The Right to Food

FAO and consumer organizations in Africa pledges to strengthen collaboration on the right to food

News - 26.02.2021

26 February 2021, Rome- Consumer organizations can greatly contribute to more sustainable food systems, through their work and outreach on issues including food safety, healthy diets, innovative farming methods, and ensuring sufficient adequate food is accessible and available to all. Additional tools and capacity development in relation to the right to food, as well as greater engagement and networking will enhance their work. That was a key message coming out of the first ever event that brought together consumer organizations from Africa and FAO experts both at national, regional and global level.

In a roundtable dialogue, almost twenty participants exchanged experiences and good practices on different food issues, such as food safety and urban food policies, and proposed solutions at country level.

Consumer organizations represent and amplify the voice of consumers, raising awareness of their rights and responsibilities, and advocating for their concerns and interests, said Juan Carlos Garcia y Cebolla, Right to Food Team leader, in his opening remarks. They can also enhance the work of FAO in support of member countries towards meeting the 2030 Agenda. Tamara Meza, Global Networker for Consumers International, also welcomed the opportunity to bring consumer organizations together with FAO to find inclusive pathways towards sustainable food systems, food security and healthy diets for all.

Speakers noted that empowering people, particularly vulnerable groups and youth, providing them with the necessary skills to ensure their agency for their own choices on food, is fundamental. Innovative approaches like improving local economies, making connections between consumers and farmers, and agroecology, and ensuring respect for human rights, were also highlighted as part of the solution.

The effect of COVID-19 on consumers was also in the spotlight. The pandemic is making existing poverty and inequalities worse, threatening access to healthy food, its production and consumption. This is putting people´s right to adequate food at risk.

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), Consumers Education Trust from Uganda (CONSENT), Youth Education Network from Kenya (YEN), Consumer Awareness Organization from Nigeria and Rwanda Consumers’ Rights Protection Organization (ADECOR) presented good practices and challenges they face, such as lack of funding or low coordination between national and local government.

FAO policy officers from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda, as well as from the Africa Regional Office and Headquarters, reported on activities and policy work underway that could benefit from consumer organization collaboration. They also talked about ways in which consumer organizations could have greater and long-lasting impact in policy-making, such as advocacy for increased public-private partnerships and engagement with parliamentarian alliances for food and nutrition security.

Speakers agreed that food systems need to be less vulnerable, more inclusive and sustainable. The human right to adequate food is relevant to all aspects of food systems transformation, including food loss and waste, inclusion and health.

Food systems are everything from farm to fork, incorporating production, distribution, marketing, consumption and disposal of food. As Kimera Henry Richard, Team Leader of CONSENT Uganda, said during his presentation: what affects farmers, affects consumers.

In the run up to the Food Systems Summit, which will be convened by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in September, consumer organizations have a key role to play. To this end, today several initiatives are open to consumer organizations. FAO Officers Maryam Rezaei, Jose Valls and Cecilia Marocchino from the Food Safety and Food Systems Division, and Tomoko Kato from the Nutrition Division, each encouraged them to get engaged in the national dialogues, currently underway in cities and countries in Africa in relation to the Food Systems Summit preparations, as well as to get on board for the Urban Food Agenda and the World Food Forum for Youth and Nutrition for Growth Summit.

About the webinar and next steps

The webinar was a unique occasion for FAO and consumer organizations to network and find common goals. It kicked off a series of virtual dialogues on human rights and food issues, where consumer can make a real difference. These will be led by the Right to Food team at FAO over this year, as well stepping up efforts for capacity building and outreach. Among them, two publications focusing on the work of consumer organizations and the right to food will be released in April.

This event was organized by the FAO Right to Food Team, and was co-hosted by Consumers International, the global umbrella group representing more than 200 consumer organizations. FAO and Consumers International joined forces in 2017 under a Memorandum of Understanding, renewed in 2020.

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