A series of comments have come in during this e-consultation about the importance of maintaining a multisectoral approach to addressing hunger, food and nutrition security. However, in the new post-2015 framework, many have recommended a more integrated approach (integrated framework) rather than a list of the respective thematic goals without clear links between them. This is a noted weakness of the MDGs.
ACF's contribution noted: "the countries that have had most success in bringing down rates of undernutrition, six key success factors – 1) strong political will; 2) civil society participation and ownership; 3) a multi-sectorial approach; 4) institutional coordination; 5) a multi- phase approach and; 6) continued, predictable financial investment - make up an ideal ‘enabling
environment’, which if in place should facilitate a reduction in rates of childhood undernutrition. In contexts with the most demonstrable success, all six factors are present in varying degrees." (link to ACF's full contribution)
Claudio Schuftan in Vietnam added: "An adaptation of the already well accepted UNICEF framework is perhaps the best way to address this omission." (link to Claudio's full contribution)
What thoughts do participants in this e-consultation have about how to have a more integrated set of multisectoral goals (contributing to the hunger, food and nutrition security goal/outcomes) in the overall post-2015 framework? Are there effective country examples that exist in national development frameworks that could be used as models/templates?
Emily Levitt Ruppert
Member of the FAO/WFP Facilitation Team
II. Qs on the shape of a post-2015 development framework:
5. How should a new framework address the causes of poverty?
Based on the new conceptual framework on the causes of maldevelopment I plead be arrived at by consensus, the post 2015 framework will importantly have to work on deconstructing neoliberal globalization --the latest incarnation of raw capitalism. Why? Because it is not about the alleviation of poverty (much less about the chance of eradicating it); it is about a quantum reduction of disparity the world over --among and within countries. It is about working out new mechanisms of redistribution of wealth and power. And such a redistribution will only come through empowerment and social mobilization from below; with people going from having voice to exerting influence. I worry that all the good intentions of the UN to address the structural causes of poverty in the conceptual framework will lead to another 10 years of failure if it does not politicize this issue. The rich have no intentions to give up their power and privileges; non-violent counter-power has to be organized and applied. Dialogue has to become a dialogue of equals.
6. How should a new framework address resilience to crises?
Ultimately, the common denominator of most of the man-made crises can be attributed to the excesses of capitalism. Decisive steps must be taken by the new framework to foster the social mobilization needed to make sure effective disparity reduction measures are launched nationally and internationally. [ Internationally, this means giving accredited NGOs a seat, voice and vote in UN and in government deliberations. Environmental crises have both natural and man-made causes. As Rio and Rio+20 have shown us, we can effectively address the latter. The new framework must depart from this premise and thus, as a minimum, incorporate Rio+20 recommendations.
7. How should a new framework address the dimensions of economic growth, equity, social equality and environmental sustainability? Is an overall focus on poverty eradication sufficiently broad to capture the range of sustainable development issues?
The economic growth model has been shown to be unsustainable, mostly (but not only) on environmental grounds. Does the new framework have an option not to deemphasize economic growth as the main development goal? It actually needs to denounce it in no uncertain terms.
Reaching equity and social equality inevitably points to the fact that both need the processes of empowerment and social mobilization I insisted-upon earlier.
For environmental sustainability, the roadmap has already been worked-on by the experts in Rio and Rio+20 so that the new framework has to adopt its recommendations.
As said, the focus ought not to be on poverty eradication, but on disparity reduction which has connotations for urgently needed actions both in rich and in poor countries including changes in many, if not most, aspects of ODA.
The disparity reduction approach is necessary, but not sufficient to capture the range of sustainable development issues. Rio+20 is clear about this.
8. What should be the architecture of the next framework? What is the role of the SDGs in a broader post-2015 framework? How to account for qualitative progress?
The broader architecture of the next framework must absolutely be based on the human rights framework. Enough of lip service. It is time for deeds (related, nothing less, than to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN Charter). From now on, we have to look at the development process from the perspective of claim holders and duty bearers in their dialectic relationship. This language must be adopted and both groups have to be made more confident and assertive in their respective roles, i.e., claim holders placing concrete demands/staking claims and duty bearers abiding by UN Covenants, Conventions and General Comments. The concept of progressive realization is another one to be given center stage.
The role of the Sustainable Development Goals is also key. We only have one planet! Heed the recommendations from Rio!
Also related to the architecture, there will have to be a global UN body with executive powers following up on the implementation of the new framework. (The MDGs did not really have this; it was left to countries to apply them; there was no global accountability). This body must be endowed with funding. It must have some kind of an executive ombudsperson role on issues of implementation and must work towards influencing international financing mechanisms being made available.
To account for qualitative progress, yearly benchmarks have to be set by each country (especially for the poorest districts/municipalities) based on processes that must be implemented en route to the progressive realization of the different human rights. Civil society organizations are to be appointed as watch dogs for the achievement of these benchmarks; they need to receive funds specially earmarked for this.
9. Should (social, economic, and environmental) drivers and enablers of poverty reduction and sustainable development, such as components of inclusive growth, also be included as goals?
The word enablers is a rather vague one. So is inclusive growth. I had already suggested a) that we need to deemphasize economic growth as the main development goal, b) that the selection of outcome goals is likely to be less useful than the use, inclusion and of yearly processes-achievement benchmarks, and c) that disparity reduction, and not poverty reduction, is the term to be used from now on.
Indeed, the three drivers mentioned in the question need to be tackled --but absolutely not forgetting a fourth one, namely the political driver. Each is necessary, but not sufficient. [The UN being non-political is to be understood in terms of non-political-partisan, but, by God, it needs to act more decisively on issues political in nature it strongly stands for; therefore, when needed, calling a spade a spade. Some agencies do it more that others].
10. What time horizon should we set for the next phase in the global development agenda (e.g., 10, 15, 25 years, or a combination)?
I am more inclined for five years with yearly-interval benchmarks as yardsticks of progressive realization. Yearly achievements/shortcomings can thus be assessed and adjustments made accordingly, as needed, in a participatory manner. With the world changing as fast as it does, I am sure that major adjustments are justified every five years --at least at the country level.
11. What principles and criteria should guide the choice of a new set of goals?
The human rights principles of non-retrogression, universality and inalienability, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness, equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, and accountability and rule of law are, once and for all, to guide the new framework. The assessment of these principles being respected is to be built-in into assessing annual benchmarks.
The main criterion that must go with this is for countries to be mandated to participatorily draw-up long-term and annual plans for the progressive realization of human rights Human rights are all closely related to the development process. (Such plans could be a requirement for ODA as well). The new framework must demand these progressive realization plans be drawn up.
1. Hunger reduction needs to be targeted as a distinct political and policy goal of the highest priority, and separate from poverty: we have seen that the poverty MDG1 was reached, while the hunger part of MDG1 was thrown off track by the food crisis since 2008. Hunger thus requires particular attention and efforts.
2. Hunger targets must capture individual access to food and nutrition, in particular for children under five, and include the broadest possible data on stunting as well as underweight, calorie as well as micronutrient deficiencies, and individual, household, and community as well as national level statistics.
3. Given the crucial importance of child nutrition during the first 1000 days after conception, hunger indicators should capture the impact of emergency and acute under-nutrition, including of pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as of chronic hunger, to guide high-impact investments and interventions.
Here is Action Against Hunger - ACF's contribution to the consultation on hunger, food and nutrition security within the post-2015 development agenda.
We hope you will find it interesting.
With our best wishes for 2013,
Etienne du Vachat
Food Security Advocacy Officer
Theme 1: lessons learnt from the current MDG framework
While we recognize the importance of having a framework that is both clearly defined and workable like the MDGs were, we think the next framework for development should be more comprehensive and call for more accountability. Clearly, the political and financial commitments have not been strong enough to translate the goals into full success. Indeed, despite the fact that the MDGs were built upon concrete goals, with quantifiable targets that were relatively simple to understand and monitor, some goals will not be achieved in the given timeframe. Furthermore, the chosen indicators and targets tend to give a truncated – and thus bias – picture of complex problems.
Comments regarding the indicators on hunger in the current MDG framework and suggestions for improvement:
There is currently one target (1.C) focusing on hunger – ‘Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger’ – that comes together with two indicators:
1.8 – Prevalence of underweight children under-five years of age
These indicators could be improved:
Regarding the indicators:
Computing these three indicators is the only way of reflecting the various aspects of child malnutrition.
Regarding the reference population:
Current challenges and opportunities:
The current MDG framework reflects a sectorial approach that must be renewed, so as to better take on the new global challenges. Among those, food price volatility, climate change and demographic growth are key issues to food and nutrition security. Recurrent challenges such as vulnerability to socioeconomic and climate related shocks have intensified, further enforcing the need for a post 2015 agenda to promote resilience by addressing vulnerability. Donors, governments and NGOs alike have traditionally placed too little focus on building resilience within communities before crises occur, choosing instead to focus on tackling hunger and disease during or after the crisis. Furthermore, recurring crises are typically perceived as “humanitarian” issues in need of an immediate, short-term response when in fact a twin track approach with adequate resources is needed, ensuring that the immediate needs of vulnerable populations are met while simultaneously building the longer-term resilience of communities at risk from recurring food crises.
It is very likely that the objective on hunger in the current MDGs framework will not be achieved by 2015. It is thus crucial to make a larger room to undernutrition in the post-2015 development agenda, ideally through both a nutrition-specific goal and nutritional indicators within the other goals. New initiatives such as the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) movement show that awareness on the importance of nutrition for long term human development is raising. They also convey the message that cost-effective, high impact interventions now exist to address the problem of undernutrition, and that those interventions – that are both direct (or nutrition-specific) and indirect – should be implemented following a twin track approach. A momentum has thus been created, but it must be enhanced by a clear objective on nutrition in the next agenda for development.
Theme 2: what works best to address hunger and under-nutrition?
ACF’s Zero Hunger series produced in 2011, found that in the countries that have had most success in bringing down rates of undernutrition, six key success factors – 1) strong political will; 2) civil society participation and ownership; 3) a multi-sectorial approach; 4) institutional coordination; 5) a multi-phase approach and; 6) continued, predictable financial investment - make up an ideal ‘enabling environment’, which if in place should facilitate a reduction in rates of childhood undernutrition. In contexts with the most demonstrable success, all six factors are present in varying degrees.
Agriculture contributes to nutrition through 3 main pathways: direct production for farming households; increased incomes for rural societies and pushing down food prices.
However, hunger and food insecurity are not only a matter of agriculture, although it is a very important contributing factor. If a strong focus has to be placed on smallholder agriculture, it is important to address other food security related aspects as well, such as income generation, urban livelihoods, food assistance and social protection.
Moreover, even though undernutrition is strongly linked to food security, the latter does not necessarily guarantee a satisfactory nutritional situation. Indeed, nutrition is determined by a large variety of factors that goes far beyond food security, among which are women’s education and income, child care practices, access to quality health services, family planning, coverage of vaccination, availability and access to clean/protected water sources and to adequate sanitation facilities, etc.
Furthermore, it is acknowledged that female empowerment, enabling women to have control over household resources, brings significant gains in nutrition. As such, it must be put at the heart of programmes.
Hence, ACF advocates for the development of a nutrition-sensitive agriculture, so that agricultural interventions translate to significant improvements in nutrition outcomes. ACF’s field experience has demonstrated the importance of nutrition-sensitive agriculture at the household level. For example, the development of kitchen gardens has the potential to improve dietary diversity, particularly if in conjunction with small scale livestock rearing. Nutrition-sensitive policies can pave the way not only to long term agricultural investments to raise smallholder farmers’ productivity but also to developing a cross-disciplinary approach linking nutrition with agriculture, gender, health, social protection, and dietary education.
Theme 3: the Zero Hunger Challenge
The ZHC admittedly sets an interesting frame for objectives on the global food system. However, although it provides a more holistic way of looking at hunger and points out that adopting a long term vision is necessary to reach food and nutrition security, it appears more like wishful thinking than a seriously defined, realistic, time-bound set of objectives.
Those should be modified so as to be achievable on the medium-term timeframe that is likely to be settled for the post-2015 framework, i.e. to 2030-5. Country or regional level roadmaps which break down the goals into discrete time-bound targets and actions should be drawn up. It is necessary to specify targeted levels of improvement according to the different contexts. For instance concerning the objective (d), the appropriate percentage of increase in smallholders’ productivity should be based on national negotiations with all stakeholders – particularly farmers’ representatives – and be accompanied by financial commitments.
Targets may also differ from one country to another according to the specific actions each country must undertake to reach the objective. For example, whereas the sustainability of agriculture practices is a stake in both developed and developing, unsustainable agriculture practices do not have the same roots and consequences in the North and in the South, and policies must be designed accordingly. In developing countries an important lever would be to facilitate access to credit, develop adequate financing mechanisms and safety nets for farmers so that they don’t adopt short term behaviors that are detrimental to them and the environment.
It is very important to link this objective of sustainability with the one on increased farmers’ productivity, so that increasing food and nutrition security at household level does not lead to fostering highly productive and cash crop agriculture systems. Traditional systems are often the most resilient and can be highly productive as well, even though they are not always oriented towards income generation. The key is that the transition must be farmer-owned and controlled, and oriented towards local and regional markets rather than export markets, as has been the case until now through two decades of perverse international and national policies and incentives. Improvements to local irrigation, road, storage, processing, market and credit infrastructure are also critical to making that happen. Furthermore, emphasis must be put on women farmers and the necessity to close the gap between men and women in access to inputs, as it is stressed in the ‘Global Strategy Framework for Food Security and Nutrition’. Improving living conditions in the country should also be regarded as an important issue. Rural areas must be revitalized to become more attractive to young people and businesses.
The objective (e.) on food waste and losses is also very relevant to smallholders’ livelihoods and food and nutrition security, considering the 30% of pre- and postharvest loss every year. To avoid these losses, smallholder farmers use to sell their production right after harvesting, hence exposing themselves to early food shortage while often selling their production cheaply. Harvest losses are thus quite strongly linked with the seasonality of hunger, itself due to the seasonality of harvest, income and prices, which leads to shorter or longer hunger gaps periods and recurrent crises. Hence, achieving the objective (a) will greatly depends on the reduction of food losses. This can be done notably through investments in storage and post-harvest processing equipment, and also through environment-friendly pest and disease control.
Finally, indicators should be both measurable at country level and at global level. They should be disaggregated when possible so as to enable the design of effective policies, and be as comprehensive as possible. This is particularly important for the objective (b) on child’s undernutrition. By focusing on stunting, it takes only one aspect of undernutrition into account. Yet, adopting a holistic approach of undernutrition allows tackling it more effectively. Hence, the objective should embrace the several aspects of malnutrition, i.e. stunting, wasting and underweight. It should be also be stressed that children with wasting are at higher risk for linear growth retardation, hence, addressing wasting is a way of preventing stunting. Furthermore, the wording of the objective should be changed, so as to encompass the idea of ‘window of opportunity’, to highlight the importance of mothers’ good health during the antenatal period and to encompass other underlying factors leading to under-nutrition.
 According to WHO and UNICEF, “Using the new WHO standards in developing country situation results in a 2-4 times increase in the number of infants and children falling below -3 SD compared to using the former NCHS reference”. Joint statement available here:
 FAO’s definition of nutrition-sensitive agriculture: “Agriculture that effectively and explicitly incorporates nutrition objectives, concerns, and considerations to achieve food and nutrition security.”
I. Qs on lessons learned and context:
1. What have the MDGs achieved? What lessons can be learned about designing goals to have maximum impact?
The mix of MDGs achievements/shortcomings is by now well known. The question here is: Do we really want to set goals --in terms of outcomes? Or do we rather want to set (annual) benchmarks --much more related to processes (a central critique of the MDGs). Goals, in the past and in the present, aim at achieving national averages. By design, this leaves half of those affected below the average. To be consistent with the UN-sanctioned Human Rights Framework, setting goals will only make sense if these are applied at the sub-national level, i.e., district or municipality since only this allows focusing national efforts on those territorial units so far most neglected and discriminated. With this being accepted, the concept of maximum impact will have to be redefined in the new framework.
2. How has the world changed since the MDGs were drafted? Which global trends and uncertainties will influence the international development agenda over the next 10-30 years?
The world has changed plenty; but how much due to or despite the MDGs? Let us keep in mind that the selection of MDGs was arbitrary and top-down with many of us having complained about issues left out and about the lack of consultations when they were set. The global trends that will influence development are, for sure, peace, the progressive realization of human rights, and our success in making democracy more a local direct democracy (as opposed to the flawed representative democracy we, at best, have now). But keep in mind that the global trends will be made up of myriad local and regional trends --certainly not forgetting those due to both economic and climate-related migration-- which the new framework will have to influence in a positive direction. The human rights framework is the most effective tool we have to achieve this. In the next development phase, let the human rights perspective, then, guide the deployment of human, financial and other resources.
3. Which issues do poor and vulnerable people themselves prioritize?
First of all, ‘vulnerable people’ I think is a euphemism. [It is the same as speaking of ‘people at risk’; we tend to think that people take risks but, beware, risks are also imposed!]. To avoid any sort of victimization, we must talk of marginalized people. Vulnerable has a connotation of ‘poor them…’; marginalized tells us our social arrangements have put them in that situation. Now to the question of which issues claim holders prioritize: The question has not been answered! Why? Mainly because we have not systematically asked them. Let us do that…and then heed their advice! I have great hope that this time we put this question at the very center of what we do in the massive consultation that has now been launched. Should I be optimistic? For people to influence priorities, development work cannot only continue focusing on service delivery, on capacity building and on (depoliticized) advocacy; what is needed is a focus on empowerment and social mobilization (the latter also called practical politics). It is not easy to say what is really empowering in community development work. Any attempted operational definition will (always) carry a certain bias depending on the conceptual glasses one is wearing. What is clear is that --in a mostly zero-sum game-- the empowerment of some, most of the time, entails the disempowerment of others --usually the current holders of power. Empowerment is not an outcome of a single event; it is a continuous process that enables people to understand, upgrade and use their capacity to better control and gain power over their own lives. It provides people with choices and the ability to choose, as well as to gain more control over resources they need to improve their condition. It expands the 'political space' within which iterative Assessment-Analysis-Action processes operate in any community. That is what we need to pursue.
4. What does a business-as-usual scenario look like?
The business as usual scenario paints quite a grim picture, I’d say. Take, for example, the poverty alleviation discourse in the MDGs: it displaced the poverty debate worldwide: from a political discussion about its causes to a technical, risk management scheme. (N. Dentico)
Bottom line, I am not sure MDG achievements will all be sustainable. We have raced for the outcomes neglecting the participatory processes to get there, and what we see does not bode well.
An equally important question is: What does a business-as-usual mode foretell? As another example, take the following: if current trends continue, by 2015, 3.7 million more children in Africa will suffer from malnutrition than are today. My crystal ball tells me we will see more fundamentalism more ‘…springs’, growing frustration, more (understandable) explosive conflicts; perhaps some empowerment in the process, but empowerment in an unpredictable direction; some good, I’d expect. What this tells us is the urgency for the post-2015 agenda to address the real deep structural causes of widespread disempowerment of those that live in poverty/happen to be poor.
Perhaps the most crucial element missing in the MDGs was a conceptual framework of the causes of underdevelopment (or maldevelopment). In the 1990s, UNICEF pioneered the now widely accepted conceptual framework of the causes of malnutrition identifying its immediate, underlying and basic or structural causes importantly showing that addressing each level of causality is necessary but not sufficient. This omission of the MDGs cannot be repeated by the new framework we are all trying to come up with. An adaptation of the already well accepted UNICEF framework is perhaps the best way to address this omission. Are we up to the challenge?
En el tema 1º deberíamos tener en cuenta no solamente la seguridad alimentaria de abastecimiento (food security) sino también la higiénico-sanitaria (food safety) que tantos problemas viene causando especialmente en los países en desarrollo.
En relación al tema 3º, entiendo que hay unos objetivos básicos, identificados en los apartados a y b, en tanto que los otros son instrumentos para lograr los primeros. En cualquier caso, los apartados c,d y e deben de tener como mínimo un ámbito regional.
También debe hacerse hincapié en la necesidad de una colaboración y responsabilidad compartida entre todos los agentes que participan en el sistema alimentario.
Smallholder System of Crop Intensification can meet world's nutritious food needs:
Smallholder producers, around the world, are meeting their communities' nutritious food needs at farm gate price thus having access to food, increasing their farm production and net incomes by adopting, ''system of cop intensification (SCI)', based on the SRI principal of following the local integrated low cost successful sustainable agriculture and as applicable to the soil and agro climatic conditions of each area.
Jonathan Latham's paper and other links to papers, all trailed below, provides evidence from farmers’ fields coverring a range of crops – wheat, maize, finger millet, sugarcane, mustard (rapeseed/canola), legumes such as pigeon peas, lentils, soya beans and horticulture crops, showing increase in farm production after converting from conventional to following SCI agriculture principles.
How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves
By Jonathan Latham
Synopsis: An unheralded and unprecedented farmer-led revolution is underway in agriculture. Small farmers around the world are dramatically boosting their productivity and yields by adopting a growing system called SCI (System of Crop Intensification). SCI is based on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) which is characterised by simple modifications to agricultural practices that synergise to promote healthy plant growth. These modifications include improving soil conditions and greatly lowering plant density (crowding).
Since SRI and SCI methods use fewer seeds, require no fertilisers or pesticides, use less water, and work well regardless of crop variety, they radically boost the income of farmers while also reducing their costs. Unsurprisingly, SRI and SCI are being rapidly adopted, so far in over 50 countries. An important aspect of this story is that SRI and SCI are advancing almost entirely outside the purview of the scientific agricultural research community. Since modern agricultural research mostly ignores farming as a system, and focusses instead on manipulating external inputs and crop genetics, this lack of interest should be no surprise; but the two and three-fold yield improvements typical of SRI and SCI suggest that this narrow scientific focus may prove to have been an error of historic proportions.
The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His record yieldof 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as theSystem of Rice Intensification(SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about 4 tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than 8 tons.
Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection.
Using SRI methods, smallholding farmers in many countries are starting to get higher yields and greater productivity from their land, labor, seeds, water and capital, with their crops showing more resilience to the hazards of climate change (Thakur et al 2009; Zhao et al 2009).
These productivity gains have been achieved simply by changing the ways that farmers manage their plants, soil, water and nutrients.
The effect is to get crop plants to grow larger, healthier, longer-lived root systems, accompanied by increases in the abundance, diversity and activity of soil organisms. These organisms constitute a beneficial microbiome for plants that enhances their growth and health in ways similar to how the human microbiome benefits Homo sapiens.
That altered management practices can induce more productive, resilient phenotypes from existing rice plant genotypes has been seen in over 50 countries. The reasons for this improvement are not all known, but there is a growing literaturethat helps account for the improvements observed in yield and health for rice crops using SRI.
The ideas and practices that constitute SRI were developed inductively in Madagascar some 30 years ago for rice. They are now being adapted to improve the productivity of a wide variety of other crops, starting with wheat, finger millet and sugarcane. Producing more output with fewer external inputs may sound improbable, but it derives from a shift in emphasis from improving plant genetic potential via plant breeding, to providing optimal environments for crop growth.
The adaptation of SRI experience and principles to other crops is being referred to generically as the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), encompassing variants for wheat (SWI), maize (SMI), finger millet (SFMI), sugarcane (SSI), mustard (rapeseed/canola)(another SMI), teff (STI), legumes such as pigeon peas, lentils and soya beans, and vegetables such as tomatoes, chillies and eggplant.
That similar results are seen across such a range of plants suggests some generic processes may be involved, and these practices are not only good for growing rice. This suggests to Prof. Norman Uphoff and colleagues within the SRI network that more attention should be given to the contributions that are made to agricultural production by the soil biota, both in the plants’ rhizospheres but also as symbiotic endophytes within the plants themselves (Uphoff et al. 2012).
The evidence reported below has drawn heavily, with permission, from a report that Dr. Uphoff prepared on the extension of SRI to other crops (Uphoff 2012). Much more research and evaluation needs to be done on this progression to satisfy both scientists and practitioners. But this gives an idea of what kinds of advances in agricultural knowledge and practice appear to be emerging.
Origins and Principles
Deriving from empirical work started in the 1960s in Madagascar by a French priest, Fr. Henri de Laulani้, S.J., the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has shown remarkable capacity to raise smallholders’ rice productivity under a wide variety of conditions around the world: from tropical rainforest regions of Indonesia, to mountainous regions in northeastern Afghanistan, to fertile river basins in India and Pakistan, to arid conditions of Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Mali. SRI methods have proved adaptable to a wide range of agroecological settings.
With SRI management, paddy yields are usually increased by 50-100%, but sometimes by even more, even up to the super-yields of Sumant Kumar and his neighbors. Requirements for seed are greatly reduced (by 80-90%), as are those for irrigation water (by 25-50%). Little or no inorganic fertilizer is required if sufficient organic matter can be provided to the soil, and there is little if any need for agrochemical crop protection against pests and diseases. SRI plants are also generally healthier and better able to resist such stresses as well as drought, extremes of temperature, flooding, and storm damage.
SRI methodology is based on four main principles that interact in synergistic ways:
• Establish healthy plants early and carefully, nurturing their root potential.
• Reduce plant populations, giving each plant more room to grow above and below ground and room to capture sunlight and obtain nutrients.
• Enrich the soil with organic matter, keeping it well-aerated to support better growth of roots and more aerobic soil biota.
• Apply water purposefully in ways that favor plant-root and soil-microbial growth, avoiding flooded (anaerobic) soil conditions.
These principles are translated into a number of irrigated rice cultivation practices which under most smallholder farmers’ conditions are the following:
• Plant young seedlings carefully and singly, giving them wider spacing usually in a square pattern, so that both roots and canopy have ample room to spread.
• Keep the soil moist but not inundated. Provide sufficient water for plant roots and beneficial soil organisms to grow, but not so much as to suffocate or suppress either, e.g., through alternate wetting and drying, or through small but regular applications.
• Add as much compost, mulch or other organic matter to the soil as possible, ‘feeding the soil’ so that the soil can, in turn, ‘feed the plant.’
• Control weeds with mechanical methods that can incorporate weeds while breaking up the soil’s surface. This actively aerates the root zone as a beneficial by-product of weed control. This practice can promote root growth and the abundance of beneficial soil organisms, adding to yield.
The cumulative result of these practices is to induce the growth of more productive and healthier plants (phenotypes) from any given variety (genotype).
Variants of SRI practices suitable for upland regions have been developed by farmers where there are no irrigation facilities, so SRI is not just for irrigated rice production any more. In both settings, crops can be productive with less irrigation water or rainfall because taking up SRI recommendations enhances the capacity of soil systems to absorb and provide water (‘green water’). SRI practices initially developed to benefit small-scale rice growers are being adapted now for larger-scale production, with methods such as direct-seeding instead of transplanting, and with the mechanization of some labor-intensive operations such as weeding (Sharif 2011).
From the System of Rice Intensification to the System of Crop Intensification
Once the principles of SRI became understood by farmers and they had mastered its practices for rice, farmers began extending SRI ideas and methods to other crops. NGOs and some scientists have also become interested in and supportive of this extrapolation, so a novel process of innovation has ensued. Some results of this process are summarized here.
The following information is not a research report. The comparisons below are not experiment station data but rather results that have come from farmers’ fields in Asia and Africa. The measurements of yields reported here probably have some margin of error. But the differences seen are so large and are so often repeated that they are certainly significant agronomically. The results in the following sections are comparisons with farmers’ current practices, showing how much more production farmers in developing countries could be achieving from their presently available resources.
This innovative management of many crops, referred to under the broad heading of System of Crop Intensification (SCI), is also sometimes aptly referred to in India as the ‘System of Root Intensification,’ another meaning for the acronym SRI.
The changes introduced with SCI practice are driven by the four SRI principles noted above. The first three principles are usually followed fairly closely. The fourth principle (reduced water application) is relevant for irrigated production such as for wheat, sugarcane and some other crops. It has less relevance under rainfed conditions where farmers have less control over water applications to their crops. Maintaining sufficient but never excessive soil moisture such as with water-harvesting methods and applications corresponds to the fourth SRI principle.
Agriculture in the 21st century must be practiced differently from the previous century; land and water resources are becoming relatively scarcer, of poorer quality, or less reliable. Climatic conditions are in many places becoming more adverse, especially for smallholding farmers. More than ever, they need cropping practices that are more ‘climate-proof.’ By promoting better root growth and more abundant life in the soil, SCI offers millions of insecure, disadvantaged households better opportunities.
The extension of SRI practices to wheat, the next most important cereal crop after rice, was fairly quickly seized upon by farmers and researchers in India, Ethiopia, Mali and Nepal. SWI was first tested in 2008 by the People’s Science Institute(PSI) which works with farmers in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand states. Yield estimates showed a 91% increase for unirrigated SWI plots over usual methods in rainfed areas, and a 82% increase for irrigated SWI. This has encouraged an expansion of SWI in these two states.
The most rapid growth and most dramatic results have been in Bihar state of India, where 415 farmers, mostly women, tried SWI methods in 2008/09, with yields averaging 3.6 tons/ha, compared with 1.6 tons/ha using usual practices. The next year, 15,808 farmers used SWI with average yields of 4.6 tons/ha. In the past year, 2011/12, the SWI area in Bihar was reported to be 183,063 hectares, with average yields of 5.1 tons/ha. With SWI management, net income per acre from wheat has been calculated by the NGO PRADANto rise from Rs. 6,984 to Rs. 17,581, with costs reduced while yields increased. This expansion has been done under the auspices of the Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society, supported by the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank.
About the same time, farmers in northern Ethiopia started on-farm trials of SWI, assisted by the Institute for Sustainable Development(ISD), supported by a grant from Oxfam America. Seven farmers in 2009 averaged 5.45 tons/ha with SWI methods, the highest reaching 10 tons/ha. There was a larger set of on-farm trials in South Wollo in 2010. SWI yields averaged 4.7 tons/ha with compost and 4.9 tons/ha with inorganic nitrogen (urea) and phosphorus (DAP). The 4% increase in yield was not enough to justify the cost of purchasing and applying fertilizer. The control plots averaged wheat yields of 1.8 tons/ha.
In 2008-09, farmer trials with SWI methods were started in the Timbuktu region of Mali, where it was learned that transplanting young seedlings was not as effective as direct seeding, while SRI spacing of 25cm x 25cm proved to be too great. Still, obtaining a 10% higher yield with a 94% reduction in seed (10 kg/ha vs. 170 kg/ha), a 40% reduction in labor, and a 30% reduction in water requirements encouraged farmers to continue with their experiments.
In 2009/10, the NGO Africareundertook systematic replicated trials in Timbuktu, evaluating a number of different methods of crop establishment, including direct seeding in spacing combinations from 10 to 20 cm, line sowing, transplanting of seedlings, and control plots, all on farmers’ fields. Compared to the control average (2.25 tons/ha), the SWI transplanting method and 15ื15 cm direct seeding gave the greatest yield response, 5.4 tons/ha, an increase of 140%.
SWI evaluations were also done in 2010 in the Far Western region of Nepal by the NGO Mercy Corps, under the EU-FAO Food Facility Programme. The control level of yield was 3.4 tons/ ha using local practices with a local variety. Growing a modern variety with local practices added 10% to yield (3.74 tons/ha); however, using SWI practices the same modern variety raised yield by 91%, reaching a yield of 6.5 tons/ha.
Farmers in Bihar state of India have recently begun adapting SRI methods for growing mustard (aka rapeseed or canola). In 2009-10, 7 women farmers in Gaya district working with PRADAN and the government’s ATMA agency started applying SRI practices to their mustard crop. This gave them an average grain yield of 3 tons/ha, three times their usual 1 t/ha.
The following year, 283 women farmers who used SMI methods averaged 3.25 tons/ha. In 2011-12, 1,636 farmers practiced SMI with an average yield of 3.5 tons/ha. Those who used all of the practices as recommended averaged 4 tons/ha, and one reached a yield of 4.92 tons/ha as measured by government technicians. With SMI, farmers’ costs of production were reduced by half, from Rs. 50 per kg of grain to just Rs. 25 per kilogram.
Sugarcane (Saccarum officinarum)
Shortly after they began using SRI methods in 2004, farmers in Andhra Pradesh state of India began also adapting these ideas and practices to their sugarcane production. Some farmers got as much as three times more yield, cutting their planting materials by 80-90%, and introducing much wider spacing of plants, using more compost and mulch to enhance soil organic matter (and control weeds), with sparing use of irrigation water and much reduced use of chemical fertilizers and agrochemical sprays.
By 2009, there had been enough testing, demonstration and modification of these initial practices, e.g., cutting out the buds from cane stalks and planting them in soil or other rooting material to produce health seedlings that could be transplanted with very wide spacing, that the joint Dialogue Project on Food, Water and Environment of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad launched a ‘sustainable sugarcane initiative’ (SSI). The project published a manual that described and explained the suite of methods derived from SRI experience that could raise cane yields by 30% or more, with reduced requirements for both water and chemical fertilizer.
The director of the Dialogue Project, Dr. Biksham Gujja together with other SRI and SSI colleagues established a pro bono company AgSRI in 2010 to disseminate knowledge and practice of these ecologically-friendly innovations among farmers in India and beyond.
The first international activity of AgSRI has been to share information on SSI with sugar growers on the Camilo Cienfuegos production cooperative in Bahia Honda, Cuba. A senior sugar agronomist, Lauro Fanj๙l from the Ministry of Sugar, when visiting the cooperative to inspect its SSI crop, was amazed at the size, vigor and color of the canes, noting that they were ‘still growing.’
Finger Millet (Eleusine coracana)
Some of the first examples of SCI came from farmers in several states of India who had either applied SRI ideas to finger millet (ragi in local languages), or by their own observations and experimentation devised a more productive cropping system for finger millet that utilized SRI principles.
The NGO Green Foundationin Bangalore in the early ’00s learned that farmers in Haveri district of Karnataka State had devised a system for growing ragi that they call Guli Vidhana (square planting). Young seedlings are planted in a square grid, 2 per hill, spaced 18 inches (45 cm) apart, with organic fertilization. One implement they use stimulates greater tillering and root growth when it is pulled across the field in different directions; and another breaks up the topsoil while weeding between and across rows. In contrast with conventional methods, which yield around 1.25 to 2 tons/ha, with up to 3.25 tons using fertilizer inputs, Guli Vidhana methods yield 4.5 to 5 tons/ha, with a maximum yield so far of 6.25 tons.
In Jharkhand state of India in 2005, farmers working with the NGO PRADAN began experimenting with SRI methods for their rainfed finger millet. Usual yields there were 750 kg to 1 ton/ha with traditional broadcasting practices. Yields with transplanted SFMI have averaged 3-4 tons/ha. Costs of production per kg of grain are reduced by 60% with SFMI management, from Rs. 34.00 to Rs. 13.50. In Ethiopia, one farmer using her own version of SRI practices for finger millet is reported by the Institute for Sustainable Development to have obtained a yield of 7.6 tons/ha.
Maize (Zea mays)
Growing maize using SRI concepts and methods has not been experimented with very much yet; but in northern India the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun has worked with smallholders in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh states to improve their maize production with adapted SRI practices.
No transplanting is involved, and no irrigation. Farmers are planting 1-2 seeds per hill with square spacing of 30ื30 cm, having added compost and other organic matter to the soil, and then doing three soil-aerating weedings. Some varieties they have found performing best at 30ื50 cm spacing. The number of farmers practicing this kind of SCI went from 183 in 2009 on 10.34 hectares of land, to 582 farmers on 63.61 ha in 2010. With these alternative methods, the average yields have been 3.5 tons/hectare. This is 75% more than their yields with conventional management, which have averaged 2 tons/hectare.
Because maize is such an important food crop for many millions of food-insecure households, getting more production from their limited land resources, with their present varieties or with improved ones, should be a priority.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Farmers in Thambal village, Salem district in Tamil Nadu state of India were the first to establish an SRI Farmers Association in their country, as far as is known. Their appreciation for SRI methods led them to begin experimentation with the extension of these ideas to their off-season production of turmeric, a rhizome crop that gives farmers a good income when sold for use as a spice in Indian cooking.
With this methodology, planting material is reduced by more than 80%, by using much smaller rhizome portions to start seedlings. These are transplanted with wider spacing (30ื40 cm instead of 30ื30 cm), and organic means of fertilization are used (green manure plus vermicompost, Trichoderma, Pseudomonas, and a biofertilizer mixture known as EM, Effective Microorganisms, developed in Japan by T. Higa). Water requirements are cut by two-thirds. With yields 25% higher and with lower costs of production, farmer’s net income from their turmeric crop can be effectively doubled.
Tef (Eragrostis tef)
Adaptations of SRI ideas for the increased production of tef, the most important cereal grain for Ethiopians, started in 2008-09 under the direction of Dr. Tareke Berhe, at the time director of the Sasakawa Africa Association’sregional rice program, based in Addis Ababa. Having grown up in a household which raised tef, and then written theses on tef for his M.Sc. (Washington State University) and Ph.D. (University of Nebraska), Berhe was thoroughly knowledgeable, both practically and theoretically, with this crop.
Typical yields for tef grown with traditional practices, based on broadcasting, are about 1 ton/ha. The seed of tef is tiny — even smaller than mustard seed, about 2500 seeds making only 1 gram — so growing and transplanting tef seedlings seemed far-fetched. But Berhe found that transplanting young seedlings at 20ื20 cm spacing with organic and inorganic fertilization gave yields of 3 to 5 tons/ha. With small amendments of micronutrients (Zn, Cu, Mg, Mn), these yields could be almost doubled again. Such potential within the tef genome, responding to good soil conditions and wider spacing, had not been seen before. Berhe is calling these alternative production methods the System of Tef Intensification (STI).
In 2010, with a grant from Oxfam America, Dr. Berhe conducted STI trials and demonstrations at Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center and Mekelle University, major centers for agricultural research in Ethiopia. Their good results gained acceptance for the new practices. He is now serving as an advisor for tef to the Ethiopian government’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
This year, 7,000 farmers are using STI methods in an expanded trial, and another 100,000 farmers are using less ‘intensified’ methods based on the same SRI principles, not transplanting but having wider spacing of plants with row seeding. As with other crops, tef is quite responsive to management practices that do not crowd the plants together and that improve the soil conditions for abundant root growth.
Legumes: Pigeonpeas (Red Gram – Cajanus cajan), Lentils (Black Gram – Vigna mungo), Mung Beans (Green Gram – Vigna radiata), Soya Beans (Glycine max), Kidney Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), Peas (Pisum sativum)
That SRI principles and methods could be extended from rice to wheat, finger millet, sugarcane, maize, and even tef was not so surprising, since these are all monocotyledons, the grasses and grass-like plants whose stalks and leaves grow from their base. That mustard would respond very well to SRI management practices was unexpected, because it is a dicotyledon, i.e., a flowering plant with its leaves growing from stems rather than from the base of the plant. It is now being found that a number of leguminous crops, also dicotyledons, can benefit from practices inspired by SRI experience.
The Bihar Rural Livelihoods Support Program, Patna, has reported tripled yield from mung bean (green gram) with SCI methods, raising production on farmers’ fields from 625 kg/ha to 1.875 tons/ha. With adapted SRI practices, the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun reports that small farmers in Uttarakhand state of India are getting:
• 65% increase for lentils (black gram), up from 850 kg/ha to 1.4 tons/ha;
• 50% increase for soya bean, going from 2.2 to 3.3 tons/ha;
• 67% increase for kidney beans, going from 1.8 to 3.0 tons/ha;
• 42% increase for peas, going from 2.13 to 3.02 tons/ha.
No transplanting is involved, but the seeds are sown, 1-2 per hill, with wide spacing – 20x30cm, 25x30cm, or 30ื30 cm for most of these crops, and as much as 15/20ื30/45cm for peas. Two or more weedings are done, preferably with soil aeration to enhance root growth.
Fertilization is organic, applying compost augmented by a trio of indigenous organic fertilizers known locally as PAM (panchagavya, amritghol and matkakhad). Panchagavya is a mixture of five products from cattle: ghee (clarified butter), milk, curd (yoghurt), dung and urine, which particular appears to stimulate the growth of beneficial soil organisms. Seeds are treated before planting with cow urine to make them more resistant to pests and disease.
This production strategy can be considered ‘labour intensive’ but households seeking to get maximum yield from the small areas of land available to them find that the additional effort and care give net returns as well as more security. The resulting crops are more robust, resistant both to pest and disease damage and to adverse climatic conditions.
The extension of SRI concepts and practices to vegetables has been a farmer-led innovation, and has progressed farthest in Bihar State of India. The Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), working under the state government, with NGOs such as PRADAN leading the field operations and having financial support from the IDA of the World Bank, has been promoting and evaluating SCI efforts among women’s self-help groups to raise their vegetable production.
Women farmers in Bihar have experimented with planting young seedlings widely and carefully, placing them into dug pits that are back-filled with loose soil and organic soil amendments such as vermicompost. Water is used very precisely and carefully. While this system is labor-intensive, it increases yields greatly and benefits particularly the very poorest households. They have access to very little land and water, and they need to use these resources with maximum productivity and little cash expenditure.
A recent article on using SRI methods with vegetables concluded: “It is found that in SRI, SWI & SCI, the disease & pest infestations are less, use of agro chemicals are lesser, requires less water, can sustain water-stressed condition; with more application of organic matter, yields in terms of grain, fodder & firewood are higher.” (from a background paper prepared for the National Colloquium on System of Crop Intensification (SCI), Patna, India, March 2, 2011).
Trials in Ethiopia conducted by the NGO ISD have also shown good results. Readers can learn more about how these ideas are being adapted for very poor, water-stressed Ethiopian households in Tigray province here (Brochure at: http://www.isd.org.et/Publications/Planting%20with%20space%20brochure.pdf).
Philosophically, SRI can be understood as an integrated system of plant-centered agriculture. Fr. Laulani้, who developed SRI thinking and practice during his 34 years in Madagascar, in one of his last papers commented that he did this by learning from the rice plant; the rice plant is my teacher (mon ma๎tre) he wrote. Each of the component activities of SRI has the goal of maximally providing whatever a plant is likely to need in terms of space, light, air, water, and nutrients. It also creates favorable conditions for the growth and prospering of beneficial soil organisms in, on and around the plant. SRI thus presents us with the question: if one can provide, in every way, the best possible environment for plants to grow, what benefits and synergisms will we see?
Already, approximately 4-5 million farmers around the world are using SRI methods with rice. The success of SRI methods can be attributed to many factors. They are low risk, they don’t require farmers to have access to any unfamiliar technologies, they save money on multiple inputs, while higher yields earn them more. Most important is that farmers can readily see the benefits for themselves.
Consequently, many farmers are gaining confidence in their ability to get ‘more from less’ by modifying their crop management practices. They can provide for their families’ food security, obtain surpluses, and avoid indebtedness. In the process, they are enhancing the quality of their soil resources and are buffering their crops against the temperature and precipitation stresses of climate change.
Where this process will end, nobody knows. Almost invariably SRI results in far greater yields, but some farmers go beyond others’ results to achieve super-yields for reasons that are not fully clear. Although experience increasingly points to the contributions of the plants’ microbiome, it also suggests that the optimization process is still at the beginning.
SCI Yield Increases Reported:
Crop Yield Increase
Finger millet 200-300%
Uphoff N (2012). Raising smallholder food crop yields with climate-smart agricultural practices. Report accompanying presentation on ‘The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Beyond: Coping with Climate Change,’ made at World Bank, Washington, DC, October 10.
Uphoff N, Chi F, Dazzo FB , Rodriguez RJ (2012) Soil fertility as a contingent rather than inherent characteristic: Considering the contributions of crop-symbiotic soil biota. In Principles of Sustainable Soil Systems in Agroecosystems,, eds. R. Lal and B. Stewart. Boca Raton FL: Taylor & Francis, in press.
Sharif A (2011). Technical adaptations for mechanized SRI production to achieve water saving and increased profitability in Punjab, Pakistan. Paddy and Water Environment 9: 111-119.
Thakur AK, Uphoff N and Antony E (2009) an assessment of physiological effects of system of rice intensification (SRI) practices compared with recommended rice cultivation practices in India. Experimental Agric. 46: 77-98.
Zhao LM, Wu LH, Li Y, Lu X, Zhu DF and Uphoff, N (2009) Influence of the system of rice intensification on rice yield and nitrogen and water use efficiency with different N application rates. Experimental Agric. 45: 275–286.
Further Reading: What lies beyond ‘Modern Agriculture’the Bunting lecture of 2007 given by Norman Uphoff at Reading University, UK
Theme 1, Second question: What do you consider the main challenges and opportunities towards achieving food and nutrition security in the coming years?
Ensuring food security in a future which will have constrained resources, and which will be feeling the effects of climate change, is one of the thorniest issues facing policy makers today. The natural resource base upon which agriculture depends, soils, water and biodiversity (including seeds), is being degraded and lost. Supplies of fossil fuels used to make inputs, and minerals such as phosphate, will become increasingly scarce and expensive. This means that we urgently need to improve the resource use efficiency of farming systems and enhance resilience through adaptation. Agriculture will come under increasing pressure to contribute to mitigating global warming through reducing emissions and increasing sequestration especially in soils.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva writes in FAO’s new (2012) State of Food and Agriculture report that the world will not end hunger if we do not shift towards more sustainable patterns of production and consumption. “We cannot separate agriculture from the management and preservation of our natural resources, from food security and from sustainable development itself…. In agriculture, as soon as you pull on something, you find it is connected to everything else.’’
The key opportunity for achieving food and nutrition security in the coming years is the combined social and ecological intensification of agriculture, farming and gardening. Food and farming systems that enable social inclusion by reducing barriers to entry, such as the affordability of organic farming, and gardening, are critical to bringing rapidly growing rural populations into food production in an effective manner, which can increase access to food to both rural and urban communities. Diverse organic production, distribution and consumption economies operate successfully throughout the world and offer endless models that can be replicated and adapted. These models empower people, farmers and consumers to enter into food production and marketing and therefore enhance livelihoods and food and nutrition security. Productivity is enhanced by increasing ecological functions such as soil nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, soil water holding capacity, soil formation, pest and disease equilibrium and carbon sequestration etc through organic practices such as rotations; crop diversity; nitrogen fixing intercropping and catch crops and trees, plant and livestock diversity, composting, use of perennials, companion planting (e.g. push and pull), innovative systems such as those based on SRI / ‘Planting with Space’ and many others.
- Theme 2, First question: What works best? Drawing on existing knowledge, please tell us how we should go about addressing the hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition challenges head on.
Provide us with your own experiences and insights. For example, how important are questions of improved governance, rights-based approaches, accountability and political commitment in achieving food and nutrition security?
There is a growing body of evidence that organic farming systems can be more energy, nutrient and water efficient than their non-organic counterparts. Research published in the journal Science found that nutrient inputs of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in the organic systems to be 34-51% lower than in non-organic systems, whereas average crop yields were only 20% lower over a period of 21 years (Mader et al. 2002).
The majority of farming worldwide is rain fed and even if financial resources were available the world does not have the water resources to irrigate all of the agricultural lands. Water use efficiency is therefore a critical issue. Improving the efficiency of rain fed agricultural systems through organic practices is the most efficient, cost effective, environmentally sustainable and practical solution to ensure reliable food production in the increasing weather extremes being caused by climate change.
Research shows that organic systems use water more efficiently due to better soil structure and higher levels of humus and other organic matter compounds (Lotter et al., 2003; Pimentel et al., 2008). The more porous structure of organically treated soil allows rainwater to quickly penetrate the soil, resulting in less water loss from run-off and higher levels of water capture. This was particularly evident during the two days of torrential downpours from hurricane Floyd in September 1999, when the organic systems captured around double the water than the conventional systems captured (Lotter et al., 2008). A recent article in Nature (Seufert et al., 2012) showed that soils managed with organic methods have better water-holding capacity and water infiltration rates and have produced higher yields than conventional systems under drought conditions and excessive rainfall.
Other published studies also show that organic farming systems are more resilient to the predicted weather extremes and can produce higher yields than conventional farming systems in such conditions (Drinkwater et al., 1998; Welsh et al., 1999; Pimentel et al. 2005). The Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials found that organic yields were higher in drought years and the same as conventional in normal weather years (Posner et al., 2008). Similarly, the Rodale Farming Systems Trials (FST) showed that the organic systems produced more corn than the conventional system in drought years. Water efficiency and resilience of organic agriculture to extreme weather events is very relevant in the context of global climate change and dependence on rain-fed agriculture and therefore should attract much greater international attention.
Organic is a solution that meets smallholders conditions
A report by the United Nations on organic agriculture in Africa found that organic and near-organic methods and technologies are ideally suited for many poor, marginalized smallholder farmers in Africa because they require minimal external inputs and make use of locally and naturally available materials. They studied 114 projects in Africa and they found that organic farming increased the availability of food over time. Access to food improved through increased quantity of food production ensuring household food security, but also selling food surpluses at local markets led to farmers benefiting from higher incomes. Fresh organic produce was found to become more available to more people in the wider community. The study also found that organic farming enabled new and different groups in a community to get involved in agricultural production and trade (UNEP-UNCTAD, 2008).
New support for smallholder agriculture, especially in Africa, is urgently needed to increase productivity and provide economic opportunities for small-scale farmers. They need more than subsistence diet. They need an income so that they can send their children to school, pay for medical bills, have adequate housing, clothing, transport and all the needs that we all aspire too. This investment needs to be focused on agro-ecological systems, such as organic, rather than on intensive farming methods that require expensive inputs made from fossil fuels, that will become increasingly scarce in the future and which further degrade the environment. Organic methods are the most suitable as the necessary methods and inputs that are needed can be sourced locally at no or very little cost to the farmers.
The FAO director general Graziano da Silva, has stated that small scale farming is essential for fruit and vegetable production and many other local products and that local markets are based on small-scale agriculture. He stated at the opening of the Committee on Commodity Problems in June this year “Smallholders cannot continue to be seen as part of the hunger problem. They are an important part of the solution and are crucial to promote sustainable agriculture and management of our natural resources.”
The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, has argued for the scaling up of such models of agriculture and ensuring that they work for the benefit of the poorest farmers. However, in most African countries organic agriculture is not specifically supported by agricultural policy, and is sometimes actively hindered by policies advocating the use of high-input farming (UNEP-UNCTAD, 2008). Agroecology is a science and a set of farming practices that seek to improve agricultural systems by mimicking natural processes, creating beneficial biological interactions among the different components of the agro-ecosystem (De Schutter, 2010)1 Organic systems put into practice the core principles of agroecology such as recycling nutrients on the farm, integrating livestock and crops, diversifying species and genetic resources, and considering the productivity of an entire agricultural system rather than a single crop. Agro-ecological farming is based on knowledge-intensive techniques that are developed through farmers’ knowledge and experimentation.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (‘the IAA STD report’) is supported by FAO, 400 scientists and 60 countries, recommends support for agro-ecological sciences that would contribute to addressing environmental issues whilst maintaining and increasing productivity. It also recommended that community-based innovation and local knowledge combined with science-based approaches as the best way to addressing the problems, needs and opportunities of the rural poor.
There are many existing examples of innovation in agroecology. In Cameroon, training for local people in tree propagation and the setting up of nurseries has led to the widespread planting of trees that can fix their own nitrogen and can rehabilitate degraded land. Yields of wheat, maize, beans and potatoes have doubled. It has also led to the cultivation of indigenous fruit and nut trees for planting and for sale to neighbouring communities (Ebenezar et al., 2011).
In East Africa, fodder shrub species have been researched and introduced as a reliable source of less expensive and easily available protein feeds for dairy cattle that can improve milk production and reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility. It is estimated that 25,000 smallholder farmers have planted fodder shrubs, contributing about 3.8 million US dollars to farmer incomes across East Africa (Wambugu et al. 2011). The largest ever study of agroecology approaches in the developing countries analyzed 286 projects covering 37 million hectares in 57 countries. The study found that on average crop yields increased by 79% (Pretty et al., 2005).
In Tigray, Ethiopia, from 1996, the Institute for Sustainable Development worked in cooperation with the farmers to revegetate their landscape to restore the local ecology and hydrology. The biomass from this revegetation was then harvested to make compost and to feed biogas digesters. The result was more than 100% increases in yields, better water use efficiency and greater pest and disease resistance in the crops. The farmers used the seeds of their own landraces, which had been developed over millennia, which proved to be very responsive to producing high yields under organic conditions, whereas under conventional input practices they were susceptible to diseases such as rust. The major advantage of this system was that seeds and compost were sourced locally at no or little cost to the farmers. The organic system had both higher yields and a much better net return for the farmers (Edwards et al., 2011).
IFAD's Office of Evaluation conducted two thematic evaluations of organic agriculture and poverty reduction: one covering Latin America and the Caribbean (2001-2002), and the other covering Asia (primarily China and India, 2004). The evaluations looked at the practice of organic methods and their relation to poverty reduction, food security and trade. They also analyzed small-farmer groups that have been successful in adopting organic technologies and in marketing their organic products. The results of the evaluations were very encouraging. IFAD included organic agriculture in some of its successful projects as for example the IFAD's Sustainable Development Project for Agrarian Reform Settlements in the Semi-Arid North-East of Brazil ( Dom Helder Camara project ) and the Organic and fair trade production revitalize cocoa industry in São Tome and Principe.
Argentinean government has been developing from more than 20 years the national program Prohuerta with the aim of improving food security and sovereignty. At the moment the program has 589,000 organic gardens, 160,000 small farms (with animals). The population involved is 3.3 million people Economic performance is extraordinary, for every dollar invested by the government obtained organic vegetables and farm products worth $ 40. Prohuerta has also been included in the programs of international cooperation of Argentina, obtaining the support of other international donors. For more than four years later in Haiti takes place "Project Fresh Food Self Production – Prohuerta Haiti" aimed at small food producers. In the last period Prohuerta cooperation is being extended to Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Mozambique.
Brazil government implements a number of public policies that are intended to support organic production and agroecology. These are: i) financial measures, such as specific credit for organic farmers; ii) educational programmes, from the school to specific university courses in organic farming and agroecology, iii) creation of the resources necessary to produce organically, such as community seed banks, an official register for phytosanitary products, publication of technical information for farmers, etc, iv) incentives to organise and strengthen the organic production network; v) promotion of organic farming and consumer information: such as the Government’s measures to help purchases and support direct sales, plus specific campaigns to promote organic food and to inform consumers.
Cristina Grandi - IFOAM Food Security Campaigner
1. La seguridad alimentaria y la nutrición en el centro de la agenda post-2015
A pesar de los progresos realizados en muchos países, según los últimos datos de la FAO, 868 millones de personas, el 12% de la población mundial, sufren desnutrición y no tienen acceso a una dieta saludable. Los problemas de la inseguridad alimentaria y la nutrición son globales y, por tanto, el enfoque del marco post 2015 debe abarcar a todos los actores internacionales, nacionales, inter- o sub-regionales que tienen una influencia en los sistemas alimentarios.
Si bien se ha avanzado en la seguridad alimentaria y nutrición desde el año 2000, el progreso hacia el cumplimiento de los ODM 1, 4, 5 y 7 sigue siendo insuficiente, especialmente para los más pobres. Persisten las razones: la pobreza, la desigualdad y un sistema alimentario disfuncional que no es capaz de responder a las necesidades alimentarias y nutricionales de todas las personas.
La seguridad alimentaria y la nutrición (SAN) son necesidades humanas básicas por lo que deben ser pieza central de la agenda de desarrollo post 2015. El marco post-2015 debe incluir el objetivo de la Seguridad Alimentaria y la Nutrición para todos y todas, teniendo en cuenta los cuatro pilares que la garantizan: disponibilidad, acceso, uso y estabilidad en el suministro de alimentos. El Comité de Seguridad Alimentaria va más allá y añade además la importancia del marco de saneamiento, servicios sanitarios y cuidados adecuados . La SAN debe abordarse desde una perspectiva de derechos, en particular, del derecho a la alimentación para que los estados cumplan con su obligación moral y legal de asegurar la alimentación adecuada de todas las personas.
Varias iniciativas entre las que se encuentra la iniciativa del Secretario General de Naciones Unidas, el Reto del Hambre Cero (Zero Hunger Challenge) , han hecho un llamamiento por el progreso y la acción unificada para la realización universal de la seguridad alimentaria y nutricional y son una base sobre la que construir y desarrollar las propuestas.
Las organizaciones de la sociedad civil compartimos la necesidad de una meta orientada a erradicar el hambre y la desnutrición, con especial hincapié en la sostenibilidad. El Reto del Hambre Cero es un buen punto de partida.
Para superar el riesgo de divergencia entre el proceso post 2015 y los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible, es indispensable que se unan en un único marco de Objetivos Globales, que se exprese en términos universales, de solidaridad global y de imperativos en los límites planetarios.
Los sistemas alimentarios son esenciales a la hora de entender la sostenibilidad ambiental, el cambio climático y la construcción de resiliencia en las comunidades. Por ello, es necesario un enfoque holístico, que promueva acciones consistentes y complementarias en todos los sectores. Al mismo tiempo, es esencial acabar con la creciente y extrema desigualdad, de modo que las oportunidades, la riqueza, los bienes y los recursos naturales estén mejor repartidos entre y dentro de los países, con especial atención a los derechos y necesidades de los grupos más marginalizados.
La participación de la sociedad civil en el proceso post 2015, incluyendo la formulación de posicionamientos y las contribuciones específicas al marco de desarrollo, es esencial. Es fundamental ampliar la base de apoyo buscando la implicación, participación y colaboración entre distintos actores (ONG, Gobiernos, sector privado). En particular, se debe considerar la participación de los grupos sociales que sufren la inseguridad alimentaria y representar los puntos de vista de los grupos vulnerables y marginados. Una sociedad civil comprometida puede garantizar la inclusión de estas personas en el proceso.
Asegurar que la SAN esté en el centro del marco post 2015 es por lo tanto una forma esencial de motivar la acción política necesaria a nivel internacional, con el fin de garantizar el derecho a la alimentación, acabar con las desigualdades del sistema alimentario mundial, garantizar su sostenibilidad y contribuir al progreso en otras áreas del desarrollo humano y económico que se derivan de esta acción.
La meta deberá integrar el fin de la extrema pobreza y la privación (es decir, desde una perspectiva de derechos humanos deberá conseguir su desaparición en términos absolutos), una sociedad más justa y menos desigual, la protección de bienes globales y la sostenibilidad ambiental (respetando los límites ecológicos planetarios) y la rendición de cuentas de los poderes públicos (transparencia, participación, gobernanza responsable y coherencia de políticas).
A escala global, algunos de los retos relacionados con el sistema alimentario global y el logro de la SAN son: el crecimiento de la población, los cambios en el perfil poblacional y los cambios en las pautas de consumo, la menor disponibilidad de tierras para la producción de alimentos, los impactos del cambio climático, la degradación de la tierra, el agua y la biodiversidad. La agricultura industrial y el tipo de monocultivos de exportación (en algunos casos no alimentarios) imperantes comprometen la biodiversidad, conducen a la degradación de la tierra y son inherentemente vulnerables al cambio climático. Otros retos son los conflictos y los estados frágiles, combinados con la débil gobernabilidad.
Por último, los mercados y el comercio internacional de alimentos tienen poca regulación, lo que ha resultado en un aumento de la especulación y en la financiarización de los mercados agrícolas, que conlleva un aumento de los precios y la volatilidad. También los precios de la energía se han incrementado considerablemente en los últimos quince años, al igual que la dependencia del sector agrícola de los combustibles fósiles, creando un vínculo más fuerte entre los precios del combustible y el de los alimentos.
Finalmente, los problemas estructurales del sistema alimentario mundial se hacen patentes al observar pérdidas post cosecha y las debidas a los desperdicios, que actualmente representan casi el 30% de la producción mundial de alimentos y tienen importantes costos económicos y ambientales. Al mismo tiempo, los grandes subsidios agrícolas en el Norte global suelen promover la sobreproducción, con importantes efectos negativos en la nutrición humana.
Nota: los principios están alineados con los de la Campaña Beyond2015, una propuesta que ya incluye más de 500 organizaciones de la sociedad civil.
El marco post-2015 debe concebirse desde una perspectiva de derechos y abordar los desafíos globales de la SAN. Este nuevo compromiso debe reflejar la verdadera ambición de la Declaración del Milenio, reconociendo que las cuestiones estructurales y de gobernanza global son parte integrante de la pobreza. Las metas, los objetivos y el enfoque de la SAN en el marco post-2015 deben:
• basarse en un enfoque de derechos humanos que tenga en cuenta los principios fundamentales de participación, rendición de cuentas, no discriminación, transparencia, dignidad humana, empoderamiento y estado de derecho. En particular, el enfoque post-2015 debe basarse en el Derecho a la Alimentación, los derechos de las mujeres y el enfoque de género.
• asegurar la sostenibilidad social, económica y ambiental a largo plazo de la SAN. El marco post-2015 debe considerar su contribución para frenar la desertificación, el cambio climático, la pérdida de biodiversidad y otros fenómenos que inducen la degradación ambiental a la vez que desarrolla la resiliencia de la producción agrícola y los sistemas de distribución a esos cambios.
• ser ambiciosos para conseguir cambios en todos los niveles y abordar los problemas globales. El nuevo marco debe ser auténticamente global y promover acciones que transcienden las fronteras nacionales, enfrentar cuestiones como los subsidios directos e indirectos a las exportaciones agrícolas, los acaparamientos de tierras, los subsidios agrícolas insostenibles que tienen un impacto en la seguridad alimentaria, la especulación financiera.
• integrar enfoque de responsabilidad común pero diferenciada, con soluciones distintas en función del contexto y las capacidades de cada país.
• ser desarrollados de forma inclusiva y participativa, teniendo en cuenta en particular a los más afectados por la inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional, niños, mujeres y agricultores a pequeña escala, para que puedan participar en la definición de políticas. Todos los países deben comprometerse a procesos de deliberación nacionales, para aplicar los objetivos a su contexto nacional.
• orientar la acción hacia los más pobres y vulnerables a la inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional y asegurar que se avance de manera equitativa teniendo en cuenta factores como la riqueza, el género, la edad, la etnia y la región geográfica, con el fin de reducir las desigualdades.
• seguir un enfoque basado en la evidencia y centrado en la persona, es decir, en datos objetivos para la toma de decisiones. Es necesario mostrar resultados que sigan facilitando la toma de decisiones y la priorización de estrategias. Es necesario sumar evidencia económica y política a la evidencia técnica contra la inseguridad alimentaria y la desnutrición.
3. Orientaciones prioritarias para la seguridad alimentaria y la nutrición en el nuevo marco de desarrollo post 2015
Nota: la propuesta está alineada con la de la Campaña Beyond2015, una propuesta que ya incluye más de 500 organizaciones de la sociedad civil.
En base a los cuatro pilares de la seguridad alimentaria y la nutrición, las propuestas son las siguientes.
3.1 Garantizar la disponibilidad de una alimentación adecuada para todos y todas
En el marco post-2015, urge abordar el tema de la disponibilidad de alimentos adecuados, especialmente para los más pobres. Los incrementos en la producción agrícola deben ser ambiental, económica y socialmente sostenibles -a través de prácticas agroecológicas por ejemplo- y deben garantizar la disponibilidad de alimentos suficientes y nutritivos para aquellos que sufren las consecuencias de la inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional en la actualidad. Las metas deben asegurar la reducción de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero derivadas de la producción mundial de alimentos, y asegurar la resiliencia de las comunidades y de los recursos naturales, incluido el mantenimiento de la diversidad genética.
Los pequeños productores de alimentos son en este caso una prioridad, pueden adoptar enfoques agroecológicos, utilizar el conocimiento local, la innovación, los recursos naturales y un sistema de producción circular que ha mostrado menores pérdidas, la conservación de los recursos naturales y la creación de sistemas más resilientes y sostenibles. La inversión en estos productores a pequeña escala, la mayoría de los cuales son mujeres en Asia y África, y que constituyen la mayor parte de las personas que viven en la pobreza absoluta, tiene el potencial de hacer frente a los problemas ambientales y de distribución en el sistema alimentario mundial actual. Se necesita, para ello, acceso a servicios esenciales, incluidos los servicios financieros, de seguros y de extensión agraria. Además, requieren apoyo para hacer frente a futuros cambios en el ámbito de la energía, del acceso a la tierra y al agua. Los objetivos deberían ir orientados a:
• Implementación de las Directrices Voluntarias sobre la Gobernanza Responsable en materia de Tenencia de la tierra, Pesca y Bosques en el contexto de la seguridad alimentaria nacional (aprobadas por el Comité de Seguridad Alimentaria Mundial)
• Inversiones públicas para los 500 millones de productores a pequeña escala (con menos de 2 Ha de tierra) y su acceso a servicios financieros, incluidos seguros
• Apoyos para la agricultura y regulaciones (que privilegien la producción de alimentos) y políticas coherentes con la necesidad de asegurar la SAN (frente a la producción de agrocombustibles)
• Reducción de las pérdidas de alimentos, limitación en la demanda de alimentos en ciertos contextos (promoción de estilo de vida moderadas y sostenibles, reducción del consumo, mejoras en los sistemas de almacenamiento y distribución…)
• Fomento del uso sostenible del agua, la energía y los bienes naturales globales y priorización del uso alimentario de estos insumos
• Reducción en las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero
• Mantenimiento de la biodiversidad de las plantas cultivadas y los animales domesticados y desarrollo de estrategia para la minimización de la erosión genética y la salvaguarda de la diversidad genética.
3.2 Garantizar el acceso a una alimentación adecuada
Será necesario un amplio rango de avances políticos para alcanzar el 100% del acceso a una alimentación adecuada. Las políticas van desde asegurar la cobertura de transferencias sociales condicionales e incondicionales adecuadas, a largo plazo, y basadas en derechos, el desarrollo de cadenas de valor pro-pobre, hasta enfrentar los desequilibrios comerciales y la volatilidad de los precios de los alimentos en los mercados internacionales. En algunos casos, serán necesarias acciones para enfrentar la creciente integración de la producción de alimentos y el sistema de distribución, que aumenta la propagación de alimentos de mala calidad en mercados emergentes.
La mayoría de las personas dependen de los mercados para abastecerse en alimentos, por lo que el acceso a una dieta adecuada depende de sus recursos financieros. La volatilidad de los precios de los alimentos es un factor clave que afecta al acceso a alimentos nutritivos. Las prioridades deben incluir:
• Implementación nacional e integración legislativa de las Directrices Voluntarias sobre la Gobernanza Responsable en materia de Tenencia de la tierra, Pesca y Bosques en el contexto de la seguridad alimentaria nacional
• Acciones para enfrentar la volatilidad de los precios alimentarios en mercados internacionales (transparencia, límites de posición, límites en la especulación pasiva…)
• Estrategias para fomentar el crecimiento económico inclusivo y la cobertura de protección social para erradicar la pobreza extrema (por debajo de 2 dólares al día): esto contribuirá al acceso universal a una alimentación adecuada
• Establecimiento de sistemas de alerta y acciones tempranas en todas las zonas con riesgos de crisis alimentarias
• Fortalecimiento, ampliación y adaptación de los sistemas de protección social a los contextos nacionales para que reflejen suficientemente y de forma sostenible el coste de una dieta adecuada para todos y todas. Implementación de los más amplios suelos de protección social para asegurar beneficios adicionales en salud y educación
3.3 Asegurar progresos en la calidad y la utilización de los alimentos
La calidad de los alimentos y su utilización son el tercer pilar de la seguridad alimentaria. La desnutrición materna e infantil tiende a estar concentrada en los más vulnerables y los más pobres. La mayor parte de las intervenciones directas requeridas para enfrentar el retraso en el crecimiento y la deficiencia en micronutrientes se conocen y han mostrado resultados: se debe asegurar financiación para estas intervenciones. Pero las causas de la desnutrición son más amplias y por ello, las políticas y programas de nutrición deben ser más amplios para responder a los factores múltiples de las diversas formas de desnutrición. Los objetivos deben orientarse hacia:
• Implementación universal y alcance de los objetivos del Plan Integral de Implementación de la Nutrición Materno-Infantil, Infantil y Juvenil adoptado por la Organización Mundial de la Salud en 2012
• Cobertura universal con intervenciones que han demostrado ser eficaces en la reducción de la desnutrición, como las 13 intervenciones de alto impacto promovidas por la serie Lancet en 2008
• Acceso a agua adecuada, saneamiento e higiene
• Apoyo adecuado a las prácticas saludables de lactancia materna
• Acciones legislativas para prevenir los alimentos y las bebidas insanos para niños y niñas y regulación del etiquetado e información al consumidor.
3.4 Asegurar la rendición de cuentas y el cumplimiento del objetivo
Es probable que la volatilidad de los precios, los eventos climáticos adversos y otros desafíos globales permanezcan después de 2015, por lo que la alimentación y la nutrición seguirán en lo más alto de la agenda internacional, como ya ocurre desde 2008. Es necesario un liderazgo político al más alto nivel, así como acciones ambiciosas por los gobiernos nacionales y las instituciones regionales e internacionales. Hay un gran consenso sobre la importancia de la acción y apoyo a nivel nacional pero también sobre la necesidad de un compromiso político amplio y alineado para conseguir un cambio real en las generaciones futuras. La gobernanza de la SAN implica transparencia, rendición de cuentas, honradez y políticas y procedimientos participativos
Para evitar duplicaciones, es importante que el marco post-2015 esté alineado y apoye al Comité de Seguridad Alimentaria, por ser la plataforma inclusiva, intergubernamental e internacional con mayor legitimidad sobre cuestiones alimentarias. El Marco Estratégico Global, recién adoptado por dicho Comité, representa un paso importante en la armonización de políticas de SAN y en la consecución de un nuevo paradigma en la gobernanza de la alimentación global, la agricultura y la nutrición, anclado en políticas más democráticas y coherentes. El marco post-2015 debe construirse sobre estas buenas prácticas y su visión desde los derechos humanos, la dignidad y la participación.
Madrid, a 21 de diciembre de 2012
Este documento ha sido aprobado por un grupo amplio de organizaciones de la sociedad civil: el Grupo de Agricultura y Alimentación de la Coordinadora de ONGD-E, la Campaña “Derecho a la Alimentación. URGENTE” y las organizaciones de desarrollo de Coalición Clima.
It is great topic really to be discussed as per the them 1there was improvement but did not reached to extent that was needed, still 60% of the people have no access to food specially the developing countries as estimated and 80% of the infants are zero in terms of nutrition, so as my suggestion we should be in to the shoes of this people who are dying because of inadequate food.
Este debate temático está dirigido por la FAO y el PMA, en colaboración con " The World We Want ".
La consulta en línea está facilitada por el Foro Mundial sobre la Seguridad Alimentaria y la Nutrición (FSN Forum)