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30 October 2013

Reporting From the Committee on Food Security (CFS 40)

Photo courtesy: CIMMYT via Flickr

Photo by: CIMMYT via Flickr

Matthew Fielding and Madeleine Fogde from SIANI participated in the Swedish Delegation to the Committee on World Food Security CFS 40 in Rome  October 7-11. The CFS is the most important intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder platform to follow up on food security and nutrition policies .  This year´s meeting at FAO in Rome gathered more than 750 people, including over 130 government delegations, 100 civil society and 50  private sector organizations.

The CFS meeting coincides with the launch of the UN report ; State of Food Insecurity of the World ( This year’s report presented data on undernourishment and progress towards the Millennium Development Goal .The 2013 report estimates that 843 million suffer from chronic hunger which is a decrease with 17 % since the last report was published in 2012. Even if the numbers are improving, the report emphasizes the fact that undernourishment and under nutrition coexist. Nutrition rates, indicated by the proportion of stunted children, are much higher than the estimation of  undernourishment,  indicated by the  inadequacy of dietary energy supply.

Poverty and under nutrition rates  are interlinked and can easily be traced to rural areas as75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. At CFS it is commonly understood that rural areas will be a  key  area of attention  for  the new development agenda and in particular with  the  focus on Food Security and Nutrition for all. For developing countries investment in rural development is one of the most cost effective ways of combating poverty, unemployment and hunger.

During this year’s CFS meeting in Rome it was possible for the committee, after series of consultations and negotiations, to adopt two High Level Panel of Expert (HLPE) reports and consequently endorse  widely accepted  policy recommendations  for   Smallholder farming and Food security and  Biofuels and Food security .

Within the consultations and plenaries strong  appreciation was expressed regarding the of  HLPE report on Smallholder farming and Food Nutrition underlining the importance  of  governments, civil society, the private sector, research institutions, farmers organizations and international development partners, to work together in order to support the partner countries to “build a country-owned vision” designed to boost investments in smallholder agriculture.

The second HLPE report; bioenergy and food security caused lengthy discussion and required negotiations through the night. After a week of long discussions and controversies over biofuels, two contrasting approaches were presented: on from Civil Society and another from Private Sector. By the end of Friday afternoon CFS could finally agree that economic, social and environmental opportunities and risks should be noted in biofuel development, and at the same time take into consideration that biofuel development is depending on its own context. The fact that some current biofuel production practices compete with  food production.

CFS recommended FAO and other partners to assist the partner countries to assess their own situation and that biofuel development should observe the impact it might have on land tenure rights and local and regional food security. Furthermore the committee encouraged the partner countries to review existing biofuel policies and use science based assessments of the opportunities and risks. The CFS pointed out the importance to adapt and use the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in The Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in this process.

In addition to the plenary discussion, a total of nine side events on hot topics were organized  every day. Throughout all the side events multi-stake holder platforms were brought forward as a promising model to strengthen partnerships and scrutinize  the focus on food security and nutrition entering a  Post -2015 agenda.

The Swedish  Ministry of Rural Affairs  was among the first to organize a side event on the Topic:” Is rural development a man’s issue? Power structures and masculinity in Sweden and in developing countries”. Annika Nygård, representing the Swedish Federation of Farmers presented gender roles in farming communities in Sweden and Viveka Carlestam from WeEffect presented the organization’s new strategy aiming at an engendered  equal distribution of  resources, that is that 50% of all project resources should be directed to women. The discussion circulated around transformation of  roles as well as the benefit of long term cooperation between civil society in Sweden and similar civil society structures in the South for better understanding and cooperation.

The importance of gender in Agriculture was brought up in a very interesting seminar on Transforming food systems with the focus on empowering women to deliver on food security and nutrition organized by the Gender in Agriculture Partnership. One of the speakers, Susan Carson, made a very interesting reflection over governance of agricultural research and raised the interesting question: if a gender lens was used when formulating research questions what would agriculture research look like? Furthermore the session also highlighted the importance of an enabling environment to empower women and to  unleash their capacity to produce more and nutritious food. Many examples were given that would contribute to increase the productivity such as child care, infrastructures, savings groups concluding that the best result  in managing women to deliver on food security and nutrition is to act locally.

Gender was an important  topic through many sessions and   in one  side event organized by FAO , ILO and Sida the focus was on Gender Equity and Rural Employment. FAO and ILO presented their established  strategic collaboration for enhanced  rural employment by developing  the following core areas; knowledge tools, government support in understanding how labor issues relates to rural areas, and the strong connection to rights and social protection. Mats Åberg from Sida raised Sweden’s position on the important  role that decent rural employment plays in reducing rural poverty and achieving food security.

Another interesting side event was organized by the Brazilian Government, FAO, WFP, DFID and Via Campensina presenting the Purchase from Africans for Africa, PAA Africa program. PAA is a program promoting food security and nutrition by supporting local market development through purchasing of  products from African small holder farmers to deliver to African institutions. Local food procurement for public schools is turning out to be an excellent way where multi sector strategies can be applied for multi purposes to achieve multiple wins. The ongoing program enhances increases in productivity and diversification of local production by ensuring attractive food purchase conditions for farmers thus contributing secured  local food security and improved nutrition status among schoolchildren. With restoration of local food markets it is also possible to make a transition from relief to recovery.

With renewed commitments from FAO and by declaring 2014 to be the year of Family Farming, several  seminar s during CFS focused on defining  what  family farming actually is and why is it relevant with in the context of responding to the needs of a sustained food security. One seminar was organized by World Farmers Organization and the FAO office for Communication and Advocacy. Pedro Marcelo from FAO made an excellent presentation on what family farming entails. Foremost it is a very vital player in Food security while it is a rather resource scarce unit barely providing an income to cover basic needs. Family farming can include all kinds of farms.

These  production units are under threat, therefore there is a need to look forward into where the way farming is done going. Family farming needs a long term vision. Daniel Gad from the Ethiopian cooperatives emphasized that in Africa we are talking about rural labor living the 21st century using the technology of the 14th century. Currently young women leave the rural areas and get jobs abroad or in the cities and sustain the families by sending money back. There is an urgent need to build up local entrepreneurship, local production and to make living in rural areas attractive.  Investing in family farming is the same as investing in the largest private sector in Africa—and it requires finance, machinery, knowledge,  seeds and easy access to markets.

CFS 40 Website