Bamako, Mali, 27 -29 January 2006
The Fifth Regional Consultation of farmer organizations, non-governmental organizations and other components of African civil society was held on 27, 28 and 29 January 2006 in Bamako, Mali. These consultations serve as a consultative mechanism that enables:
i) Civil society organizations meeting within the International Planning Committee (IPC) to monitor implementation of the guidelines from the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS:fyl);
ii) FAO to consider their positions during discussions and decisions on rural development and the fight against hunger.
The participants welcomed the fraternal atmosphere at the consultation and the facilities made available to them by the Government of Mali, FAO, the International Planning Committee and Italian Cooperation. They thanked the National Coordination of Farmer Organizations (CNOP) of Mali and the Network of Peasant Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA) for their unstinting help in organizing the meeting.
The purpose of this 5th Consultation was to prepare the participation of farmer organizations and other components of civil society in the 24th FAO Regional Conference, so that they could communicate their views and proposals on the direction to be followed for the elimination of hunger and poverty, while at the same time ensuring sustainable agricultural development in Africa.
The issues discussed refer to land tenure, the fight against poverty and food sovereignty, as well as relations between FAO and civil society. The participants were able to examine each of these issues, to engage in commitments and to put forward recommendations for the consideration of FAO and Governments.
Land tenure and agrarian reform in Africa
Land and natural resources are the cornerstone of family production systems. Regrettably, the security of their land tenure is becoming increasingly precarious, which explains why a large majority of Africa's populations have difficulty in gaining sustainable access to sufficient and wholesome food. Among other causes, this precariousness is brought about by:
- land tenure policies that ignore customary rights;
- the propensity of certain governments to favour the establishment of multinationals or agrobusiness;
- urban expansion;
- the marginalization of certain social groups (small producers, women, the young, pastoralists and migrants);
- unjust systems of expropriation.
The situation is becoming increasingly untenable in many areas and for an ever larger segment of the population. This explains the increasing occurrence of land disputes between different users of natural resources or even between these users and the State, with significant repercussions on social stability.
This observation led the participants at the 5th Consultation to suggest a thorough overhaul of Africa's land tenure systems, which can only be done with the political courage of those in government and a firm commitment of farmer organizations and civil society to defend the rights of producers.
For the participants, the land issue has been a subject of controversy since liberalization and globalization became the watchwords of economic and social development in Africa. Land and agrarian reform needs to take place in a spirit of equity, so that family holdings and marginalized groups can enjoy their rights in a sustainable manner and can invest in the modernization of their factors of production.
Farmer organizations and other actors of civil society need to mobilize to defend their perceptions of the land reforms that are needed. They need to be informed and to be trained in better recognizing and defending their rights.
Land policies need to rest on new legislation that integrates customary rights and non-discriminatory social practices vis-à-vis women, the young, migrants and socially discriminated groups. They also need to provide more effective systems of conflict management that take heed of local bodies and mechanisms for dispute settlement.
Such policies and legislation need to be drawn up by adopting a participatory approach that confers real responsibility on farmer organizations, giving them their own framework for reflection and consultation on these matters.
Fight against hunger and the International Alliance
According to FAO data, hunger has eased slightly in all parts of the world except in sub-Saharan Africa. Each year, millions of individuals join the horde of people living off less than one dollar a day and suffering hunger and malnutrition. This is one of the gravest of violations of human rights.
Farmer organizations and other components of civil society have repeatedly pointed out that there can be no sustainable solution to hunger and poverty in our region without agricultural development.
We remain convinced that African agriculture can feed Africa while continuing to fulfil other fundamental missions, including the sustainable management of natural resources, the persistence of cultural and social balances, higher incomes and economic growth. Diversity of agroecological zones, availability of natural resources, our economic riches and our peasant farmer knowledge and know-how are as many assets that can be used to banish hunger for good.
We are also very sceptical of the notion that genetically modified organisms are the panacea for increasing production and eliminating hunger.
We think, rather, that Governments should attach greater importance to the volume and mechanisms of funding of investment for family holdings. We also oppose any attempt to introduce GMOs, particularly those that carry the "terminator" gene that induces seed sterility at harvest and that dangerously imperils biological and genetic diversity on our continent.
Rather than letting itself be duped by these technologies, which are questioned in many developed countries, Africa should equip itself with bold agricultural and trade policies – the only way of triggering significant positive change between now and 2015.
In a context of inequitable globalization and liberalization, only measures of protection at subregional borders and a citizen's act of consuming local products can guarantee a sustained increase in agricultural production. This requires Governments and FAO to adopt principles of food sovereignty.
Food sovereignty is the right of people to produce to feed themselves and to protect what they produce. This is the right that needs to be upheld in multilateral trade negotiations (WTO) and bilateral negotiations (Economic Partnership Agreements with Europe). Africa must therefore equip itself with the means to protect its agriculture and put in place a system of management of supply that corresponds to its food needs.
The fight against hunger requires a genuine mobilization of all forces and a synergy of actions. That is why we wholeheartedly subscribe to the spirit of the International Alliance Against Hunger. For we believe that a partnership of many actors can be an appropriate way of circumscribing hunger and malnutrition in our countries and at the subregional level. The commitment of Governments, FAO, the private sector and civil society to the Alliance must therefore be more robust and more solid.
FAO – Civil Society relations in the framework of FAO reform
The participants at the 5th Regional Consultation welcome FAO's efforts to establish closer ties with civil society. We welcome the good relations that exist between the International Planning Committee and FAO Headquarters on the one hand and between components of civil society and certain country offices in Africa, on the other.
However, we believe that actual collaboration between FAO and civil society falls far short of expressed commitments. That is why, in the perspective of anticipated reform, Governments and FAO should take appropriate measures at the institutional, technical and financial level.
In view of the foregoing observations and findings, we, the participants at the 5th Consultation, make the following recommendations:
On land issues
1- We urge Governments to:
a. Elaborate and implement, through a participatory approach, land policies and legislation that focus on the security of land tenure of family holdings, on equitable access to land by all, especially the vulnerable groups (women, the young, migrants, pastoralists and disadvantaged social groups) and on the sustainable management of natural resources;
b. Safeguard the land rights of agricultural producers through appropriate instruments, including the land register, rural land use planning and the monitoring of land ownership.
2- We urge FAO to:
a. Contribute towards reinforcing the capacity of farmer organizations to defend their land rights through the establishment of information, training and experience-exchange programmes;
b. Provide its technical and financial support to farmer organizations and to Governments in formulating and implementing reforms, including through studies and research on land issues.
3- We, for our part, undertake to:
a. Participate meaningfully in the shaping of land policies and legislation, by conducting independent studies and our own reflections;
b. Advocate for the consideration of our rights and legitimate interests.
Fight against poverty
In the framework of the elimination of hunger and malnutrition in Africa, we:
1. Urge Governments, the subregional integration institutions and the African Union (AU) to:
a. Take into account the rights of their citizens by adopting the principles of food sovereignty.
2. Demand from Governments:
a. The establishment of enabling conditions for populations to consume the food and agricultural products that they produce;
b. The protection of African agriculture and the implementation of appropriate mechanisms for the management of supply;
c. The honouring of the commitments made at the 2003 Summit of the African Union in Maputo to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture;
d. The implementation of appropriate mechanisms of financing and support to investment for the modernization of family agricultural holdings;
e. A moratorium of 10 years on all use, marketing and importation of GMO varieties and derived products. This delay should serve to produce appropriate legislation and to inform and train stakeholders, in particular the agricultural producers;
f. A firm and non-negotiable commitment to counter any attempt to remove the moratorium on "terminator" technology;
g. Strong support to agricultural research for the development of seeds suited to the production conditions of family holdings;
h. The adoption of appropriate policy and legislation for the protection of genetic resources, and of farmer and community rights over biological resources.
3. We urge FAO to:
a. Adopt the right to food sovereignty as a right to be defended in the framework of the guidelines on the right to food and as a principle to be observed in food security programmes;
b. Put in place an effective programme for developing a multiparty partnership against hunger, for supporting subregional and country alliances and for strengthening farmer organization and civil society capacity to defend citizens’ rights to food.
4. We undertake to:
a. Mobilize all components of society and public and private institutions so that the fight against hunger becomes a daily concern and a citizen's act, in particular by promoting the food and agricultural products of the region and by engaging actively in the establishment and invigoration of national and subregional alliances throughout sub-Saharan Africa;
b. Mobilize our own internal financial resources to support actions undertaken in the framework of alliances;
c. Pursue exchanges between African farmer organizations to reinforce their negotiating position in defining regional and subregional policies.
FAO – Civil Society relations
To reinforce relations between FAO and civil society organizations, we:
1. Call on Governments and FAO to:
a. Allow civil society organizations to introduce discussion items into the agenda of the Regional Conference for Africa
2. Call on Governments to:
a. Support FAO reform towards enhanced dialogue with civil society.
3. Urge FAO to put in place a more effective mechanism for partnership with civil society, notably through:
a. Reinforcement of the operating capacity of the FO/NGO/CSO unit at Headquarters, providing it with sufficient human resources and appropriate means of operation;
b. The gradual decentralization of this unit to the subregional offices;
c. The creation of operational focal points in country offices;
d. The establishment of ongoing dialogue and open partnership with civil society at the level of all country offices.
Done in Bamako on 29 January 2006