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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Renew the commitment: Ten-Year Retrospective on the Right to Food Guidelines

Kanchan Lama
Kanchan LamaWOCANNepal

Effectiveness of the Right to Food guidelines :

Were the first ten years of implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines a success? Or were you disappointed? Is the glass half full or have empty?

The Right to Food guidelines remained partially successful in accommodating interests of the poor, women and children, which however faced challenge of maintaining the vital link to nutritional aspect of food. Moreover, supply of fast, packet food items (wai wai packet noodles, oil fried salty cheap but low quality imported snacks, etc.) was very active from business circle, leading to developing harmful food consumption practices in my country, widely covering the rural areas too. Most of the mothers in semi urban, urban and rural small head quarter areas took rest in such unhealthy food items by thinking it as a fashion of modern packet food, food of privileged social status and less time consuming (as the kinds eat them directly from the packets). In Nepal previously roasted maize and soybean seeds were very common and popular snacks for all family members, but now children prefer packets of market introduced foreign snacks replacing the healthier food. Thus I have doubts on the effectiveness of RTF guidelines in promoting genuine rights to food by the common mass, specifically by the most vulnerable groups, the children. The glass can be said to be empty in nutritional aspect while 49% of the children under 5 are stunting.

Looking at the last ten years, what are success stories of the progressive realization of the right to food? And what are the biggest challenges?

Very few people know about their right to food. The RTF guidelines have not been sufficiently and locally distributed. The various farmers’ federations and associations and professionals know about the guidelines and those who attend global farmers forums know about such policy guidelines, but the common people have not yet been aware about their right to food. It is a pity that FAO and IFAD, despite having implemented some significant food security projects, could not raise t he expected level of awareness and advocacy among right holders communities to access food right. Hence the success stories could be described as implementation of specific food security projects including improved food production, introduction of diversification of food production, specifically concept and practice of home gardens, vegetables (seasonal and off seasonal), commercialization of improved crops and vegetables, establishment of market channels for excess produce, capacity building of leader farmers (including women lead farmers), introducing measures of Cash and voucher for work programs along with food for work programs in order to enable the farmers make choices to buy local food and supplements on their own choices.  

The biggest challenge is the existing superstitions regarding traditional intra-household food distribution systems, where despite having food, the concept of women as the “last eaters”, pregnant women suffer from anemic due to lack of nutrient values in their food and not having adequate food. This leads to birth of weak child. There are efforts done by UN agencies, e.g., FAO, WFP and UNICEF in partnership with Government Health sector and in partnership with national and local NGOs. However coordination among all stakeholders need to be strengthened and need to be more strategic to adopt guidelines on RTF.

How can the Right to Food Guidelines be used better to accelerate the realization of the right to food? What would be the role of the Committee on World Food Security?

Member states need to build partnership with relevant local institutions, develop awareness and do dissemination of the guidelines in local languages. Regular monitoring of implementation needed which should be informed to public widely through various locally adaptable means and mechanisms. The CWFS can play a strategic role to provide instructions to member states, organize multi-stakeholders’ inter-state sharing forums, review, monitor and reward the most successful actions on ground.

We are often criticized for doing advocacy only: Where is the evidence that a human rights based approach leads to better outcomes? What’s your answer to this challenging question?

In Timor Leste, the Right to Food Network, a team of local youths is active in establishing their claims to participate and own the process of public decisions regarding food security measures. The National Food security policy is gender responsive, inclusive of local indigenous knowledge and food habits, consisting of traditional food items, such as, cassava, sweet potatoes, baked fish, besides inclusion of youths’ interests. The government has a policy of ensuring that all feasts organized by government agencies must use traditional food, made of roots. The FTR group there keep advocating for human rights based food policy. Contact Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries (MAFF) in Timor Leste for more information.

National food security policies must follow RTF guidelines at all levels and in all steps.