Nutrition is a fundamental human need and working together to achieve it is such a meaningful activity. During the course of the on-line discussion, it was heartening to see many examples of the way people can pull together to further food security and nutrition. Overarchingly, the conversation has pointed to the need for a diverse range of actors to be engaged: farmers organisations, NGOs, academics, private sector, and individuals too.
We have seen evidence of the strengths each sector brings to delivering nutritional programs. These include specific activities taken by non-governmental actors in their respective businesses or organisations, which in turn can lead to collaborations that become more than the sum of their parts. From a private sector perspective, it may mean not only improving the nutritive content of an existing product but also being part of partnerships that deliver integrated solutions on household nutritional security. The private sector is at its best in leveraging market-based solutions to address some of the most intractable problems in addressing poverty and sustainability. We heard great examples of the role universities can play in analyzing needs, also of farmers organisations in managing resources sustainably, and civil society groups on-the-ground. Each group bringing their own skills to bear on the problems of nutrition is a potent solution.
So, many thanks to all of you for your insights and the passion you bring to feeding the world's people better. Onward to more engagement and more action.
Comments on the High Level Panel of Experts Report
on Investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security
By the Private Sector Mechanism
January 30, 2013
The private sector mechanism welcomes the report on investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security. An important pathway to achieving food security is to enable smallholder farmers to break the subsistence cycle and become small scale entrepreneurs. The report has many strengths and we encourage the inclusion of some further points to close gaps in the recommendations. As well, we encourage the next draft be editted to encourage a more readable, accessible format.
In defining smallholders, it is not about size of the farm or the family structure, which can be highly variable by country, culture and landscape. It is about a farmer or a group of farmers (in a family relationship or not) not being able to provide for their own basic food needs and thus are not able to participate in the primary economic activity which is agriculture. This incapability blocks further improvement in wellbeing and welfare. We encourage the report to consider this fundamental definition.
To further strengthen the report we offer the following suggestions for additional recommendations:
- A farmer-centered approach is needed, ensuring they have access to the things they need to produce a crop – such as the best-adapted seed technologies, land, water, knowledge, inputs and credit. Rural infrastructure needs to be in place to allow for market access and farmers to sell their products.
- Farmer organisations and cooperatives have a vital contribution to make to the development of agriculture and rural communities. Unless small-scale farmers are organized, they will remain politically powerless and economically disadvantaged.
- Education is needed to improve market-oriented education and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth originating from smallholder families that prepares the next generation of workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs across the food and agricultural industry. In the absence of a more developed set of recommendations in this area within the report and the primacy of their importance, the network offers additional details to further the creation of this section:
In many developing countries, especially in Africa, the higher agricultural education system is experiencing serious problems of low quality, irrelevancy, lack of funding, poor infrastructure, low faculty morale, and high graduate unemployment (Maguire and Atchoarena 2003, other related studies on the agricultural education question:M. Maredia May 2011, Michigan State Staff Paper and Wallace, Mulhall and Taylor 1996 cited by Taylor 1998).
Rivera (2006) contends that agricultural higher education institutions do not have a good understanding of the labor market for agriculturally oriented professions. The system has not kept pace with the labor market realities, have not tracked the changing human resource needs in the agricultural sector, to align the profile of human resource outputs with the agricultural development strategy, and to ensure that students are not prepared for jobs that do not exist. (This disconnect between agricultural education system and the changing human resource needs is illustrated by the example of Indian agricultural universities that produce less than 100 graduates in food processing when the country has projected a need for about 200,000 professionals by the end of 2010 (Katyal 2006).
The “global drivers of curriculum change” identified from literature review (Mywish Maredia 2011) must be accommodated and include: 1) The changing profiles of students pursuing agricultural higher education; 2) Rapid scientific progress and technical change in an information-driven global economy, and challenges posed by global issues; 3) The changing labor market; 4) Emergence of information and communication technologies (ICTs); 5) Increased awareness of environmental issues; and 6) Increased awareness of gender issues.
- Knowledge sharing and extension allows the agriculture to continually adapt to multiple demands. Whether it is better meeting nutritional needs, improving water use efficiency, reducing land use, or any of the other competing demands on smallholders services, they are best met through improved practices based on knowledge.
Knowledge helps farmers adopt practices that maximise the efficiency of the inputs they use and help protect the natural resources they depend on. Training programmes should specifically involve women farmers in developing countries as essential ‘gatekeepers’ for household nutrition and welfare.
Providing this education to rural communities in a systematic, participatory manner is essential to improving their production, income and quality of life, particularly for smallholders. Extension services disseminate practical information related to agriculture, including correct use of improved seeds, fertilisers, tools, tillage practices, water management, livestock management and welfare, marketing techniques, and basic business skills to address poverty such as literacy and numeracy. Extension is also an essential pillar for rural community progress including support for the organisational capacity of farmers’ groups and the formation of co-operatives.
Five areas to mobilise the potential of rural advisory services are (1) focusing on best-fit approaches, (2) embracing pluralism, (3) using participatory approaches, (4) developing capacity, and (5) ensuring long-term institutional support. (GFRAS,2012)
- Improve smallholder farmers’ access to markets through investments in transport and storage infrastructure, refrigerated storage as well as information access.
- Recognize the diversity of private sector actors in the report. Replace a tone of anxiety about corporations with an acknowledgement of the range of actors in scale, origin, and place in the value chain. Part of that diversity includes that farmers themselves are small enterprises that need to be fostered.
- The clear need for investment in the value chain of agriculture needs to be stated. That investment should foster productivity and diversity of options.
- Any recommendations for regulation should clarify by whom, for what purpose.
- Throughout the discussion of smallholders, the unique needs of women smallholders should be considered, with specific programming to address that fact that rural women remain the most disadvantaged group in the realisation of the MDGs.
Tone and Structure
The draft requires a fresh editor. There are numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes, sentence construction is often laborious and many words are used for their French meaning instead of their English one. In general, it should be made more readable and less filled with jargon. Many authors are cited but not explained, with the assumption that the reader is familiar with their views or ideas. Sources are totally lacking in several places, and some date back to the 1920s. More modern work is essential. Data is referenced rather than cited. This topic is important and warrants a good investment is its “readability”.
Overall the language used is often vague, uses 'cliche' or broad words with no definitions, tends to assume de facto common understanding or agreement on what terms mean or imply. The use of the word 'corporate' or 'corporation' is inconsistent; the meaning assigned to this word is not clearly stated or explained and it seems to clearly derive from the traditional socialist/marxist understanding of private firms but is also at times mixed with other meanings. There are several mentions of 'corporate farming' and of agro-industry farming which do not make sense and are ill-defined. Farming has and will involve a range of farm sizes. The report cannot suggest one size over another but needs to focus on the unique assistance needed to improve the lives of smallholders.
In the framework, it is good to read the recognition that the National Vision and Strategic Frameworks have and will adapt to the targeted area and situation e.g. in Brazil recognition of a bimodal structure. Some of our members question the need of a split between "Institutions and Markets" at national level and "Assets" at territorial level. In general, they note the need to identify roles of the different actors/institutions/market forces, all along the supply chain from farm to market. When these interactions are suboptimal they should be addressed.
Comments on the High Level Panel of Experts Report
On Biofuels by the Private Sector Mechanism
January 30, 2013
The Biofuels report has several areas of sound analysis, but the private sector notes with concern that many of the policy recommendations do not draw upon that analysis.
Currently the report does not distinguish between well considered economic consensus and more peripheral or theoretical views. Weighting of the analysis should reflect it gravitas and consensus rather than its capacity for soothsaying.
The policy section should be reconsidered in the next draft and the private sector mechanism offers the following points to close considerable gaps:
- The most recent report on 'The State of Food Insecurity in the World' for 2012, compiled by the WFP, IFAD and the FAO, highlights the importance of agricultural development. It states that investments in agriculture generate more economic growth in developing countries than investments in any other sector, which in turn would benefit the poor and undernourished. A high agricultural commodity price level is considered core to the development strategy. Other crucial issues are investments into the infrastructure, and long-term security for farmers, i.e. clear ownership rights, education and political stability, meaning, for example, that the farmers also benefit from higher prices, rather than this income being lost along the chain due to corruption, waste etc. In 2005, the FAO also stated that ‘the long-term downward trend in agricultural commodity prices threatens the food security of hundreds of millions of people in some of the world’s poorest developing countries’. This was reflecting real concern about the lack of investment in agriculture and the insufficient positive signals given to farmers to enhance production.
- Higher food prices and high demand for farm products – going into food, feed or biofuels markets - have made a considerable impact on farm incomes and therefore rural poverty. This point is essential to the report.
- There is almost no discussion of trade and government export bans etc and their role in food price volatility, nor of the role of limited stocks. Any discussion on price impacts must be put into this context.
- Only 2-3 % of global farmland is dedicated to the cultivation of biofuel crops. Global agricultural production can also be increased without laying claim to additional, ecologically valuable land. Figures on exactly how much potential farmland is currently lying fallow vary. 'Diverse studies of global land cover and potential productivity suggest that anywhere from 600 million to more than 7 billion additional acres of under-utilized rural lands are available for expanding rain-fed crop production around the world, after excluding the 4 billion acres of cropland currently in use, as well as the world’s supply of closed forests, nature reserves, and urban lands. Hence, on a global scale, land per se is not an immediate limitation for agriculture and biofuels.’ Kline, K., Dale V. H., Lee R. and Leiby P. 2009: In Defense of Biofuels, Done Right. In: Issues in Science and Technology. Spring 2009 (Volume 25, Issue 3, pages 75-84) The evidence on land use change is still evolving – policy recommendations in this area should be very cautious and should look at empirical evidence: what land use had actually changed, and why.
- The report gives the impression that there is an inherent conflict between food security and first generation biofuels. Yet these are not mutually exclusive outcomes. The demand incentive for biofuels from food crops in recent years has led directly to greater crop production and productivity improvements and investment in the agricultural supply chain. This can be seen for example in the EU in terms of increased rapeseed production for biodiesel, and in the US, particularly with corn use for ethanol. Mandates and targets set at moderate levels have served a key role in encouraging such investment and should not be seen in the negative light portrayed in this report.
- There is a suggestion that biofuels in developing countries is being driven by developed market demand. However, biofuels from Africa are not flowing to the EU, nor is much soy oil from Argentina. The EU imports of Argentine soy meal are driven by vegetable protein deficiency in the market. The report needs correction in light of real trade figures. The US, Canada, and Brazil are using their domestic production.
- Biofuels policies can also play an important role in helping to deal with supply side shocks when these occur, with what may be increasing regularity in the future. As one example, in the US the demand for grain use for ethanol production is not inelastic. Under the US Renewable Fuel Standard, fuel suppliers are able to roll over 20% of their current year blending obligation into the following year. This provides flexibility when there are supply side constraints. Moreover, the impact of ethanol production on the increase in grain demand is largely over-estimated. Increased global demand for grain is driven by various factors, including greater use in feed consumption, particularly in China, not principally by ethanol demand.
- First generation biofuel production has provided incentives for making agriculture more sustainable and more productive all over the world, thereby considerably increasing the global productivity potential of agriculture. For example, standards in some regions have been put in place to prevent any negative ecological and social effects potentially associated with the production of biofuels. This means the cultivation of crops for biofuel production and the production processes themselves are meeting high standards that often go beyond those applied to food or livestock feed production in some places.
- The co-products from food crop based biofuels production are key to supporting food security but this is not fully reflected either in the overall debate, or in many of the studies on Indirect Land Use Change. As one example, in Germany the increased cultivation of rapeseed has contributed significantly to reducing dependence on protein imports for feed and livestock production. Around 50-60% of rapeseed is protein meal. Rapeseed meal is not the only useful by-product from rapeseed processing. Lecithin and glycerine are other co-products which are important raw materials for the food and the pharmaceutical industry. The same is true of corn, where increased cultivation had also led to significant amounts of co-products for the feed industry. There is a missing piece of analysis on farm efficiencies and waste, including manure use.
- Biofuels crops can provide a valuable part of crop rotations and income risk management for farmers in various regions. For example, in Europe, oilseed rape is the only extensively cultivated leaf vegetable that can increase the usually tight grain crop rotation cycles and is extremely important for increasing soil fertility, and topsoil formation.
- All ag production should be socially and environmentally sustainable but that does not mean everything should be under certification schemes which can add unnecessary costs into supply chains. Certification works for supply chains outside of mainstream supply; once you go mainstream it is not the most efficient way of doing things.
- There is little discussion of policy waivers – where you can stop using crops for biofuels at a certain price level – yet this would be the most pragmatic next step on policy. Policy waivers and which ones work best are not well understood.
- The only current large scale alternative to first generation biofuels in liquid transport fuels are fossil fuels. Despite the investments in advanced biofuels research and development, they are neither commercially nor technologically viable to meet current or future mainstream transport fuel demand. Abolishing biofuels mandates would lead simply to more use of fossil fuels in the medium term. (i.e. up to 2020 and beyond).
Page 7 – reference to country typologies being a starting point for biofuels policies. This doesn’t seem to include either trade or energy resources as part of the analysis.
Page 8 – the “division of labour” argument between developing and developed countries does not seem well conceived. The paragraph which starts off with wood and talks about biorefineries seems not well grounded.
Page 9 – the paragraph that “ a substantial fraction of each ton of crop diverted to biofuels comes out of consumption by the poor” needs thorough substantiation. Many of the really poor are not touched by commercial markets.
- The paragraph that bioethanol is responsible for the increase in the price of corn since 2004 – needs thorough substantiation. It is clearly one factor but there are a lot of others, particularly as virutally all commodities have seen price rises, including those not used for biofuels.
Page 10 – The references to land grabbing. Authoritative sources are needed here as to how much this is really to do with biofuels. Early analysis by World Bank would suggest it is much more a matter of foreign national governments trying to secure food production for thier people.
Draft policy recommendations
P13 – para 1. “the central role of biofuels in provoking high and volatile prices” is not fully substantiated by this report in its current state. Therefore the policy outcome that its growth needs to be controlled is not well grounded.
- Para 2. The “massive displacement of traditional communities” needs substantiating. This is not all biofuels related.
- Paras 6 and 7 The reference to using only certification schemes that are multistakeholder is not practical or accurate. Certification is about other things than responsible land use, and there are other ways of dealing with responsible land use than certification. Certification is only one option. There are other ways of ensuring sustainable ag such as regulatory standards, incentives, and other government interventions. Certification is a way of loading costs into the supply chain – the added value needs to be very clear.
- Para 8 – the typologies reference seems to exclude both trade - which seems to go down the self sufficiency route – and also energy policy and other energy sources.
- Para 9 – the idea that the developing world is a biomass provider to the developed world in biofuels discussions is nonsense. The US grows its own corn. Europe grows its own rapeseed. Sure there is some trade in biofuels feedstocks but it is small – because biomass is fundamentally expensive to transport.
P17 - There is a reference to the EU having an increasing level of food imports due to climate insecurity. This needs substantiating: the EU is the world’s biggest importer and exporter of food and ag products.
P18-19 - The section on the EU is somewhat misleading. The EU has always imported soybeans primarily for the meal.
P25 – Again the reference to Argentina is misleading because the key driver is the demand for meal.
P26 – the EU has issued a proposal – it is not agreed yet. Biofuels policies remain somewhat experimental and changing – look at all the different ones in member states of the EU as one example.
The whole piece about “emerging global market for biofuel” seems mistaken. The idea of a dedicated attempt at a global market just doesn’t ring true.
P27 – the country typology model seems to ignore trade issues and anything to do with other energy resources.
P32 – the speculation about the location of second generation biofuels seems confused and unhelpful. It is only speculative and cannot be grounded in research. While best removed from the report, at a minimum it must also point to the improvements that second generation biofuels could offer.
P34 – There are various models around trying to estimate indirect land use change: this remains an emerging science and the models should be treated with caution. The argument about the effect on the hungry is highly complex and inadequately draws conculsions regarding biofuels. The numbers of the hungry fluctuate and factors such as political stability, local weather, and other factors are key – both in price and availability. Biofuels demand is only a small factor in price and in some regions minimally so. In areas of hunger, few have access to commercial markets – so they are much more impacted by local factors. Also the idea that there is a commonly accepted target that the world should produce 10% of its transport fuels from biofuels is absolutely not established and should not be stated as fact.
P35 – the demand for biofuels is part of the increased demand that has happened since about 2004. It is a new source of demand but it is the combined demand on food crops that is important vis a vis supply. The reason that the supply response to the increased demand has been sluggish has many factors – ranging from stagnating yields to government export bans that disincentivised farmers to produce more.
It is also important to remember that there has been underinvestment in agriculture because prices were previously low – some of the price increase was a necessary correction to ensure that investment again started to be attracted to the agricultural sector.
Biofuels and Land
Overall - The science of indirect land use change is new and evolving and not currently a sound basis for policy.
P55 – There are some sweeping generalisations about foreign investments that need to be grounded in fact and less conjecture. For instance, the idea that one third to two thirds of all investments in land are linked to biofuels, particularly when it is still a first generation industry, seems unlikely and is difficult to sustain.
P63 – Certification schemes. These are presented as the only means of social compliance but there are other ways involving governments and different policy and law enforcement. More options are needed that better suit a range of national situations and sectors.