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Dear Friends and Colleagues

Small-Scale Farmers Integral to Food Security in a Changing Climate

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has affirmed that States’ obligations on the right to adequate food should extend to the protection of the means for achieving food security under future and unknown scenarios. This means addressing the threats facing agricultural production systems today, with a proactive rights-based approach to protectthe diversity that underpins future food security.

This is the basis of a new publication by the Quaker UN Office. The paper identifies industrial agriculture as a major contributor to climate change (30-35% of global greenhouse gas emissions), environmental degradation, and the loss of on-farm genetic diversity, local knowledge and farmer innovation, which in turn undermine our critical capacity to adapt to already-changing conditions.

The writers state that "The best defence against unpredictability is diversity" and that small-scale farming systems are storehouses of genetic diversity and grounds for creative solutions. Therefore, small-scale farmers are integral to the pursuit of global food security in an era of climate change. The writers call on policy-makers to, inter alia, support the right to food by adopting policies that encourage on-farm innovation and collaboration among farmers and formal sector researchers, and establishing national frameworks that support the viability of small-scale farming systems more generally.

They recommend agroecology as the framework for integrating local and scientific innovation systems and mitigating the negative environmental effects of industrial agriculture, with small-scale farmers leading the development of research agendas.

The summary and recommendations of the paper are reproduced below.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
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REALIZING THE RIGHT TO FOOD IN AN ERA OF CLIMATE CHANGE
- THE IMPORTANCE OF SMALL-SCALE FARMERS

Chelsea Smith, David Elliott and Susan H. Bragdon 
Quaker United Nations Office
http://www.quno.org/sites/default/files/resources/Realizing%20the
%20right%20to%20food%20in%20an%20era%20of%20climate%20change.pdf

Summary

• Industrial agriculture is a major contributor to anthropogenic climate change, and in turn climate change threatens the viability of food production around the world.

• Adapting to changing growing conditions will require access to the full breadth of genetic, species and ecosystem diversity that exists and continues to evolve, along with the knowledge of what works under what conditions.

• Modern varieties can yield immense public benefit. However their dissemination is often accompanied by the erosion of on-farm genetic diversity, loss of associated local knowledge, and the abandonment of traditional farming practices. This undermines our critical capacity to adapt to already-changing conditions.

• In their roles as experimenters, innovators and custodians of agrobiodiversity, small-scale farmers are integral to the pursuit of global food security in an era of climate change.

• The field of agroecology recognizes the contributions of small-scale farmers and provides a framework for integrating local and scientific innovation systems and mitigating the negative environmental effects of industrial agriculture.

• Complementarity between local and scientific innovation systems is best achieved when small-scale farmers lead the development of research agendas and are actively involved in the research process.

• Proactive measures need to be undertaken to support small-scale, agriculturally biodiverse farming systems to secure local and global food security, and hence the right to food, in the future.

Recommendations

The right to food should be interpreted to include the diversity that underpins future food security. In an era characterized by environmental, economic and other unpredictability and climate variability the world can no longer afford to limit its gaze to the current factors influencing food availability, accessibility and adequacy. Proactive measures need to be undertaken to protect agrobiodiversity, farm management practices employed by small-scale farmers around the world, recognizing their ability to adapt. Having a rights-based legal framework and national strategies in place will help facilitate this.

With this interpretation, national and international policy makers should consider taking action to:

* Respect the right to food by refraining from acting in ways that contribute to the erosion of genetic diversity in an evolutionary context and the loss of local knowledge and management practices as they evolve in response to unpredictable change;

* Protect the right to food by ensuring third parties do not inadvertently undermine small-scale farmers working in in agriculturally biodiverse situations by contributing to the loss of diversity within crops, amongst crops and agroecosystems through the development and dissemination of modern crop varieties and farming practices;

* Support the right to food by adopting policies that encourage on-farm innovation and collaboration among farmers and formal sector researchers, and establishing national frameworks that support the viability of small-scale farming systems more generally. Guiding principles can be drawn from the burgeoning field of agroecology; and

* Fulfil the right to food by establishing political, economic, and social systems that proactively support and foster adaptive capacity to ensure the sustainability of the global food system and food security for all.

 


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