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CFS moves on important food security issues

Committee on World Food Security wraps up discussions in Rome

26 October 2011, Rome - A set of recommendations aimed at reducing food price volatility and enhancing vulnerable populations' resilience to price shocks has been agreed here by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

CFS is the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all. During its 37th session, which was held at FAO, Rome from 17th to 22nd October 2011, the Committee tackled important food security issues including food price volatility, investment in smallholder agriculture and gender, food security and nutrition.

Reducing price swings

One important meeting outcome aims to reduce food price volatility at the world market level by enhancing transparency and information-sharing and strengthening the coordination of responses. The Committee urged major food producing and consuming countries to participate in the new Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) established by the G20 and collaborate towards providing the international community with high-quality and timely market information products.

Linking the growth of biofuels market with food price volatility, CFS noted that biofuels should be produced where they are socially, economically and environmentally feasible. Where appropriate, governments should review biofuel policies with an eye to the opportunities and challenges they may present for food security.

Among actions to mitigate the negative effects of food price volatility,  CFS recommended that governments play an increased role by developing stable, long-term national social protection strategies and safety nets, aimed at vulnerable populations in particular.

It also recommended that national and local social safety nets and local purchasing mechanisms should be used, whenever appropriate, for the delivery of food aid.

Investment in smallholder agriculture

On investment in smallholder agriculture CFS recommended  an increase in stable and sustainable public and private investment to strengthen smallholder production, boost agricultural productivity and foster rural development.

Another central issue was that of agricultural investment policy. Here CFS urged Member Governments to ensure that public investments help support smallholders' own investments, with particular attention to women farmers.

Agricultural policies and public investment should give priority to food production and nutrition and increase the resilience of local and traditional food systems and biodiversity, with a focus on strengthening sustainable smallholder food production, the Committee said.

Other priority areas flagged during the CFS talks as needing attention include reducing post harvest losses and fostering smallholder-inclusive local, national and regional food markets including transportation, storage and processing.

The Committee also called for a "significant expansion" of agricultural research and funding, including strengthening the work of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global partnership of research organizations and funders.

Gender and food and nutrition security

A third set of challenges related to the interface between gender, food security and nutrition was also considered. Here, CFS recognized the crucial role of women - who make up more than 40 percent of the farm labour force - in ensuring food and nutrition security. The Committee affirmed that female smallholders should be given equal treatment in agricultural programming -- both as a matter of human rights and to promote economic development.

Achieving food security and adequate nutrition for women, men and their families should be part of comprehensive development efforts, CFS said, calling for concrete actions to improve women's health, educational and nutritional status.

The Committee also said that women should be guaranteed equal access to productive resources, including land, as well as meaningful participation in all decision-making processes related to food and nutrition security.

Land tenure and countries in protracted crises

The Committee charted the way forward for negotiations and approval of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.

The meeting also approved a proposal to organize a High-Level Exert Forum on Food Security in Countries in Protracted Crises, with a view to elaborating an "Agenda for Action".

Mr. Yaya Olaniran of Nigeria was elected as the CFS Chair for a two year term. He succeeds Mr Noel De Luna of the Philippines.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Measures to tackle food price volatility figured high on the CFS agenda.