Globally, food insecurity is on the rise and malnutrition in all its forms is the leading cause of poor health. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Committee on Food Security (CFS), High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) over the past year has been documenting inequalities in food security and nutrition and is drafting a report on approaches for reducing these inequalities. In response to the invitation to review, comment and make recommendations for strengthening the CFS HLPE Vo Draft Report on Reducing Inequalities for Food Security and Nutrition, Solutions from the Land (SfL) farmer leaders recently submitted their perspectives and recommendations.
Two key premises underlie SfL recommendations. First, “farmers, fishers and foresters–representing all scales and types of food and agricultural production systems–are the beginning of the food system and essential to food and nutrition security.” And secondly, “all producers must have resources, knowledge, technologies, supporting public policies and be able to make a living for their households using climate neutral and nature positive strategies in order to produce an abundance of food and quality nutrition for society and their families.” These resources are particularly critical in reducing the inequalities among those who are dependent upon land, water, and forest resources to make their living. According to the World Bank, 80% of the worlds’ farmers are poor and many of these farmers are food and nutrition insecure.
Food security and nutrition outcomes are unequal within local communities and nations and across global geographies and political boundaries. We need food and agricultural systems that are stable and provide available, accessible, affordable, and useable supplies of food and nutrition. These systems must be sustainable, productive, prosperous, equitable and empower human agency to construct restorative, regenerative, and innovative systems capable of meeting immediate and longer-term needs under scarce water, limited land, changing climate, and other challenging conditions.
To reduce inequalities, SfL recommends an “all tools in the toolbox” approach to managing land, water and forestry resources. This means that UN FAO should not be prescriptive in embracing only one approach to producing food and agriculture products but that all kinds of science-based innovations and a variety of production systems and practices are needed to manage the tremendous diversity of agricultural landscapes and ecosystems. “Producers must be encouraged to experiment and utilize the systems and practices that best support their own unique situations and circumstances with goals to provide food security and nutrition as well as ecosystem health and well-being.”
Solutions from the Land makes the following recommendations to the CFS HLPE Vo draft section on structural reform and redesign of food and agricultural systems with implications for equity:
1) Build on prior 2020 work and policy recommendations of CFS on Agroecological and Other Innovative Approaches;
2) Utilize a blend of agroecology and innovative approaches, recognizing they are not on a continuum but have complementary components that can be blended and integrated (e.g., sustainable intensification can incorporate agroecological systems and practices; new technologies can enhance effectiveness of agroecological approaches);
3) Recognize that transitions to new kinds of systems are dynamic and policies that enabled transformations will also need to be dynamic and responsive as conditions change; and
4) Utilize approaches to balance rather than optimize one sustainability goal over all others.
SfL agrees with Jules Pretty (2020) assertion that structural reform and redesign of food and agricultural systems must “sustain beneficial outcomes over long periods of time across differing ecological, economic, social and political landscapes.” Food and agriculture systems and their value chains are already in the midst of redesign. Social and institutional challenges require landscape-scale changes that encompass biodiversity, water quantity and quality, pest management and climate change mitigation. Reform entails localized approaches such as increased efficiency and substitution strategies within transformative redesign of agroecosystems and landscapes to “harness ecological processes such as predation, parasitism, allelopathy, herbivory, nitrogen fixation and pollination” (Pretty 2020). Achieving equity and equality in food security and nutrition will require all food system stakeholders–including women, poor, small holder farmers, and indigenous peoples are involved in the redesign and co-production of science-based ecological and socially viable approaches, technologies and practices.
SfL fully supports the CFS HLPE Vo Draft Report, its goals to identify systemic drivers within food and nutrition systems, gaps in food and nutrition systems and proposed actions to reduce inequalities and inequities in local and global food security and nutrition. We applaud the multiple collaborative efforts that have gone into its conceptualization and operationalization with the purposeful intent to inspire change and identify pathways to solutions. We look forward to sharing the final draft once it is complete.
Jules Pretty. 2020. New opportunities for the redesign of agricultural and food systems. Agriculture and Human Values 37:629-630