The latest UN report on global hunger and malnutrition was released earlier this month. Due to Covid-19 and a growing climate crisis, the number of people living with chronic hunger has increased by 118 million to 768 million in just one year, between 2019 and 2020. In addition, in 2020 almost one in three people worldwide did not have access to sufficient healthy food.
A preparatory summit was concluded in Rome on Wednesday for the United Nations Food Summit in September. The Netherlands discussed more than two thousand ‘pioneering’ ideas with other countries to improve food security in the world. A renowned panel of international food experts, IPES-Food, withdrew from the Summit because too little had been done with their criticisms.
We also doubt that the Food Summit will lead to real solutions. By collaborating with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and not with the UN’s Committee for Global Food Security (CFS) itself – where farmers’ organizations and indigenous peoples participate in the negotiation of policy processes and delegate their self-elected representatives – the summit gives large companies and investors a too prominent place at the table.
With the direct involvement of the industrialists who have united in the WEF, Dutch companies such as Unilever and Rabobank will also position themselves in this top as solvers of the problems they themselves have caused.
Also read this column by Kiza Magendane: A world without hunger is not a utopia
Large corporations use their power to punish farmers for trading their own seeds through aggressive patent rights, saddle farmers with ever-increasing debt and environmental problems or buy up large tracts of farmland with the support of financial institutions. Instead of questioning these unequal power relations in the food system, the top rewards large business with a prominent place in decision-making. As a result, too little attention is paid to the underlying causes of the problems: inequality and market- and profit-oriented policy and governance.
Although the summit offers some room for agroecology, this is presented as a partial solution together with the promotion of intensive agriculture that undermines agroecology and the climate. The approach is mainly of a technical nature, while it has long been known that the problems cannot be solved without social innovation and farmer knowledge.
In fact, the use of farmer knowledge is one of the guiding principles of agroecology – a form of sustainable agriculture that combines practical experience, scientific expertise and building social movements. This leads to a process of constant innovation. Practice shows that agroecology delivers productivity, natural CO2storage, more biodiversity, a varied diet, and a dignified farming life, as well as a better environment and health for humans and animals.
However, the Food Summit threatens to marginalize the people who produce much of the world’s food, who have unparalleled practical expertise in agroecology, yet suffer the most from environmental problems and human rights violations. by the current food system. Their proposals and proven practices hardly get space at the top and their broad knowledge, much needed for the transition to sustainability, is often dismissed as non-scientific.
A serious fist
Solving hunger and malnutrition is only possible by making the right political choices. Agroecology based on practical experience is one of those choices. This is also the message of the alternative ‘Peoples’ Counter-Mobilization To Transform Corporate Food Systems’ organized this week in parallel to the UN summit by farmers, fishermen, herders, indigenous peoples, consumers, civil society organizations and scientists from around the world. world.
Also read this article: Malnutrition on the rise in 2020 – especially in conflict areas
The Dutch government must get rid of the idea that large companies and a purely technological approach will eliminate hunger from the world. Only by focusing on people themselves, their movements, knowledge and solutions, can we as a society work towards food systems that are truly fair and sustainable.
If we want to take a serious stand against malnutrition, climate change and biodiversity loss, we must listen carefully to the proposals of these experts in the field and they deserve to sit at the head of the table during the Food Summit.