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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Urbanization, Rural Transformation and Implications for Food Security - Online consultation on the background document to the CFS Forum

Emily Mattheisen
Emily MattheisenFIAN InternationalGermany

CSM Input to the Urbanization and Rural Transformation FSN Forum

This represents a collective input from the working group within the Civil Society Mechanism of the CFS- which includes the input from several different CSOs and Social Movements globally.

We thank the CFS Secretariat for putting together this paper and making an effort to distill the various information available. It is a big topic, and still needs some refinement. Before going throughout the paper, it’s important to first outline: what are the policy shifts that we want to see? And what is the role for the CFS?

Human rights are transversal and must be integrated into the policy analysis throughout as the center of the entire analysis, not just an afterthought or a sub topic. Human Rights, and specifically the realization of the right to adequate food and nutrition is at the core of the CFS mandate and within the Global Strategic Framework which guides the work of the CFS. Through the interaction with different issues in the document- from migration to climate change, access to resources and governance -  a human rights analysis puts those most negatively affected at the center of the discussion, thus creating a clear entry point for putting communities at the center of the solutions. A Human Rights Based Approach  must be employed, where the rights of women and indigenous people are respected. This is fundamental to the future success of the work in the CFS, and an added value of the CFS process. Within this framework other issues that were not fully addressed in this paper would also need to be addressed which include:

  • Equal access to resources for small scale food producers, both men and women (including, pastoralists and fishing communities)
  • Decent work and labor rights for all (in all levels of the food supply chain)
  • Full integration of nutrition- not just from a consumption/medical perspective.

Substantial issues that need to be considered in this paper are:

Internal learning of the CFS and utilizing the HLPE reports: the CFS has produced a wealth of information through the HLPE processes.  It is fundamental that the CFS build greater internal coherence, by utilising  these reports, which offer important insight into this topic, and that we have all collectively invested in as  actors in the CFS.

Many of these reports would add greatly to this complex topic and provide more nuanced guidance on the linkages with different aspects and research of FSN. As it stands now, CSM does not feel that this has been done fully, and hopes to see a greater inclusion of past CFS documents in the next draft. In reality, this workstream can take the lessons from past CFS work and contextualize it into a territorial framework- or rather localizing the issues. 

- Tenure, and access to resources and markets: It would strengthen the narrative of the report considerably to include these aspects that are part of other core CFS workstreams/existing policy.. The Tenure Guidelines were not mentioned at all, yet  all aspects of the Guidelines are relevant here- as tenure in terms of FSN are not an issue only in rural areas- but specifically the section on spatial planning should be fully included in terms of integrated territorial planning. The Tenure Guidelines will support a more in-depth discussion on 1) local governance of tenure, 2) protection of peri-urban agricultural land from urbanization and speculation, and 3) tenure in urban areas for agriculture and food production, which is a fundamental means of FSN for many communities in impoverished urban centers of all sizes, and key to ensuring the right to adequate food and nutrition in both urban and rural areas.

Market access for small-scale producers: This is critical for territorial development (or in other words, stronger rural-urban linkages).  A given territorial space can range from local, to transboundary to regional -  as distinct from global - and can be located in rural, peri-urban or urban contexts. They are the dominant source of the food consumed in the world (leaving aside self-consumption), particularly in the Global South. They are also expanding steadily in the North. They are the markets in which smallholders have most presence and exercise most control, and which they access autonomously, individually or through their own associations.

These markets enable a greater share of value added to be retained and returned to farm level and hence they constitute an important contribution to fighting rural poverty, and increase the viability of small-scale peri-urban and urban agricultural production. Because of the decentralized nature of the food systems in which they are embedded, they help to counter the desertification of rural space.  As 70% of the world’s food is produced by smallholders, this is an important factor, especially as it is generally estimated that only 20% of cities food needs can be supplied by urban agriculture.

Secure access by smallholders to land and other natural resources is, of course, a prerequisite to their survival. Territorial markets are defined by additional characteristics including the following:

  • Multiple functions beyond exchange of commodities, acting as spaces for social interaction, exchange of producers’ knowledge, redistribution of products like seeds, maintaining cultural identities.
  • Direct interaction between producers and consumers including on price negotiation and genuine short supply chains.
  • More climate-friendly logistics.
  • Less food waste in the entire food chain, including in artisanal processing and marketing.
  • Labor intensive systems that generate more employment per unit of value of merchandise in the case of small-scale food production.
  • Resilience deriving from the autonomy of smallholders, which has to be defended and strengthened.

There is reference in the draft to the problem of cheap importers undercutting local producers and the local market— this is clearly an issue of trade agreements, and it is critical that we clearly state this problem, as it was also discussed in the technical workshop to prepare this draft. International and bilateral free trade agreements consistently challenge the various elements of the right to adequate food; they challenge the sovereignty of states and communities, prevent the development of national and local economies, put economic pressure on small scale food producers, and challenge the right of non-food producing communities to have economic and physical access to healthy, local and culturally appropriate food.

-Public procurement – was not mentioned at all in the draft, and must be engaged with as both an issue on its own and a solution to strong territorial development. Public procurement constitutes an extremely important market for smallholders, and a way to source local, fresh foods in public institutions and is recognized to be a practical and useful policy tool. The experiences of Brazil and India are well-known but they are by no means the only ones and additional information needs to be collected and analysed. European Directive 2014/24/EU - EUR-Lex - Europa.eu and Directive 2014/25/EU - EUR-Lex - Europa.eu also support this approach. The CFS policy recommendation on food loss and waste also contains decisions towards improved procurement policies, stating that governments at all levels should be: “Assessing and improving, where relevant, public food procurement management and distribution policies and practices to minimize FLW while ensuring food safety and quality, safeguarding the environment, improving economic efficiency and pursuing social benefits, for instance facilitating access for small-scale food producers where appropriate”

As with any public policy, institutional procurement can be targeted to support a range of objectives according to the criteria and modalities that are applied. The focus should be on the criteria and conditions that should be applied for public procurement to work for smallholders and the constraints that need to be addressed, with a view to supporting positive rural transformation, for example.

-Decentralized governance and government structures:  The conversation within the technical workshop, and within the literature on this topic (including the Habitat process) revolves a lot around better articulating the role of local governments (including at city, town, regional or territorial level) in implementing policy and governing towards FSN and the right to food and nutrition. The CFS has a clear role and responsibility to provide guidance on these issues. The UN HRC issued a report last year on the Human Rights obligations of local government (http://www.cisdp.uclg.org/sites/default/files/Local%20Gov%20Report.pdf ), which clarifies two main theoretical points: (1) the application of human rights in local administration is essential to democratic governance and (2) local authorities share the same human rights obligations as central governments, as all spheres of government within a treaty-bound state are equal duty holders under international human rights law. It is the responsibility of bodies such as the CFS to provide guidance to member states on how to better include all levels of government in policy implantation, as well as to provide a platform for civil society to make clear their expectations and needs at the local and territorial level as well in terms of policy for FSN and right to food and nutrition.

-Rural vs. urban:

The historical process of defining rural and urban, has effectively separated the rural and urban in policy making. As was discussed in the technical workshop, “territorial approaches” better characterizes the spatial frame of reference, the economic scope and the formative policy change that  we are trying to achieve.

If we persist with the rural vs urban  dichotomy, many things are lost when posing the topic of this workstream as “urbanization and rural transformation” the question clearly positions itself as to how should rural areas transform to better meet the needs of cities. The CSM position is that the fundamental issue is questioning the development paradigm that has made it difficult or even impossible to sustain rural livelihoods, and reconsider how we can transform urban development to create opportunities and fulfil the human rights of rural communities (and all communities for that matter).  While the paper makes an effort to examine the uneven development patterns that cause these spatial shifts, and the complexities of changing territories, it fails to explore the real solutions that  can make a genuine difference to food security and nutrition policy, as well as to realizing and operationalizing the human right to adequate food for communities in both rural and urban areas. Also missing is a clear exploration of the various barriers in the current food system to realizing rights and creating stronger and balanced territorial development.

Specific attention should also be dedicated to the issue of urban – fisheries questions. Many cities are also coastal, and the impacts on coastal traditional communities and small-scale fisheries should also be taken into consideration, not least because fish is an important part of these populations’ traditional staple diet. Issues to be considered are the following: land speculation and tourism that force traditional fisher communities off their lands/fishing grounds; destruction of mangroves, wetlands and estuaries that are the breeding grounds of many fish; and industrial fisheries that are a threat to both the environment and to coastal fishery communities’ livelihoods.  Access to and preservation of these areas and traditional fishing rights are key to the right to food of these communities.

The city-region food system perspective that is put forward in the document is welcomed. We believe that for the CFS it is important that we use this concept but refer to it as territorial food systems- as this term overcomes all artificial boundaries and is a frame of reference and terminology that makes more sense to the actors of our various constituencies - including both civil society and Member States. In order to understand some of the nuances of this discussion, we recommend the authors of the paper to please include information and resoruces from this publication: http://www.ruaf.org/sites/default/files/UAM30.pdf

-Nutrition and social protection: It is disappointing that nutrition is not really dealt with in this paper. The literature on this topic is wide and diverse, some documents to look at are included as bibliographical references. In this context the issue of nutrition cannot be reduced the changing dietary patterns and food safety- these are symptoms of a larger systemic issues which is touched on, but not fully addressed. The food system that undercuts local markets, replaces local foods with imports (processed, sugar, etc.) is important, as is the fundamental problem of corporate influence in marketing, availability, etc..

Poverty does not exist in a vacuum. It is a symptom of larger structural inequalities, and has a clear link to the right to food in both rural and urban areas. Much literature on this issue and economic access to food exists. It is a question linked to issues of access to resources for growing food; many people in rural and urban areas cannot afford to access fresh food due to low income, physical lack of access to fresh food, insufficient possibilities to access the direct producer to consumer possibilities and other factors.. Much research has been carried out in the United States, Australia and other countries on food deserts. In developing countries, local traditional markets are threatened by the importation of cheap industrially grown food, often imported and unsafe. This is important in understanding socio-economic discrimination, as well as posing clear solutions in terms of the role of urban, metropolitan and territorial planning.

The document contains no reference or information on social protection mechanisms. This is surprising, as social protection is a key issue when discussing FSN and territorial approaches, and also there was an HLPE report and CFS policy document on Social Protection that should be referenced here, as should the materials from the ILO on social protection floors.

-The role of data: With the development of the SDGs, everyone is very preoccupied with gathering data and creating indicators to measure progress, but within this excitement about data we fail to understand that our current modes of data collection, metrics and even the questions that are being asked are limiting. Statistics and data are challenging, as data collected is rarely neutral and always has a specific goal that often leads to a limited/reductionist presentation of the issue. Measuring hunger is recognized as a challenge in the draft, and in fact a problem – current data does not? accurately capture “urban hunger”. However going beyond this, the data sets commonly used for measuring hunger are generally inadequate, and does not reflect the whole picture of hunger and malnutrition. Civil society and other actors have put forward criticisms of the SOFI over the past several years. Additionally, what data is actually collected is also problematic. For example, despite the importance of informal and territorial markets, they are not included in data collection systems, with negative impacts on the quality of the evidence base for public policies.

The draft also addresses that measuring employment is difficult as it doesn’t account for the range of activities in which families are engaged, or the informal activities that generate income.  These areas are critical to understanding the real extent of the challenges families and communities face, and to proposing supportive policy solutions. We understand that data will be used: we wish to request that the authors ensure a critical lens is used in the methodologies for data collection and that they fully assess the limitations.

-Food waste and loss: It is important to distinguish local small-scale producer-to-consumer chains that are not wasteful, and that are based on decent living for farmers and farm workers and a fair price paid by consumers, such as Community Supported Agriculture , from the perpetuating of the current wasteful industrial system that recycles food through charities but does not imply any system change to the existing unsustainable system per se.  Hypermarkets working with small-scale producers using contract farming is a trend that perpetuates a system by using a false solution and marketing it is “local short chain” agriculture. Please refer to the important work done in the CFS process on food loss and waste, which presents a more nuanced vision of the issue.

The issue of “efficiency” is often presented to introduce issues of mechanized farming, whereas there is evidence elsewhere to show that small-scale production and agroecology have more long-term beneficial impacts. Increased mechanization is not the answer: it uses more fossil fuels and contributes to climate change and relies on chemical inputs to combat soil depletion. Furthermore the negative externalities must be taken into account: this constitutes a different kind of waste. Agroecology based on low impact labour-intensive farming provides employment and is climate friendly. The current situation of FWL is a symptom of a larger problem, and creating policy and reviewing literature that support the development of sustainable local food systems inherently reduces waste.

Other resources to utilize:

-Accounting for Hunger: The Right to Food in the Era of Globalisation

edited by Olivier De Schutter, Kaitlin Y Cordes

-on governance and Food Policy Councils: http://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1046&context=kaleidoscope

-On food procurement: http://orgprints.org/17413/1/NATIONAL_REPORT_BIOFORSK_RAPPORT_Italy_FINAL.pdf

-http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE_Reports/HLPE-Report-4-Social_protection_for_food_security-June_2012.pdf

- http://www.un.org/ga/second/64/socialprotection.pdf

- http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15219&LangID=E

- http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353829210000584