Mainstreaming Food Security into Peacebuilding Processes

27.11.2013 - 18.12.2013

Dear Forum Members,

In 2010 the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report estimated that there were over 160 million undernourished people in protracted crisis situations. The proportion of undernourished people in protracted crisis situations is about three times as high as in other developing contexts – and the longer the crisis, the worse the food security outcomes. The longer we delay concrete action, the larger the problem, as has been demonstrated in Africa. In 1990, forty-two percent of the 12 countries facing food crises in Africa had been in crisis for eight or more of the previous ten years; by 2010, the total number of countries experiencing one or more food crises had doubled, of which seventy-nine percent had been in crisis for a prolonged period.

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) launched a consultative process to elaborate an Agenda for Action for Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises, to be submitted to CFS 41 in October 2014 for endorsement. This e-discussion is intended to contribute to the drafting of the Agenda for Action by involving those who are closest to protracted crisis situations.

Our discussion will explore issues such as, (1) the linkages between food insecurity and fragility, including through fragility assessments; (2) the role that food security and nutrition can play in fragile and conflict-affected states, particularly in the specific context of the New Deal Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals; (3) the respective roles of governments, local constituencies, civil society and relief and development actors, and (4) ways to ensure accountability and relevance through broad inclusion, including of vulnerable and marginalized groups, in decision-making, planning and monitoring.  

This e-discussion seeks your experience and views to shape a practical, actionable Agenda for CFS adoption, which will help guide implementation on the ground.

In the ongoing elaboration of the Agenda for Action, the complex interrelationship between conflict and food insecurity is recognised – peacebuilding interventions at various levels are understood to be crucial to emergence from protracted crisis, and to ensure an enabling environment for viable food systems to underpin food security and nutrition. In addition, food security programming has potential spill-over effects and opportunities that are wider than addressing hunger and malnutrition in affected populations; improved food security and nutrition can contribute to sustainable peace-building through improved social cohesion, capacities, trust, legitimacy, amongst others. This is, however, complicated by the risk of agricultural and food security related assets also potentially being conflict drivers and/or threat multipliers.

Countries and contexts in protracted crises are often accompanied by poor governance, weak capacities and a lack of basic systems. Be it cause or effect, where governments are unable to meet public needs and provide essential services, the potential for dissent is high. Where participatory, inclusive approaches are applied, the potential for strengthening the technical and logistical capacities of government and even their legitimacy is considerable. Particular attention needs to be given to marginalized and vulnerable groups.

The effectiveness and desirability of women’s involvement in resolving and recovering from conflict, and in creating sustainable peace, has long been recognized[1]. The essential role of women in both national and household food security in post-conflict settings requires that certain barriers to their involvement be removed – such as the violence and fear of violence that restricts their access to fields and markets and the restrictions on property rights that mean they are unable to inherit land and obtain credit on the basis of it.

Mainstreaming food security into peacebuilding will require its integration from the initial point of conflict analysis onwards, and must address the power dimension, from household, to community to state level. This implies more than conflict sensitive development. Creating enabling environments for resilient communities and societies to emerge will require a long-term, adaptive engagement and necessitate new approaches to funding in such settings.

We invite strong participation in the e-discussion around the following questions to ensure a relevant, effective Agenda for Action. Examples of successful strategies, programmes and tools, would be particularly helpful to all concerned to illustrate what works and might be adapted for use elsewhere.   

  1. In your experience, what are the key programmes and processes through which to mainstream food security into peacebuilding processes and get appropriate buy-in from all those involved?
  1. What role can food security and nutrition play in fragile and conflict-affected states, particularly in the specific context of the New Deal Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals, and how best can food security and nutrition considerations be integrated into New Deal priorities?
  1. Who should be held accountable for progress on food security in protracted crisis contexts and how can we measure progress towards specific targets?

Alexandra Trzeciak-Duval
Diane Hendrick

[1] UN Security Council Resolution 1325 passed in 2000 recognised the undervalued contributions and underutilized potential  of women in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building.


Alexandra Trzeciak-Duval and Diane Hendrick conveners of the discussion

Many thanks to all for the thoughtful opening comments for our e-discussion on mainstreaming food security into peacebuilding processes. A number of ideas to nourish the Agenda for Action have emerged. They will provide inspiration for many more comments expected in the days and weeks to come.

Let’s recall the three questions posed to frame the e-discussion and summarise what we have learned from comments received so far.

1. In your experience, what are the key programmes and processes through which to mainstream food security into peacebuilding processes and get appropriate buy-in from all those involved?

We have the beginnings of a set of principles/criteria that must apply to any programme or process to mainstream food security into peacebuilding:

  • Be context specific and in touch with realities on the ground. (Eileen Omosa, UoA & CeBRNA, Canada)
  • Develop guidelines for development actors based on the analysis of the role of local communities and their traditional arrangements for managing and sharing scarce resources. These must include gender and stakeholder analysis – with their participation -- to identify the bundle of rights held by different people to a resource and modalities for access to it. (Eileen Omosa; Hari Kala Kandel, Canada)
  • Together with local communities, facilitate the adaptation of traditional arrangements to changes in the environment, e.g. demographic, trans-border, climatic and other impacts. (Pat Heslop-Harrison, University of Leicester, UK; Krishna Kaphle, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)
  • Target and work with women in the informal sector whose economic support is vital to their families and communities and who, together with elders, often have a major role in influencing conflict situations. (Jean Max Fleur, WFP, Haiti; Eileen Omosa)
  • Ensure secure conditions of public safety that enable farmers to access their land for cultivation and harvest, people to access markets to buy and sell production, and people to access their families and social networks to help one another. (Eileen Omosa, Laetitia van Haren, World Watch Food Tank/Synergies for Biological and Cultural )
  • Aim for food security and enhancing the ability of groups to provide for themselves in a sustainable way without dependency on external assistance. (Gunasingham Mikunthan, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka; Hector Morales, GIZ, Colombia; Laetitia van Haren, Ruby Khan, FAO Somalia, Kenya, Susanne Kayser-Schilleger, Marshall Islands; Krishna Kaphle)

2.    What role can food security and nutrition play in fragile and conflict-affected states, particularly in the specific context of the New Deal Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals, and how best can food security and nutrition considerations be integrated into New Deal priorities?

  • Food security, nutrition and livelihoods can serve as a confidence-building platform where communities negotiate on the basis of an issue of mutual importance. Often agreement can be reached around shared goals like nutrition for children and vulnerable, poor households, women and the elderly. (Ruby Khan, FAO Somalia, Kenya; Heiko Recktenwald, Germany)
  • Negotiating the responsible management of communal resources (water, land, forests, etc.) can serve as an entry point to facilitate agreement on other issues that are too difficult to tackle initially. (Ruby Khan)
  • Working on livelihoods through a rights-based approach, i.e. providing access to marginalised groups, minorities, etc., can increase buy-in, not only into the peace process but also in support of political participation. (Ruby Khan)

3.    Who should be held accountable for progress on food security in protracted crisis contexts and how can we measure progress towards specific targets?

The improvement of the state-society social contract for the provision of basic services must underpin any peacebuilding process. Poverty, lack of access to basic services and general issues of basic independence are issues caused and exacerbated by poor governance. Thus governing authorities are accountable. (Gunasingham Mikunthan, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka; Krishna Kaphle, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)

But it is also the responsibility of all the parties behind the conflict or crisis to ensure that the population whose rights they claim to defend has access to food. (Kenneth Senkosi, Forum for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, Uganda)

One of the monitoring indicators would be the level of commitment, through both verbal or policy statements by both or all leaderships behind the conflict, allowing civil society and international actors to follow-up and probe the conflicting parties’ efforts to ensure a food secure population in situations of political instability. (Kenneth Senkosi, Forum for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, Uganda)

To keep the discussion going, we would like to probe some of these ideas further.

1) Although getting communities emerging from conflict to work together on superordinate goals -- in this case something like nutrition for children -- as a way of re-building relationships is a staple of conflict transformation approaches, in complex conflict settings a simple transfer to other areas of social interaction will not be straightforward. Sometimes natural resource access and use are merely another arena in which to play out conflict stemming from elsewhere and addressing these inter-group conflicts at another point could result in better cross-community problem solving around food access and distribution. Any intervention within a complex system will have indirect as well as direct effects, some intended, some not. This provides opportunities but should make us wary of linear assumptions.

2) The discussions around interventions at community level, intended to have an impact on food security and peacebuilding outcomes, are very relevant as much of the conflict around natural resources occurs at this level. However, the peacebuilding and statebuilding goals, and the way in which the international system approaches them, are very state-focused. What are the necessary approaches to relate these community level processes to the international state-level interventions? There is obviously much good reflection and thinking going on out there, and much to build on as we continue this discussion. We have heard voices from civil society, academia, agencies and individual practitioners. What is surprising is that we haven’t heard from key stakeholder groups we would have expected to -- and we know they have important perspectives and insights. We are especially thinking about those involved in and around New Deal processes, particularly at country level, given the importance of this initiative and its link to protracted crisis situations and fragile contexts.

This conversation will not be complete without them. This e-discussion will continue over the holiday period until 17 January 2014 so there is still plenty of time to weigh in!

Henk-Jan Brinkman United Nations, United States of America

Dear all,

It is important to mainstream food security into peacebuilding but I would argue that the reverse is equally or even more important given the size of the programmes.   Cullen Hendrix and I have higlighted int he attached ways to do that.   To quote:

"FAO-WFP (2010) identifies five characteristics of protracted crises: duration or longevity; conflict; weak governance or public administration; unsustainable livelihood systems and poor food security outcomes; and breakdown of local institutions. These characteristics are quite common in the Sahel. Food security interventions through the integration of a peacebuilding approach could address these symptoms of a protracted crisis through the generation of peace dividends, the reduction of conflict drivers, the enhancement of social cohesion, and the building of legitimacy and capacity of governments."

Best regards,


Kenneth Senkosi Forum for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, Uganda

Dear Moderators,

Allow me share views from an African context. As regards, the issue of accountability towards food security in protracted crisis situations, I strongly believe that its the responsibility of both and/or more parties behind the crisis/conflict to ensure that the population whose rights both claim to be fighting to defend has access to food even if it is aid supplies.  Its very sadenning when we watch news that even aid workers were denied access to a given population, the immediate result of which is always enhanced food and nutrition insecurity. Additionally, in situations where one party claims to be fighting a bad government, food security would not be greatly compromised if the conflicting parties would avoid the temptation of turning their guns on the innocent population they both claim to be fighting for. This would give chance for the population to continue with their subsistance farming activities. In terms of monitoring progress, I suppose one of the indicators would be the level of committment (both verbal and/or policy statements) by both leaderships behind the conflict. This would give a window for international and/or local civil society to followup and probe either parties strives/efforts towards a food secure population in situations of political instability.


Kenneth Senkosi

Hector Morales GIZ, Colombia

We have to made a step forward to pass the stage of food security to sustainable effective food production projects.

The underdeveloped world needs better research patrons to make added value to their products. That includes agro industrial projects.

Peace building should take into account the value of research and knowledge to include into small communities. Applied research methods can make better life to all.

We have to take into account that subsidarie governmental programms can some times be counterproductuve, due to the fact that people can not make a living on their own. DO no harm theories and sustantable approaches are good ways to develope progress and trust.

Here are some projects of peace building in Colombia :

Laetitia van Haren World Watch Food Tank/ Synergeis for Biological and Cultural ...

Ensure safe access to the market and no "ponctionnement", that is, remove barrriers (whether they exist in the form of road blocks or individuals with guns holding up assers-by)  on the road towards the market where those bringing produce to sell have to give some of their produce to one "access controller" after another,  where police, militia, local administrors or plain thugs serve themselves unlawfully and sometimes even violently.

Ensure public safety in general so that all people, including women and children, can go to the fields or go wherever they want or need close or far, for safe pedestrian mobility is the condition sine qua non for re-establishing food security, whether by farming one's own plot, working on someone else's land or earning one's livelihood in another manner.

Ensure that young people are also included both in the pacification and in the reconstruction process, also young, poorly or uneducated farmers, and even young slum dwellers. Give them some training if necessary, but involve them, because it is the repressed, unemployed and futureless youth that is the best fodder for cannons and corrupt politicians seeking to create a climate of terror.

Ensure the creation of re-opening in a fair manner of producers' ( and other) cooperatives. If the cooperatives have been corrupted by power  shifts caused or produced by the conflict, unfortunately most often towards more inequality, then either work towards correcting the existing cooperatives or, if this is totally impossible, start up new ones. I would always prefer cleaning up existing frameworks and institutions, though. The rebuilding of fairly functioning cooperatives should go together with honest weighing and paying processes, whether this means price control or the opposite, depending on the situation,

Get every family  or household to grow food in some way, that is, promote urban farming  and horticulture in  composting bags,  and  promote actually also eating those vegetables by teaching how to use them in the mainstream diet. I say this because I have seen  so much vegetable farming only started for selling to the elites, foreign or not, whereas food security and indirectly general socio-economic security would be enhanced if, when market demand drops, the family could reduce its expenses by consuming more of their own produce (not to mention the nutritional benefit of course of eating more veggies). This helps urban poor families to supplement their income and their food intake. 

However, for peace through food security we must be aware that food is not enough, there must be an inbuilt margin of non-survival consumption or those who hold the power, from the lowest level in the household to the highest levels of government, will simply prefer to starve (with some poetic exxaggeration!) those who are under their control than  give up their own consumption of whatever is power and status enhancing.  

Food security, peace and stability are seriously thwarted by the demand for drugs, alcohool, sex, violence (yes violence is not only a means to an end it also acts as a drug in combination with other drugs) which so appeal to young and mature men, especially if "normal" satisfaction perpectives for the present and the future are out of reach.  So we won't escape the never ending challenge to diminish the attraction and/or availability of those powerful but destructive means to feel good, strong, or simply to forget...Chaos serves access to those drugs, so peace through food security has a truly strong adversary!  

Ruby Khan FAO Somalia, Kenya

Food security, nutrition and livelihoods can serve as a confidence building platform where communities negotiate on an issue that is of mutual importance. It can serve as areas to negotiate and agree particularly on nutrition for children and vulnerable, poor households, women, elderly, where most groups find common goals. In addition, negotiating the responsible management of communal resources (water, land, forests, etc.) can also serve as a way to reach agreement where other issues are too difficult to agree on.

Additonally, working on livelihoods through a rights based approach, ie providing access to marginalized groups, minorities, etc. can increase buy in not only in the peace process but also in support of political participation within the mainstream, and facilitate the discussions on other more difficult issues. Fringe groups can be brought to the table if basic issues such as food security and increasing self-sufficiency in the ability for communities to provide for themselves will be supported. This reduces the idea of dependency on external assistance which becomes a grievance in the narrative of certain political groups.

The improvement of state-society contract (as mentioned previously) cannot be underestimated as a precursor or underlying peacebuilding processes. Poverty, lack of access to basic services and general issues of basic dependence on the state or external actors should be addressed in a comprehensive way by development actors to increase the impact of the provision of basic services to meaningfully contribute to peacebuilding processes.


Erin McCandless consultant; Interpeace, United States of America

I'm sure you know of the attached report, as FAO participated. But just in case!

See the attachment: Peace dividends and beyond.pdf

Well, what a wonderful question 1! The distribution of food must be fair.  You can't buy peace directly but maybe in this indirect way. You have some force.

Susanne Kayser-Schillegger none , Marshall Islands

Having lived for more than 27 years in Africa with ample opportunity to watch and experience food shortages as well as food distribution. Food distribution does not work, it is more often than not stolen and does not reach people. I have witnessed tinned food - a gift from Danmark - being sold in an Arabic Souk while it was given to people in Sudan! We have found that the best way to ensure that people get food is to give them simple tools and good seeds, dig a well or two and the people will proudly look after themselves since the fields are their own and the production is in their hands. Do not make people professional beggars relying on food support that may never arrive, give them dignity by giving them tools, water and seeds. Abstain from silly big farming projects, engage in grassroot projects that reach the people directly and much can be achieved. 

Jean Max St Fleur WFP, Haiti

Une formation sur la problématique de la sécurité alimentaire dans une perspective de construction de processus de paix doit cibler ces milliers de femmes du secteur économique informel, dans les pays en voie de développement, qui défrichent les terres agricoles, génèrent de l’argent pour nourrir leurs foyers, éduquer leurs enfants et soutenir leurs communautés.