Participation People

November 1996

Towards sustainable food security

Fourteen papers reviewing key issues and experiences

Women and food security
"Research in Africa, Asia and Latin America has found that improvements in household food security and nutrition are associated with women's access to income and their role in household decisions on expenditure. This is because women tend to spend a significantly higher proportion of their income than men on food for the family."

FAO's small group approach
"In participatory development projects around the world, small farmer groups are intensifying production of food and cash crops, developing small animal husbandry, doing agro-processing and building small scale irrigation systems. They cooperate in bulk purchase of inputs and consumer goods, and group transport and marketing of produce."

People's participation in Zambia
"Training has had a positive impact on farming practices. 'The most important thing we have learned is about agriculture,' said the secretary of a group in Kaoma District, recalling the days when farmers waited until maize plants had grown before adding fertilizer to the soil. 'Once we had to live on cassava towards the end of each season. Now we grow enough maize to see us through.'"

Food security and the state
"There are no universally-valid prescriptions determining the precise form and content of state action. But, in the final instance, it is the state that must define the spatial, temporal and sectoral vectors of its intervention by first identifying goals then assessing the most effective strategies for attaining them."

Recent FAO experiences in land reform
"Land reforms should remove obstacles that discourage or inhibit farmer investment on their land. A comprehensive set of rules and a legal framework, as well as clarification of individual rights, land regularization and land titling, are all seen as important mechanisms to ensure security and favour producers' investment in the agricultural sector."

Women and land tenure
"Security of tenure often gives control over decisions such as what crop to grow, what techniques to use, what to consume and what to sell. Given women's tendency to grow food rather than cash crops and to spend income on food, their security of tenure is a key link in the chain from household food production to national food security."

Land markets in Latin America
"Many countries have left agrarian reform concepts behind, and are promoting land markets as a key strategy for increasing efficiency in the agricultural sector. In doing so, they are changing social land tenure schemes to private ones. This trend has raised questions about the effect of the changes on landless people and small farmers, and whether the approach can work in Latin America."

Women and water resources
"Incorporation of gender issues in irrigation programmes is very limited despite studies showing how schemes may fail due to mistaken assumptions about intra-household division of labour and organization of production. In northern Cameroon, one third of a scheme's development area remained uncultivated due to intra-household labour conflicts."

A new agenda for agricultural research
"Research must provide technologies to maintain the momentum of previous advances and to raise production further. But it must do so while conserving the resources on which agriculture depends and protecting the environment from impacts associated with agricultural intensification. Development of low-cost technologies is essential to increase incomes and employment of rural poor."

Research and extension: a gender perspective
"Neglecting women as agricultural producers and resource managers has weakened sustainable agricultural production. Thus, one key to food security is putting food crops cultivated and consumed by women and their families high on the research agenda. New approaches aimed at involving women in food crops research are emerging in national and international institutions."

Women and the Green Revolution
"How the Green Revolution affected rural people depended on whether they were wage earners, cultivators or consumers, came from landed or landless, rich or poor, male or female headed households. However, two general trends are apparent: the wealthy have benefited more than the less well-off and men have benefited more than women."

The role of agricultural education in food security
"Globally, investment in both formal education and non-formal agricultural education is declining. FAO figures show that investment in agricultural training, extension and research declined from 9% of total donor agricultural assistance in 1984 to 2% in 1989. If education is to make a significant contribution to sustainable development, it has to be perceived as a long-term investment."

Food security within environmental limits
"Present definitions of economic viability primarily consider productivity and profitability. They do not take into account sustainability. Neither are the costs of harmful effects on the environment included in national accounts used to measure net economic gains and losses. The loss of environmental goods and services is particularly detrimental to poorer countries, whose economies are more dependent on natural resources and are thus more vulnerable to their loss."

Energy and food security in Africa
"Africa must move from the present levels of subsistence energy usage, based on human labour and fuelwood, to a situation where household, services and farming activities use a range of sustainable and diversified energy sources. Obvious benefits are greater resilience in the production system, higher productivity, improved efficiency and higher farmer income. Environmental degradation driven by poverty would be minimized."

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