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Food security

A human-rights issue

by Thomas Marzahl
Three-quarters of the world’s hungry people are small farmers and small-scale food producers. Providing them with enough food will not do – change requires an enabling environment for these people

David Nabarro, the UN's Special Representative on Food Security, calls the increasing number of hungry people “horrendous”. According to him, one billion hungry people must always be high on the agenda whenever international leaders meet. Nabarro says he is frustrated because of the lack of coordination between many aid programmes. After a three-day conference on food-security issues in Berlin, he praised Germany’s Federal Government for helping to make the fight against world hunger a topic at last year’s G-8 summit.

Ilse Aigner, Germany’s agriculture minister, agrees that more global coordination among donors and policy makers is essential. “I get the sense that many people are trying to help, but usually not very well coordinated, regardless at what level, ” she said after the conference. The focus of the conference was on what the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS) should do when it meets in October. Aigner reported that participants had spelled out several important fields for action, including
– strengthening the rights of the poor,
– ensuring responsible investments,
– guaranteeing transparency in the developing world and
– integrating health-care issues into the food-security debate.
“It's not enough to have food,” the German minister said, “the quality matters too.”

In Berlin, Uganda’s agriculture minister Hope Mwesigye said that her government understands the need for food security, but to achieve the goal, “we must press the issue of poverty and income inequality first”. In Uganda, the constitution guarantees the right to food. According to Mwesigye, the government is striving to boost rural productivity. The minister also emphasised that women’s rights are closely linked to food security, not least because many women produce food for other people.

Flavio Valente, secretary-general of FIAN International, an NGO that stresses human rights in the fight against hunger, said he hoped food producers – from farmers to fisherfolk – will assume a central role on the new CFS. In his view, their expertise is essential if the international community is to implement new strategies to achieve food security.

Three-quarters of the world’s hungry people are small farmers or small-scale food producers, Valente pointed out, and these people will need a lot of support if they are to escape their often desperate situation. FIAN official Valente praised Germany’s government for its emphasis on human rights in respect to food security. At the same time, this NGO is among those that criticise European farm subsidies because they thwart market opportunities for small farmers in poor countries. (Thomas Marzahl)