Tuesday, 3 June 2008

UN FOOD SUMMIT: WILL FARMERS' VOICES BE HEARD?

By DAN SMITH, Future Agricultures Consortium member

In his opening speech for the UN World Food Summit, Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director General, stated that “the world only needs US$30 billion a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger”. This may sound like a large amount but if compared to the fact that “the world spent US$1200 billion spent on arms in 2006” it is actually a very achievable amount.

Dr Diouf went on to ask “against that backdrop, how can we explain to people of good sense and good faith that it was not possible to find US$30 billion a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to food and thus the right to life?”

There were many positive points made in the opening address by Jacques Diouf. He outlined the types of solutions that are needed to address the short term problem of the current food crisis and the longer term structural problem of food security and agricultural development.

But, though there was mention of “innovative and imaginative solutions” and the need to “facilitate farmers access to seeds, fertiliser, animal feed and other inputs”, what was not mentioned was how to include farmers in the policies and decisions affecting them.


Indeed, as in the blog from Julia Day earlier today, at the recent conference in Salzburg discussing what an African Green Revolution might look like, one of the main issues that kept coming back was how to ensure farmers are included in the global, regional, national and local decision making processes. In fact, many argued strongly that however well meaning a policy, if farmers are not part of these decision making processes, they are unlikely to succeed.

This UN Food Summit is a real opportunity to move towards sustainable, farmer-led solutions to the current food crisis and, more broadly, agricultural development. As Jacques Diouf clearly stated it cannot be resources that hold us back. Let us hope that the voices of those most affected by the current rises in food prices come through loud and clear at this summit.

No comments: