Natural resources governance and the right to adequate food

until 11.09.2014

2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security (Right to Food Guidelines). At its 41st Session from 13-17 October 2014 the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) will undertake a retrospective of the progress made in the implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines (RtFG). FAO prepared a number of working studies on different aspects of the Right to Food Guidelines as a contribution to the retrospective, and a number of these will be discussed in the Right to Food Forum. Natural Resources Governance is the subject of this online discussion.

As a basis for this discussion, the relevant working study is available here. It explores advances and challenges related to the Right to Food Guideline 8 and argues that:

  1. Natural resources are crucial for achieving food security and nutrition and the responsible governance of tenure is key for the realization of the right to food.
  2. After 10 years of the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines, it is possible to identify positive developments in that a human rights based approach has been applied in a series of international initiatives within the global agenda.
  3. A decade later, achievements have also been made at country level through policies and legal frameworks which recognize vulnerable people ́s rights to access, use and management of natural resources. There is a growing recognition of customary rights in statutory legislation and gender is considered in legal reforms to improve women’s access to natural resources.
  4. Despite important policy changes at international and national level, reforms have not kept up with commercial pressures on natural resources and future efforts to address the increasing pressures on ecosystems and the threat to sustainable production and access to adequate food are still required.

The working study concludes that the governance of natural resources remains one of the most important areas for food security and human rights standards are crucial to consolidate an enabling environment for the realization of the right to food.

This discussion aims at gathering more evidence from the past 10 years on Guideline 8 in particular. We would welcome contributions around the following focus questions:

A. Are there specific country examples or stories that illustrate how natural resources are governed (by i.e. policy and legal frameworks related to water, land, fisheries, forestry, etc) towards the progressive realization of the right to food?

B. Are there specific country examples of mechanisms related to the governance of natural resources that contribute to enhance accountability?

Please join the debate on natural resources governance and the right to food.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and comments!

Luisa Cruz and Margret Vidar

FAO Development Law Branch (LEGN) - Right to Food Team (ESA)

Leave your contribution

T. Beiermann Independent, Germany

Regarding 4.

Even if progressive law is in place recognizing tenure, implementation may lacking due to missing capacities of governments, of the owners of claims and for sure competition and power to extract resources tend to pressure.

However, I have seen examples for impact assessments on tenure in country with laws followed mainly World Bank standards. Ignorance of traditional land uses and claims were evident. No information was provided even if laws stated to protect traditional claims and their livelihood. When a point of a village is the only thing what is delivered it is more than suspicious My brief recommendations would be to address:

- guidance in operationalizing and appropriate technical solutions and coherent information needed to assess tenure

- clear institutional setups which are easily to access and should include grievance mechanisms in case of conflicting opinions

- somehow flexibility in processes providing evidence of tenure and claims in regard of time. This should take into account that powerful economic interests/ corruption could tend to interfere legalizing processes and groups lacking access to information and capacities won't be able to deliver compliant format to be successful

- provide also technical guidance in matter of how to use natural resources sustainable and to provide more visibility of ecosystem services to strengthen perception of environmental issues in general. A  special focus on smallholders and family enterprises in case of natural resource management could enable and empower sustainable growth based on persistence society patterns

Chiranjibi Rijal Development Inn Pvt Ltd, Nepal

River bed Farming (RbF) in Nepal

Riverbed farming (baluwa/bagarkhetii.e. cultivation in the sand) is the general practice of cultivating crops on the bed or in some cases banks of the river during the low water/dry seasons. This practice dates back to thirty years when mostly Indian nomadic farmers living near the border areas used to come to cultivate the riverbeds which were arable for certain types of crops. Watermelon was the only crops cultivated in the beginning. Although it started under the circumstances where there were no alternative lands for cultivation of crop such as watermelon, the scope has certainly widened greatly. And its utilization in wider scale is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The practice has evolved from being a subsistence livelihood approach to a commercial enterprise among the marginalized, landless and land-poor communities of terai. The key reasons of the expansion of this practice is mainly due to availability of fertilizers and nutrients and improved agriculture technologies, easy availability of riverbeds, access to transportation and markets. Products from RbF always have access to market. The emergence and development of haat bazaars has positively impacted rural agriculture in general with no exception for RbF. The yields are either sold by the farmers in these local markets or whole sellers and middlemen come to the farmers’ doorsteps to purchase the yield.

Major crops in RbF

The major crops grown by farmers along the river beds are water melon (CitrulluslanatusT.), bottlegourd (Lagenariasiceraria), cucumber (CucumisstivusL.), summer squash (CucurbitapepoL.), bitter gourd (Momordicacharantia L.), pumpkin (Cucurbitamoschata D.), pointed gourd (Trichosanthesdioica R.) and sponge gourd (LuffacylindricaR.). Few farmers also grew chilly, beans, tomato and other high value vegetables on the riverbeds. The choice of crop entirely depends on soil conditions and water availability.

Majority of farmers undertake direct sowing of seeds in the pits. Seed rate used for each species depends on the nature of the plants. Seeds are usually wrapped until germination and sown once they germinate. After sowing the seeds, mulching was done using locally available dry grasses. Sowing of seeds was done between November-December but there has been a slight shirt in the period as monsoon occasionally extends beyond the normal rainy season as riverbed farming depends on the water level in the rivers. However, early sown seeds and resulting seedlings have higher survival chances because they are able to survive the frost and dew during the winter having matured early. Plastic capping has also emerged in the riverbed farming in recent years. 

For more information:

KV Peter World Noni Research Foundation, India

In India with the passing of the legislation  FOOD SECURITY ACT-2014,right to adequate food has become a duty of the Government to be enforced. Rice being the staple food, it is supplied(25kg/month/family) at Rs 1/kg to citizens below poverty level. Poverty level is defined as daily purchasing power below US $ 1.5/capita/day. Government of India has to store 75-80 million tonnes of food grains in its warehouses to meet the requirement. Agriculture in India being dependant on monsoon rains, any vagaries affect food grain production. Sixty percent of Indian population being producer-consumer farmers, subsidised supply becomes imperative. As per Agreement on Agriculture under WTO, no country is allowed subsidy more than 10% of production value. A farmer oriented country with smaller holdings, this stipulation is difficult to be met. A discussion on circumventing this stipulation of WTO will be desirable.

Director, World Noni Research Foundations