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Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments

Dear Forum Members,

Investing responsibly in agriculture, and particularly in smallholder agriculture, is essential for reducing poverty, creating decent employment opportunities, enhancing food security and nutrition, and ensuring environmental sustainability. Agricultural investments can generate a wide range of developmental benefits. In order to do so, however, they need to be responsible and specifically directed towards the achievement of such benefits, while aiming at avoiding potential negative consequences.

To address these needs, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has launched a consultative process to develop and ensure broad ownership of principles for responsible agricultural investments (CFS-RAI). The CFS-RAI principles are expected to promote investments in agriculture that contribute to food security and nutrition, and that support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.

The principles are intended to provide practical guidance to governments, private and public investors, intergovernmental and regional organizations, civil society organizations, research organizations and universities, donors and foundations. They will be voluntary and non-binding and should be interpreted and applied in line with existing obligations under national and international law.

Consultations will be held from November 2013 to February 2014 and will include regional meetings as well as electronic consultations. The e-consultation aims to build on the feedback and input received in the regional consultations by providing an opportunity to individuals and organizations that have not yet been able to participate in the physical meetings.

All consultation outcomes will contribute to the preparation of the First Draft which will subsequently be negotiated by the CFS-RAI OEWG in Rome in May 2014. The resulting CFS-RAI principles will then be presented to the 41st Session of CFS in 2014 for endorsement by the Plenary. 

We welcome your feedback on the Zero Draft following the questions below:

1. Are all relevant issues and areas related to fostering responsible agricultural investments adequately addressed in the Zero Draft? If not, what should be changed?

2. Are the roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders clearly defined in order to facilitate implementation of the principles? If not, what should be changed?

3. Does the Zero Draft achieve the desired outcome to promote investments in agriculture that contributes to food security and supports the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security? If not, what should be changed?

4. The principles are intended to provide practical guidance to stakeholders; therefore:

  • Are the current structure and language used clear and accessible for all relevant stakeholders to apply?
  • What steps need to be taken for the CFS-RAI principles to be used and implemented by different stakeholders after endorsement by CFS?

We thank you in advance for your time and for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.

Christina Blank

CFS RAI Open Ended Working Group Chair

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Renat Perelet Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation
FSN Forum

Dear Collegues,

I hasten to sketch out some quick remarks and suggestions that might be useful for you. Here are some of them. I would be prepared to discuss them and some others later if your time permits:

p.2, line 2 to add: Communities, consumers, indigenous, and food insecure people.

p.4. Principle 2, Rationale, last para to add: Well-defined and duly enforced rights with easements to get access to food resources can encourage...

In the section ‘ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES AND CLIMATE CHANGE’,  an attitude towards GM food produce should be clearly spelled out.

p.6.  add to the section “States are encouraged to” the following: - pursue a policy of green procurement, requiring, as a minimum, participation in agricultural tenders companies having ISO 14001 certificates.  It is possible that a similar statement could appear in the section beginning with “Investors are encouraged to:”

p.7   The section “Research and educational institutions are encouraged to:

· place sustainable development of agriculture and food systems, including sustainable production

and processing of nutritious food and nutrition-sensitive agriculture and exploring replacement of traditional edible species with adequately nutritional other ones.

In addition, one more principle should be added that would stress a need in international cooperation and mutual enrichment: from bilateral one with neighbouring countries to sub-regional, regional and global one. Here, such areas as international food footprints, virtual water exchanges (imports and exports) could be embarked upon, as well as debt-for-nature swops, burgeoning farm outsourcing activity, cash crops in the developing countries. 

Environmentally yours,

Dr Renat Perelet
Research Leader, Institute for Systems Analysis,
Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow


Hans Morten Haugen Diakonhjemmet University College, Norway
Hans Morten Haugen

I have three comments:

1) The reference to "broader principles and values, including respect for human rights, understood as universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, equity and non-discrimination, gender equality, social inclusion and good governance" on p 2 should be improved.

By this wording, the potential of human rights principles are undercommunicated. Human rights principles established minimum standards of conduct in any decision-making process, and this potential is not communicated by the term "broader principles and values". The term "values" should be avoided, and the terms "universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent" are more accurately describing the nature of internationally recocnized human rights.

My proposal is to use the approach communicated by FAO in several documents and in the Right to Food Methodological Toolbox. For one recent example, see Background Paper 3 to the 2013 International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, listing on p 3 "seven human rights principles (known collectively as PANTHER): participation, accountability, nondiscrimination, transparency, human dignity, empowerment, and the rule of law."

2) There should be a reference to the UN Special rapporteur's Guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of trade and investment agreements; A/HRC/19/59/Add.5. These Guiding principles should be much more known and applied.

3) It is positive that there is a reference on p 10 to "Participatory policy- and decision-making based on meaningful consultations and ensuring active, free, effective, meaningful and informed participation of those who are primarily affected are prerequisite to enable responsible agricultural investments." I have analysed the difference between the terms "effective participation" and "meaningful participation".

Moreover, there should be a specification of how to ensure that the most affected are adequately brought into the decision-making process, which might be a problem in cases where local customary law does not provide for the participation of women and young persons. This is addresses in Article 8.2 in ILO Convention 169: 

These peoples shall have the right to retain their own customs and institutions, where these are not incompatible with fundamental rights defined by the national legal system and with internationally recognised human rights. Procedures shall be established, whenever necessary, to resolve conflicts which may arise in the application of this principle.

I refer to my article Deciding on Land and Resources: How to Increase the Influence of the Most Affected Within Communities?’ Human Rights and International Legal Discourse Vol  7, No 2, 260-288, which is attached in a word document (the issue is just out; has not been received)

See the attachment:HRILDAffectedMinoritiesREV.doc
Stefan Bringezu Wuppertal Institut, Germany
Stefan Bringezu

Dear colleagues,

I congratulate you to the zero draft. Under principle 3 one could explicitely include under application that it should amongst other issues contribute to "the regeneration of degraded soils".

In the accompanying documents you may be interested to include a recent report of the IRP "Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply." You can download full report, summary and fact sheet here:

In the key portfolio of measures the report recommends to develop an investment programme for the regeneration of degraded soils.

Best regards

Stefan Bringezu
Prof. Dr. Stefan Bringezu  
Material Flows and Resource Management
Wuppertal Institute 
P.B. 100480, 42004 Wuppertal, GERMANY 

Professor for Sustainable Resource Management
University of Kassel
Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR)
Wilhelmshöher Allee 47, 34117 Kassel, GERMANY

Glenn Ashton Ekogaia Foundation, South Africa
Glenn Ashton

Dear Christina and the CFS-RAI team,

I write as an independent consultant and researcher on food security.

I thank you for the work you have undertaken to date in collating and drafting the Zero Draft principles.

I think you capture the essence of the major concerns regarding the relationship between responsible agricultural investment and food security - and sovereignty - the latter's principles which are not really reflected in this document.

I agree with many of the comments of those who have taken the time to compile quite comprehensive and lengthy contributions to this discussion.

However due to time constraints I really just want to cover one brief but central aspect of this discussion - the proverbial elephant in the room; power and money, the two being essentially indivisible.

It is fine and well compiling an excellent analysis of the state of play and requirements for future food security in the face of growing populations, threatened by climate change and other pressures. However the framing of the discussion skirts the issue of how the important and vulnerable groups - women, indigenous peoples and so on - are proposed to protect themselves in the face of power being wielded against them.

These concerns are writ large in Africa at present (and I am certain are equally embedded in other developing nations around the world) with the expansion of large agricultural land holdings across the continent being supported by both national political players, international agencies and of course the major financial interests that are keen to speculate and control as much fertile land as possible, at minimum outlay.

We can set in place as many MOUs on responsible investment in agriculture as we like but there is an inherent problem that the institutional powers that be - governments and corporate interests - have been led to believe that large scale industrial agriculture remains the solution to international food security. While the zero draft acknowledges the realities of the majority of smallholder and emerging farmers, it does not adequately speak to the challenges of capacity in enabling them to not just be heard and acknowledged as far as their requirements are concerned, but more importantly it fails to take due cognisance of the continued inequity of the positions of often isolated smallholders versus that of those who impose structures, like the privatisation of large land holdings on their traditional lands, usually decided upon in distant boardrooms and legislatures. Even many aid programmes are dominated by large scale, externally driven, technocratic solutions that are often imposed rather than absorbed and adopted by local communities in a truly participatory manner. These inequalities in power and more importantly the projection of power must be addressed if a programme such as this is to have any hope of success.

Certainly this policy document cannot solve these fundamental and systemic challenges at their roots, but it should certainly address them more closely than it presently does. I have a few suggestions that may suggest some ways to provide mechanisms to facilitate ways around this inequity.

Firstly I would suggest that an international clearing house be instituted in order to provide an oversight mechanism. While this would not have any legislative power, it would be able to place problems firmly into the public sphere simply by making them visible. It would be logical to place such an institution within a body such as the UNFAO or a sub-committee such as this. Such an office could be accompanied with a rapporteur or secretariat that ensures that important information is raised to suitable levels so that it can be properly facilitated, in co-operation with the parties which require assistance.

Secondly readily accessible channels should be made available for reporting to this entity. These would encourage and enable whistle blowing and information sharing about due process, either being followed, or not. This is especially important in the case of nations where governments may lack the will, experience or means to facilitate proper public facilitation such as appears to be occurring in areas in Africa where massive dams and agricultural schemes are being imposed on small, isolated but culture rich populations. The challenges around dealing with the dynamics around these tensions could be facilitated with the assistance of increasing internet and cell phone technology penetration or through other reporting methods that allow greater anonymity, possibly through third party reporting.

Thirdly, these mechanisms of oversight and reporting and assistance, where need be, should be facilitated. Such facilitation should be made able to assist vulnerable populations in navigating these challenges. These could be assisted through already present civil society organisations or again, through institutional linkages with neutral bodies such as the UNFAO.

If these sorts of steps are not put in place the same vulnerable, voiceless communities and sectors - women, marginalised groups, migrants, etc. - will not gain the benefits that this initiative is envisaged to bring, compromising the goals for which it is designed. This is why we need these sorts of linkages - to protect, assist and empower the otherwise silent and powerless.

Excuse me not distilling this down to a shorter bullet point presentation but time constraints force me to submit an unedited version!


Glenn Ashton


Cathleen Kneen

1) Responsible investment needs to be clearly defined. Rather than saying that responsible investment results in certain positive outcomes, as in the first Principle, it needs to be stated that “investment is responsible when it [fulfills certain criteria]”. This should be repeated for all of the criteria mentioned in the Principles.

2) The elements of responsible investment include:
a) Consultation with, and the free, prior and informed consent of, the people and communities affected before any investment is implemented.
b) Inclusion of women, indigenous, farm workers, migrants, and food harvesters as full participants in all negotiation processes, with respect for their perspectives and knowledge.
c) Focus on sustainability and resiliency over productivity, particularly as measured by market norms.
d) Promotion of positive environmental impacts and resilience in relation to climate change
e) Privileging investment by families and communities in their own food systems with the goal of increasing their own long and short-term food security, as opposed to those made by outside bodies whether state or corporate.
f) Respect for the rights conferred on traditional people by their commitment to take responsibility for their territories, even where legal title is in dispute or does not exist.

3) The protocol must apply equally in wealthy “developed” countries along with poor countries, regardless of the source of the investment.

4) Since the protocol is voluntary and non-binding, there must be stringent monitoring and effective sanctions for non-compliance.

5) These principles must be respected and upheld in the trade and investment agreements signed by states with other states as well as with private entities.

(I might add that, as was pointed out in the North American consultation, the graphic logo, with a smokestack coming out of the globe, is an indication of the industrial, productivist mindset.)

Katy Lee International Agri-Food Network, Italy

Dear all,

I originally made a contribution on 13th Jan and I have been moved to write again given the richness of the debate that has ensued!

Great to read others echoing thoughts on the importance of grain transportation and storage as a focus for investment. Likewise, there have been comments on innovation too, which will be important. 

In particular I liked Jean-Paul Been's analogy of a 'trip planner or navigation tool', as this gets to the heart of the potential of the document to provide real guidance to a great many actors.

As we are in the final few days of the E-consultation, with the Latin American and Caribbean regional meeting taking place in Panama, I would like to include some final thoughts from the IAFN position paper (

Economic and social impacts: 
- Investment, foreign and domestic, should be encouraged as a vital source of capital as well as a driver for increased productivity in the national market, and as a source of significant secondary job creation. Investments should be assessed against their potential to deliver these economic benefits. 
- Investors should ensure that projects respect the rule of law, reflect industry best practice, and result in durable shared value. (Principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment) 
- Investments should generate desirable social and distributional impacts and should not increase vulnerability. (Principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment) 
Cultural impacts: 
- Consumers should have choice in their food and should have access to a diverse, nutritious diet. 
- Projects that add value to food in-country are advantageous. 
Principles in support of enabling environment 
Governance structures, review mechanisms and decision making processes to enable and facilitate responsible agricultural investment (based on VG GT section 3A, 3B,4 and 7):
- Domestic markets and foreign investment require the same conducive operating environment, including: peace and stability, the rule of law, good governance with accountability and transparency, the absence of corruption, adequate infrastructure, an educated workforce, clear property rights, open markets and trade, and enforceable contracts. 
- Governments should prioritise putting those elements of a conducive operating 
environment in place to help attract quality domestic and foreign investments. 
- Guidelines and rules for investment should be clearly stated and easily available to encourage transparency and accountability. 
- States should ensure that all actions are consistent with their existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments (VGGT 12.1)


Jean Paul Beens Belgium
Jean Paul

As member of the Private Sector, I welcome the clear objective of this zero draft i.e. the promotion of responsible investments in agriculture and food systems, contributing to food security and nutrition. These principles for responsible agricultural investments, irrespective of their voluntary character, already are and certainly will become a cornerstone document upon which the foundation of an enabling environment for improved agriculture, meeting the challenges and achieving the objectives ahead, will be build. Such construction will require the efforts of all stakeholders involved, beit operative within the whole agricultural supply chain itself as well as those surrounding it. Inclusion of all stakeholders contributing through their size, age, gender, authority, culture, experience and expertise will mitigate the risks of failure and as teamwork enable sustainable success. The private sector is engaged and committed to provide its best skills and expertise and calls upon all other stakeholders to join in a similar way.

Whereby the sheer magnitude, diversity and width of the food security challenge and its mitigating agricultural investments would scare away and confuse any single stakeholder on his/her own, the structure of this zero draft in clear issues, rationale, objectives and first application advice as well as indicative role and responsibility/capability allocations, provide a roadmap and first necessary guidance for combined stakeholders’ approach. Like with any trip planner or navigation tool, regional and local implementation of the roadmap will require all stakeholder’s dialogue and agreement on how to overcome road blocks and prioritize the waypoints, all in compliance with local laws and regulations. Despite this complexity, the Zero Draft is there to provide overall orientation and guidance on issues, assuring movement in the right direction.

Ms. Ségolène Halley des Fontaines Représentation permanente FRA, France

Veuillez trouver ci-joint la réponse du Groupement interministériel sur la sécurité alimentaire (Gisa, à la consultation électronique sur l'avant-projet pour des investissements agricoles responsables.


Please find attached comments of the French Interministerial group on Food security (Gisa, to the e-consultation on Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments.

[A English version of the commnents is available here, Ed.]

Best regards,


Conseillère agricole, Représentation permanente France

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

A policy for agriculture and rural investment:

This policy brief on agriculture and rural development is aimed to make agriculture and rural producer communities sustainable in the long term. It would not only avert the impending food,nutrition and health crisis but also improve security, climate risks whilst increasingly reduce the subsidies of the Governments in the next one decade.

In the light of the increasing evidences from across the world in support of integrated ecological agriculture for sustainability, the policy in line with the best of understanding of making agriculture and rural communities sustainable.  It is also substantiated by various practices, policies and declarations from different national and international organizations. A few of them are cited below:

1.      According to FAO,,
Smallholder family producer communities,,  50 percent women, provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in South Asia, are productive, drivers of change and given the resources could increase farm production by 20 – 30 %. They mostly follow their low cost ‘Agro Ecological, climate-resilient agriculture’, primarily for meeting the producer communities own ‘Food, Nutrition, Health and

Cash’ needs. A few  examples are cited below:

1.   Nava Jyoti, Orissa,

2. One village. 60 millionaires, the miracle of Hiware Bazar, Maharashtra, the suicide State of India,

3.     Panchavat Academy, Kuthambakkam (34 miles from Chennai),

4. The System of Crop Intensification (SCI) -,
now being followed by millions of prosperous farmers worldwide,

5. Protect Water Quality, Replenish Aquifers and Saves the Soil:,

6. Increasing ‘Cropping System Diversity’ balances productivity, profitability and environmental health, a USDA and Univ of IOWA case study,,

These systems ensures the producer communities’ access to nutritious food, reduces hunger, malnutrition, poverty, suicides and the effects of climate change, whilst improving rural livelihoods, increasing net incomes and purchasing power, thus making their country sustainable in the long term and the key to agriculture contributing substantially to the country’s security and economic growth, Coventry report as attached.

Thus, the emphasis should be on low cost economies of scope integrated agriculture system, as applicable to the soil and agro climatic condition of each area (cereals, horticulture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, water harvesting, etc.), water harvesting, producing seed, energy, inputs on farm /locally and minimizing demand for water, energy, etc., over the years.

In contrast, as we know, that the green revolution technologies require increasing quantities of the high cost seeds, agro chemicals, water,  etc., year after year, reducing the net incomes/
purchasing power of the producer communities and which have and will continue to have disastrous effects on climate change/drought, the soil and their long term sustainability. Briefly:

a.      Agriculture Policy:  needs to take a clear direction towards sustainable agriculture for minimizing the risks of the farmers and increasing risks of climate change .Some of the key areas of intervention that the policy needs to cover are on farm/agro forestry, kitchen garden, fodder cultivation, cattle shed, kitchen gardens, in-situ water conservation, bio-villages, action research and codification of science of sustainable agriculture, facilitate training of sustainable agriculture with the help of locally successful sustainable agricultural farmers. This also means that policy should develop a clear time plan to exit from the external input based industrial agriculture. (Nayak. 2014.  Baseline Study on Sustainable Agriculture in India)

 b.      Institutional Architecture: To make the sustainable agricultural policy work among the smallholder producer communities, an appropriate institutional architecture needs to be set up to deliver both ecosystem services and effectively deal with the pre harvest and post harvest needs of the small and marginal farmers (Nayak, 2014. Baseline Study on Sustainable Agriculture in India).

 c.       Following Integrated Agriculture System of the area shall be given the predominant role it deserves in our agrarian society, with the emphasis on self sufficiency for the producer communities’ meeting their own nutrition, food, health and cash requirements.  Adequate land area shall be identified & reserved for agriculture and allied activities, and such lands shall not be diverted to any other activities except under very rare circumstances for which the consent from the concerned state legislature and the parliament shall be obtained after due diligence in establishing the critical national need for such a diversion.

d. With more than 60% of the population in the country being smallholder rural producer communities, depending on activities associated with agriculture, but contributing only about 16% of GDP from agriculture, there is an urgent need to refocus on funding
innovative agriculture research for development (IAR4D) and meeting all their needs, making this the backbone of our economy and thus substantially increasing agriculture’s contribution to the national economy.

e. Adequate funding, support and encouragement for converting to the integrated agriculture system and allied activities ( producing inputs, value addition to increase the shelf life of the produce, storage and minimizing post harvest losses) shall be ensured in order to produce enough nutritious food (horticulture, grains, dairy produce, etc.,) for their own and the growing requirements of the people in the vicinity on a long term sustainable basis and thus minimize the cost of transportation and pollution (climate change), eradicating import of food grains. In order to develop and implement sustainable practices the effective involvement of various stake holders such as CSO/ NGOs, successful farmers following their low cost integrated agriculture system and agricultural institutions should be
ensured in the policy/decision making levels.

f.  Focus on low cost economies of scope staple crop of the area such as ragi and  other millets and following the integrated agriculture systems which are suitable for dry/ arid regions of the country should be encouraged, not just the high cost economies of
scale mono crops like rice and wheat green revolution technologies, which requires increasing quantities of water, seed, fertilizer and other agro chemicals each year and closely associated with Climate Change/ Global Warming as is the case now.

g.      Vast varieties of native fruit species such as banana, jack fruit, mango, guava, pomegranate, orange etc. have huge potential to reduce the dependence on water intensive agricultural crops, and hence should be encouraged fully and as part of the integrated agriculture system.

h.       Many varieties of tree species which can become perennial source of fodder, bio mass, etc., additional income to our farmers through bio-fuel and/or timber value potential, and which are also environmentally friendly should be encouraged as fencing crops, and
also on barren lands and as an integral part of their integrated agriculture system.

i.     In view of large areas of arid and semi arid areas in many parts of the country, widespread use of water harvesting for scientific dry land farming practices such as millets, horticulture, perennials, etc., should become an important part of agrarian economy.

j.     In order to make agriculture a viable/ attractive option in rural India, human and institutional capacity should be developed adequately in women and educated youth being trained to become general practitioners in agriculture to shoulder the entrepreneurial risks and responsibilities, with good roads, telecommunication, health, and education facilities.

k.        Agricultural produce/ products should be produced primarily for meeting the nutritious food needs of the rural producer communities, accessible to them at farm gate price, value addition for storage and release when prices peak, if we are to make the rural life meaningful through the intervention of the producer communities setting up their producer org/ company (PC) but staffed with professionals, to manage the ‘cash to cash cycle’ of each member.