Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Summary

 

  1. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development welcomes this online consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security - toward a post-2015 development agenda. The APPG calls for any Post-MDG process to consider the livelihoods of smallholder farmers of paramount importance to addressing global hunger and eradicating poverty. Acknowledging that giving smallholder farmers rights and assistance to create viable businesses, is a key component of a coherent food system, and should form part of any Post-MDG framework. Addressing food insecurity means empowering smallholder farmers to move from subsistence farming, through public and private sector support - with strong information and technology transfer - to profitable small businesses. There is a broad spectrum of policy interventions needed to ensure the emancipation for smallholder farmers; however, once this intervention has been made, the opportunity for smallholder farmers to thrive without further overseas development assistance is possible. This requires reliable financing, strong public sector support and an enabling environment for private sector investment which will underpin the transformation from subsistence farmers to successful small businesses. The Post-MDG Framework must consider the 450 million smallholder farmers worldwide as central agents to reducing global hunger and, given the right support, able to grow themselves out of poverty, for good.

 

Introduction

 

  1. The APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development brings together Parliamentarians concerned with agriculture, nutrition and food security in the developing world. The Group promotes support for the developmental needs of the 450 million smallholder farmers who feed 2 billion people worldwide. It engenders progressive and informed debate within Westminster and beyond by bridging the gap between policy makers, agricultural development specialists and practitioners in the field.

 

  1. The APPG was established in October 2008 in response to growing concerns over the heightened Food Crisis and a steady decline in the funding of agricultural development both by bilateral and multilateral organisations over nearly two decades. Chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington, the APPG is a cross-party initiative drawing members from both Houses of the UK Parliament which brings together Parliamentarians concerned with both the technical, and social science, of agricultural development in poorer parts of the world.  It uses its cross-party membership to raise the understanding of developmental needs of smallholder farmers and other stakeholders in developing countries and hence facilitates debate on the level of support given by the British Government and other major donors. In doing this, the APPG recognises the pivotal role that agricultural research outputs have in helping smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and in eliminating global poverty.

 

  1. Although the MDGs have acquired unprecedented political and financial support, they have also been justifiably criticized (Pollard et. al. 2011). They overlooked many key aspects of development which are today essential in promoting the health and wellbeing of poor communitites in developing countries. A primary example of this is the complete  lack of any focus in the MGDs on the agricultural or any other productive sector, and the  impact of these sectors on the livelihoods of poor people. The voices of farmers, must be heard. Engagement with rural communitites including smallholder crop farmers, pastoraslists, fisherfolk, processors, and agro-businesses more generally are vital to ensure that their needs and interests are reflected in  a post-MDG framework. Allowing smallholders to be active agents in developing solutions to their problems is a key requirement for a successful Post-MDG planning and development process, and should be recognised as such.

 

  1. The World Development Report in 2008 stated, “Improving the productivity, profitability and sustainability of smallholder farming is the main pathway out of poverty in using agriculture for development.” Clearly then a post-2015 consultation should put smallholder farmers at the centre of the agricultural development paradigm. It means consulting those farmers in rural and remote areas, not just those who have access to major cities or good links with government officials. It means fostering an active partnership between the public and private sector to ensure that smallholders are given the assistance they need to improve their production and gain access to markets, so that they can flourish into profitable and viable businesses.

 

  1. Currently the world is letting MDG 1 to halve of the number of people who suffer from hunger globally slip through its fingers and further out of reach. Even if we can reverse this trend of increasing hunger and somehow manage to meet this target in the remaining few years of the MDGs, which seems highly unlikely, what next? Little attention is being given to the global needs beyond 2015 – such as the need to double agricultural production by 2050 if the most basic requirements of an expected global population of 9 billion people are to be met. In addition there is an urgent need to reduce food waste, increase access to food of the hungry (through the better distribution of food), and also a need to find ways to increase production in a sustainable way.

 

  1. It is notable that many successes in tackling food security in the developing world have resulted from co-operation at community farming level and the very highest political level. In Brazil, Bangladesh and Mozambique by way of example, concentrated effort at both levels has created remarkable results, reducing hunger and under-nutrition over the past 10 years. It is essential that agriculture and food security, with a focus on the importance of smallholder farmers, is central to any Post-MDG framework. This should lead to a food system which is equitable and promotes a favourable environment in which even the smallest farmers can grow themselves into a viable business. Sustainably raising agricultural production, improving knowledge access to inputs for poor farmers to grow sufficient nutritious food and cutting post-harvest losses should also form part of this focus on tackling hunger, addressing food security, and helping poor smallholder farmers build small-scale businesses.

 

  1. Evidence collected by the recent APPG inquiry report “Growing out of Poverty” indicates that in some countries, as much as 90% of the population are subsistence farmers. But it also demonstrates that, given the right support they can be transformed into productive, economically active, well-fed contributors to their country’s GDP and national food security (APPG, 2011). The policy interventions that the Post-MDG Framework should consider in addressing food security through smallholder farmers. A number of these are outlined below.

 

  1. More and better support for smallholder agriculture can boost the economic and social status of women, who are the majority of smallholder farmers. This support should empower them to make decisions about their own lives and those of their families. Evidence shows that farmer parents who move from subsistence to surplus tend to spend any available cash on educating their children – thus enabling women to earn more income from agriculture would benefit the education of future generations. More diversified and increased agricultural production can also reduce the nutritional shortcomings of expectant and new mothers whilst simultaneously boosting the physical health and cognitive well-being of their children. So good quality agricultural investment returns not only healthy citizens, capable of achieving their full potential and less likely to require healthcare interventions, but also  increases labour productivity, which in turn will lead to economic and social progress.

 

  1. Sustainable agricultural practices also improve the resilience of farming communities to weather shocks and foster environmental sustainability. Therefore, by turning subsistence agricultural systems into a vibrant, profitable and sustainable rural sector, countries can make progress towards virtually all of the current Millennium Development Goals.

 

  1. It is crucial that any Post-MDG process includes a focus on public investment in smallholder agriculture, sustainable agricultural practices, and the importance of smallholder farmers’ rights and respective national food security targets. Governments must ensure that policies, laws and regulations are put in place that will enable smallholder farmers to build viable enterprises. Smallholder farming systems provide employment and food for most of the developing world – yet smallholders seldom have a voice in discussions and decisions on these issues. The Post-MDG framework must address this problem by ensuring smallholders are given a voice in any national discussions on a new framework.

 

  1. Land tenure and ownership are also important but sensitive issues for agricultural development, comprising a complicated web of customary practices and modern law. The Post-MDG framework should acknowledge that farmers will not take risks on their farm unless they have secure land tenure agreements.  Smallholder farmers, including pastoralists, face competition for their land from other resource-intensive industries such as mining, tourism, agro-fuels, and housing, as well as land speculators Secure land tenure and agrarian reforms can unlock economic growth and empower women, giving them access to and control over finance and other crucial inputs. A post-MDG framework should therefore include land tenure security for women.

 

  1. The Post-MDG Framework should encourage Governments, with assistance from donors, to create conditions that attract pro-poor private sector investment to secure and sustain the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. This by its very nature needs to be a long-term venture. Government’s role in kick-starting commercially-viable smallholder agriculture should include the building of transport infrastructure such as rural feeder roads; ensuring that inputs are available and affordable; and frameworks for coordination and cooperation of public sector partnerships with the private sector (such as the commodity exchange set up in Ethiopia to allow easier and standardised trade for smallholders). The provision of public goods in areas such as agricultural research, extension and training are also part of the long-term role of governments. If these aspects of the wider ‘agricultural development’ agenda are prioritised, the Post-MDG Framework will have more chance of succeeding in reducing poverty.

 

  1. Public and private sector investments in small-scale farming require consistency. Some investments may only see returns in the medium to longer term and a long-term commitment (minimum of seven or eight years) is often required for smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty (APPG 2011). Although private enterprise will drive investment in the agricultural sector, governments have an important role to play as providers of public goods as well as targeted support and facilitating an enabling business environment. Any targets to ensure food security and create an equitable food system must involve the private sector – without which innovation, funds and market access will remain elusive for many smallholder farmers.

 

  1. A business oriented approach to the integration of smallholder farmers into agricultural market chains will also contribute to food security and poverty reduction if large numbers of smallholders are empowered to become commercially viable and earn a fair return on the labour, knowledge and capital they invest on their land. For example, involvement of smallholders, after training in suitable business skills, in activities such as small-scale seed-production enterprise has proved effective in increasing the uptake and dissemination of improved, locally adapted new seed varieties in Nepal (Whitcombe, et.al. 2010). Private sector investments along agricultural value chains can open up new market opportunities for smallholder farmers. However, many are still missing out on these opportunities, and a post MDG-framework should include a focus on developing their ability to link to markets on fair terms.

 

  1. In recent years, innovative partnerships between the public, commercial and voluntary sectors have helped to identify the critical policy, regulatory, coordination and investment actions needed from the public sector to develop productive, competitive, profitable and equitable agri-food systems in sub-Saharan Africa. These partnerships put smallholder farmers at the centre of their business strategy as they acknowledge the central role that smallholders play in contributing to the food system across the world. An example of this is the C:AVA (Cassava : Adding Value for Africa) project where, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a partnership has been forged between smallholder farmers in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Malawi. This is in partnership with public universities and research institutes in UK and Africa, and private sector processors and end users to develop value chains to manufacture and distribute high quality cassava flour.

 

  1. The Post-MDG Framework should recognise the complementary nature of agriculture and nutrition to ensure food security. Food price rises and increasing volatility in food commodity markets continue to impact upon smallholder farmers: this is particularly true regarding economic access to a stable nutritious diet, meaning that more people going hungry than before. Estimates suggest that on top of the one billion hungry people worldwide there are a further one billion who suffer from hidden hunger. It is therefore important that in order to achieve a sustainable agricultural sector, in which smallholders play a leading role, the Post-MDG framework should ensure a complementary focus on nutrition and agricultural development. Without this smallholders will not be able to afford sufficient nutritious food in times of food price spikes and this can severely impact upon their labour productivity, as well as impacting on the physical and cognitive development of their children.

 

  1. Specific indicators for a Post-MDG framework which seeks to promote improved food security through development of small scale agriculture could include a practical set of situational, outcome and sustainability indicators that truly reflects the complex and multifaceted contribution of agricultural development to poverty reduction and food security.

 

  1. A Post-MDG framework which calls on all sectors of society to work towards global food security and poverty reduction should provide smallholder farmers with the tools and opportunities needed work themselves out of poverty. If the Post-MDG Framework sets out a clear agenda, to offer targeted support to smallholders by creating a favourable investment and knowledge transfer environment, smallholders will be given the opportunity to become self-sustained businesses, which will contribute to poverty reduction and food security.

 

  1. The Post-MDG Framework should seek to integrate smallholders into markets, and at the same time recognise the need for investment in public goods and an enabling environment in which public and private sectors are able to complement each other to encourage a working food system which allows smallholder farmers to realise their businesses’ potential.

---

For further information, or if you wish to receive oral evidence from the APPG’s Chair - Lord Cameron of Dillington - please contact the Group’s Coordinator, Dominic Foster fosterdj@parliament.uk

References

 

All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development (2010) “Why No Thought for Food?” A UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Global Food Security http://www.agricultureandfoodfordevelopment.org/Growing%20Out%20of%20Poverty%20-%20APPG%20AF4D%20Inquiry%20Report.pdf

 

All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development (2011) “Growing Out of Poverty”  A UK Parliamentary Inquiry into supporting and developing African agriculture http://www.agricultureandfoodfordevelopment.org/Why%20No%20Food%20for%20Thought%20-%20A%20Parliamentary%20Inquiry.pdf

 

Aryeetey, E. (2012) “Towards a New Post-2015 Development Agenda” http://www.unicef-irc.org/research-watch/Post-2015--What-Next-/907/

 

Pollard A., Sumner A., Polato-Lopes M. and de Mauroy A. (2011) 100 Voices – Southern perspectives on what should come after the Millennium Development Goals, London: CAFOD and Brighton: IDS.

 

Vandemoortele, J. (2012) “Advancing the UN development agenda post-2015: some practical suggestions.” Report submitted to the UN Task Force regarding the post-2015 framework for development

 

Witcombe,J.R., Devkota, K.P. and Joshi, K.D. (2010). Linking community-based seed producers to markets for a sustainable seed supply system. Experimental Agriculture, 46, pp 425-437

 

The World Bank (2008) World Development Report: Agriculture for Development. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDR2008/Resources/WDR_00_book.pdf

 

Yamin A.E. (2012) Post MDGs: what next for a global development agenda that takes human rights seriously? http://www.unicef-irc.org/article/899/