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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Examining the linkages between trade and food security: What is your experience?

Ann Steensland
Ann SteenslandGlobal Harvest InitiativeUnited States of America

Dear Susan,

Thank you for your response to the posting from Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IICA).  We agree that a richer, more nuanced conversation about the linkages between trade and food security is essential if we are to maximize the benefits, and reduce the risks, of global and regional trade, particularly for smaller and medium scale producers.

The Rome Declaration on Nutrition (ICN2, 2014) recognizes that the “root causes of and factors leading to malnutrition are complex and multidimensional” and identifies “poverty, underdevelopment and low socio-economic status [as] major contributors to malnutrition in both rural and urban areas.”  (Pg. 1, 5 and 5.a.)  The Declaration emphasizes that raising the productive capacity, income, and resilience of small producers, especially women, plays an “important role in reducing malnutrition.” (Page 4, 14.f.) Trade cannot address all of the socio-economic and political challenges that influence food security and nutrition, but trade creates opportunities for small scale producers to increase their incomes – a critical component of increasing food security and reducing malnutrition

One example comes from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) which facilitates a public-private partnership designed to help smallholders cocoa producers expand exports of dried cocoa beans certified as very organic and fair trade.  (Full project description attached.) Sao Tome and Principe is home to one of the rarest and most expensive cocoa beans on the market, but the cocoa price crash of 1998 devastated the local cocoa industry.  In 2003, IFAD facilitated a partnership between 500 farmers in 14 communities and Kaoka, a leading French organic chocolate producer, who agreed to purchase all the organic-certified cocoa that the farmers could produce and provide technical and commercial advice.   Thanks to the project, known as PAPAFPA (Participator Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme), smallholder cocoa producers have resumed cultivation and organized themselves into associations and cooperatives. 

The result, both in terms of productivity and incomes, has been dramatic.  Export of cocoa has increased from 50 to 900+ tons in just ten years (2003-2013). Producers now sell their cocoa for more than double the price, they have a stable set of buyers for their product, and incomes have increased fivefold.  The benefits of the revitalized cocoa value chain spread beyond the original participants in the project.  “Thanks to IFAD and its partners, nearly 2,200 farmers have enhanced their living conditions and strengthened food security by growing cocoa certified as organic and fair trade.” (IFAD Rural Poverty Portal.)  The increased income has allowed families to invest in home improvements, such as generators and refrigerators, while the producer associations have invested in community health care centers and sanitation projects.  All of these investments enable and encourage good nutrition.

One of the biggest believers in the potential for trade to improve food security and reduce poverty is Ambassador Darci Vetter, U.S. Chief Agriculture Trade Negotiator. At a recent event hosted by the Global Harvest Initiative in Washington D.C., Ambassador Vetter said, “Good trade policy is good food security policy.”  She described the goal of trade as providing more people with access to more nutrient rich foods, while increasing farmer income and reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.  The key, said Ambassador Vetter, is to listen to markets. “Export bans, refusing to let products leave creates disincentives for the farmers. Some of the highest tariffs that we see are among and between countries that…are producing staple crops that their neighbors need but [the farmers] can’t get them to market.”  Meanwhile, highly subsidized production “creates overproduction that perhaps the land and water cannot support,” she said.

In order to maximize the opportunity for trade to increase food security and nutrition, particularly for small scale producers, value chain development and market access initiatives need to be supported by policies and programs that promote women’s social and economic empowerment, provide nutrition and financial education, improve food storage and safety, and stimulate the market for affordable, nutrient rich foods.  Measuring the direct impacts of trade on food security and diets can be challenging (as Ruth Campbell of ACDI/VOCA describes in her submission.)   Nonetheless, the current success and future potential for local, regional, and global trade to increase incomes, expand access to affordable nutritious food, and improve the socio-economic status of women means that trade is a critical tool in meeting the imperative to reduce global poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

Ann Steensland

Senior Policy Associate, Global Harvest Initiative

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