UK Parliamentary Inquiry
Global Food Security
Download UK Food Group written submission (48kb PDF)
UK Food Group
'Seeking solutions to the global crisis in food and agriculture'
UK Food Group contribution to the Enquiry of the
All Party Group on Agriculture and Food for Development
on Global Food Security
We argue that the UK government should implement without delay changes in its international development programme that will assist countries and communities to realise food sovereignty. A number of issues related to this are summarised below. These issues include, among others: the causes of the food crisis; growth and marginalisation; governance; trade policy; local control and the Right to Food; focus on healthy food and a healthy environment; gender; inclusion and participation of the organisations of all types of small-scale food producers in policy formulation; biodiversity and climate change resilience; agroecology; knowledge, science and technology - implementing IAASTD findings.
Some of these issues have been raised in different ways by several witnesses at the oral evidence sessions, especially the one held on 25 th February.
In addition, we are annexing our submission to the International Development Committee. Although prepared last April, there are issues raised in that submission which are still highly relevant to the APPG enquiry, especially the points concerning the reform of the Rome-based UN food agencies and the CGIAR. The essence of those points is referred to in the Statement by Civil Society to the Madrid High Level Meeting on Food Security in January. Several UK Food Group members participated in formulating the statement which was presented by Henry Saragih, secretary general of La Via Campesina, the global peasant farmers movement.
UK Food Group members' experience
Many UK Food Group members work closely with small-scale food producing communities in the global South. We would like to urge the APPG to propose that DFID should principally be promoting or supporting research and development, policy and practice for small-scale sustainable food provision, not 'industrial' agricultural practices at any scale. We are not advocating a return to subsistence agriculture but the promotion, above other considerations, of agricultural systems which enable communities to control their localised food systems and secure livelihoods in environmentally sustainable ways.
We believe that the food crisis is not a transient phenomenon, but that it is chronic, structural and seasonal in the countries where UK Food Group members work, and there are no 'big bang' and 'quick fix' solutions - the causes are long-term and as much about political change and redressing the influence of corporate control of the food system as about funding. This needs to be reflected in the revised agricultural policy.
Growth and marginalisation
We continue to express concerns about a focus on 'growth'. We are clearly not saying that growth of small-scale agriculture is a bad thing, but rather than an unqualified focus on food production volumes, the APPG should focus instead on systems that promote and protect the right to adequate food and rural livelihoods and which also protect the environment. We recognise that different target populations may need 'safety net' strategies but it will be important to develop an explicit strategy for each group, providing food from souces as local as possible, if the poor are not to be further marginalized. There is a need for direct and indirect support to marginal, 'non-viable' subsistence farmers so that they can become viable, (with similar support for pastoralists, landless rural people, fisherfolk, forest dwellers and other small-scale food providers.) Safety nets and social protection measures are, we believe, for emergency use only and should not take the place of interventions to transform the livelihoods of those who are impoverished in the first place by policies that support the concentration of productive resources in the hands of a few. Growth should never be at the expense of the poor.
In light of the recommendations and analysis of the UN High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis and the Comprehensive Framework for Action, the UK could contribute to the UN food agency reform process through support for a meta evaluation of the Rome-based UN food agencies and the renewal of FAO . The UK should commit to using its influence to make real changes to the global governance of food and agriculture - including trade (commerce and agreements), aid, finance/speculation, and regulation - in favour of people and the environment.
Possibly the biggest impact for small-scale producers would be the promotion of trade policies that protect their local and regional markets without fear of dumping of subsidised imports, and which allow the maintenance of strategic grain reserves. The forced trade liberalisation policies of the past have no place in a future food system that puts people and the environment first.
Impacts of Europe 's consumption
The report of the APPG could highlight one of the causes of the structural crisis in the food system - the role of Europe 's consumption of agricultural commodities and global resources including land and water. In the short term, a recognised threat to the provision of food to local people is the diversion of crops to fuel production, driven in a large part by EU policies and subsidy programmes. In the longer term, high levels of EU and UK consumption of livestock products is placing huge pressures on land, water, biodiversity and natural resources, to produce grain and protein feeds, mostly from soy. Both of these threats are resulting in increases in prices, food insecurity, landlessness, rural poverty, unemployment, natural resource depletion and greenhouse gas emissions, all of which threaten local food production.
Local Control and the Right to Food
The UKFG has stressed to ministers and officials the importance of bringing food production under the control of national governments and food producing communities themselves. The recent increases in international food prices have shown the disastrous impact of relinquishing control over localised food systems to international commodity markets and transnational corporations. The right to food, an important component of food sovereignty, cannot be realised unless food systems are localised and remain under the control of communities, we believe.
Focus on healthy food and a healthy environment
The APPG should focus its attention on the provision of healthy food within a healthy environment. It could also look at processes in DEFRA for reform of the UK 's food system, towards one that improves human health, animal welfare and environmentally sustainability, and propose similar approaches for the provision of food to the majority, including the hungry.
It is vital that the voices of women farmers throughout the developing world to be heard. It is women farmers who are the major food producers in many parts of the world, and have most to lose from a focus on industrial scale farming, unfair trade systems and the focus on growth, rather than on securing food availability and the rights of individuals and communities to adequate food.
Inclusion and Participation
There is a need for opening up agriculture policy processes to more diverse forms of knowledge and embrace participatory decision-making approaches in policy-making processes and agenda setting for research and development of agricultural science and technology. Such decision making processes should include the organisations of all types of small-scale food producers (small-scale farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples and other small-scale food providers) in policy formulation.
Biodiversity and Climate Change Resilience
In terms of production methods, the APPG should be prioritising biodiverse climate resilient agricultural systems, which focus more on soil health and nutrition, rather than on feeding crops with fertilizers which are energy intensive to produce and use and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Redirecting support for emergency fertilizer subsidies to promoting agroecological practices would provide a long-term sustainable alternative. A shift towards agroecological practices, which at smaller scales can be more productive per unit area or unit of water, will mitigate the impacts of global warming and make food production more resilient and adaptive in the face of climate change.
Knowledge, Science and Technology - implementing IAASTD findings
The UK government approved the report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) in June 2008 but we observe that there has not been any promotion of its 22 findings by DFID, DEFRA or ministers In the reports of IAASTD, for example, there are findings on the strategic protection of local markets and the necessary shift towards using agro-ecological knowledge, science and technology and farmer-led innovation. Actively supporting the implementation of the findings of this assessment would be an excellent recommendation of the APPG in order to make clear its commitment to the required radical changes in agricultural policy and practice identified by the Assessment.
As highlighted by the IAASTD, GM cops are of questionable benefit for production. An acceptance of genetic engineering technology and increased use of pesticides and other agrochemicals as a way forward is not useful, for achieving global food security, we believe. A focus on GM crops is diversionary. Leaving aside the potential health, environmental and corporate control problems created by GM crops, a focus on these crops diverts resources from supporting viable small-scale agroecological practices, identified as the way forward by IAASTD. We hope the report makes this point clearly.
The IAASTD recognises the multifuctionality of agriculture, highlighting the interconnectedness of agriculture's different roles and functions. By acknowledging agriculture as a multi-output activity, encompassing both commodities and non-commodity outputs, it promotes agroecology and emphasises the impact it can have on achieving sustainability and development goals. Agroecology is the foundations of sustainable agriculture and recognises the multifunctional dimensions of agriculture and facilitates progress toward a broad rage of equitable and sustainable development goals. Acroecology builds on the science of ecological traditional knowledge and accumulated principles and empirical evidence, to develop socially, environmentally sustainable and productive farming systems. A wide variety of technologies, practices and innovations, including local and traditional knowledge, draw on the science of agroecology, such as organic agriculture.
In the light of the current global context, and in agreement with the IAASTD, it is essential to shift agricultural policies towards systems that allow communities to feed themselves and secure livelihoods in environmentally sustainable ways. Agricultural systems must move away from a volume centred approach and towards the recognition that the main problems in regards to our global food system are essentially due to the nature of the control and approach to the production and distribution of food, coupled with environmental concerns.
A large proportion of the world's poorest people are small scale farmers, many of which are women. Agroecological systems are better accommodated to contribute to more sustainable livelihoods and a decrease in food insecurity and poverty, as they are designed to feed people, to be diverse and resilient in the face of multiple threats from pests, diseases, droughts and flood, and to minimise the use of fossil fuels. This is particularly relevant in the light of climate change, which is likely to amplify all these threats.
Localised agroecological farming systems can at smaller scales be more productive per unit area or unit of water, can mitigate the impacts of global warming and make food production more resilient and adaptive to climate change. In addition, it allows communities to utilise what they already have in a sustainable manner. Agroecological approaches are also more affordable to poor people, as they are not premised on purchased inputs but on local resources and knowledge. Because agroecological approaches support diversity, and because they tend to be positioned in local food systems, they allow for a more nutritious diet based on a broader range of fresher foods. The avoidance of the use of pesticides eliminates one major health hazard from the lives of farmers and their families, whether caused by exposure while working in the fields, through consumption or through pollution of watercourses.
Food Security versus Food Sovereignty
The food sovereignty policy framework was developed as a reaction to the impact of neoliberal trade and 'food security' policies. The definition of food security agreed by governments focuses on all peoples having enough food to eat each day. It is often realised through imports. But food security is silent about where the food comes from, who produces it, and how and under what conditions it has been grown. The result of this limited policy focus has been that smallholder farmers are increasingly forced off their lands as they cannot compete with increases in (often subsidised) imports of food. Food security policies may, thus, contribute to more poverty, marginalisation and hunger. Food sovereignty not only deals with power relations, trade issues, the right to food and knowledge systems it also supports agricultural systems that have been developed based on principles of cooperation with nature. This has led to highly complex agro-ecological systems which provide multiple functions in support of food provision.
Food sovereignty is a countervailing policy framework that addresses the issues at the heart of the APPG enquiry. It is the policy proposal of small-scale farmers who know how to provide good, wholesome food. It puts them and other food providers centre-stage and prioritises the needs of consumers for nutritious foods, sourced as locally as possible.
The core principles of food sovereignty cover all dimensions of a food system that will provide food in the long-term rather than short-term profits. It f ocuses on food for people rather than internationally tradeable commodities. It values food providers rather than eliminating them. It localises food systems rather than dependence on inequitable global trade. It puts control locally instead of by unaccountable corporations. It builds knowledge and skills that conserve and develop local food production and rejects alien technologies such as GMOs. It works with nature in diverse agroecological systems rather than energy-intensive production methods which damage the environment and contribute to global warming.
It is only through food sovereignty, using the knowledge and skills of these small-scale food providers and their technologies, that we will achieve a resilient food system, which will guarantee our future food.
We believe that the current food 'crisis' might have been less severe had DFID and other OECD donors changed their development, international trade and related policies several years ago . We hope that the APPG report will be robust in its proposals for radical changes in policy, practice and governance necessary in order to avert future food crises.
The UK Food Group is the principal civil society network in the UK on global food and farming issues and is the UK focal point for many European and International networks. It represents BOND (British Overseas NGOs in Development) on these issues especially in CONCORD 's European Food Security Group, which also has much to say on these issues (see the extract from CONCORD 's Manifesto for the 2009 EP elections at ukabc.org/ukfg/efsg-concord-manifesto-ep-elections2009.pdf ). Members of the UK Food Group include both large and smaller NGOs that work on development and environment issues related to food and farming, as well as farmer-centred and consumer NGOs. For more, see www.ukfg.org.uk
See UKFG submission to the IDC enquiry on WFP and Global Food Security (attached) and at www.ukfg.org.uk/docs/IDC_Enquiry_WFP_Global_Food_Security.pdf
Some of these issues are summarised in the UKFG publication 'More Aid for African Agriculture: policy implications for small-scale farmers' www.ukfg.org.uk/ more - aid-for-african - agriculture .php