this G8 would be different, though – “Too often, development at the G8 has been about rich countries doing things to poor countries. But at Lough Erne, we in the developed world will concentrate on issues that involve us putting our own house in order and helping developing countries to prosper.”
Rich countries doing things to poor countries indeed.
Here is a mind-boggling Sunday statistic for you: India is estimated to have more undernourished people than all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined. I had to re-read that sentence three times before really grasping its consequences. I think especially in academia, we are now so used to think of India as an “emerging economy”, a “model of growth”, so used to talk about its burgeoning IT sector and to see really smart Indian students join our universities that we forget about the fact that 43.5% of its children under the age of 5 are underweight, and that 19% of the total population is undernourished.
This may however be one of the reasons that my Google alerts to articles mentioning the “right to food” have recently been dominated by articles talking about India, since the country stands closely before a landmark legislation that translates the human right to food into concrete policy.