Putting together policy building blocks for global food security
“Global hunger is increasing, because of amongst others conflicts and climate change. We have to make sure poor and hungry people continue to benefit from the advantages of globalization”. These are among the key messages of Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), during the IFPRI 2018 Global Food Policy Report Launch event in The Hague on 18 April 2018. A multi-stakeholder panel debate explored the shifting terrain of globalization, migration, and food systems, and suggested policy solutions to address inequities to bring a quicker end to global hunger and malnutrition.
Shenggen Fan kicked off the event with the key findings of the IFPRI 2018 Global Food Policy Report. He attributed an important role for open trade and international investments to eliminate hunger. “Public-private partnerships can play a key role in realizing agro-infrastructure and inclusive business models to make sure that investments also benefit smallholders.” Voluntarily migration and open access to knowledge and data can also contribute to food security. “We face challenges, but if we are empowered by knowledge and data, we can sail through this.” Lastly, he pleaded for domestic farm policy and global governance reforms. “Global governance can provide and protect international public goods. We should design a governing platform for intergovernmental coordination, decision-making and funding.”
Reina Buijs, deputy director-general for International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sees a special responsibility for the Netherlands in contributing to food security, given its agricultural knowhow and experience. “We continue to provide leadership and commitment for the SDG’s, including SDG2: Zero hunger.”
Food security needs fair and evidence-based trade
Policymakers should focus on facilitating migration for workers, said Remco Oostendorp, professor International Economics at the VU Amsterdam and Director of the Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies. He called for evidence-based policy. “Not the goods, but the labor mobility is most inefficient in international trade.”
In addition, countries that are successful in the global marketplace typically focus on certain sectors. Therefore Oostendorp adds: “I’d like to encourage (developing) countries to think carefully about their competitive and dynamic advantage”.
A last point Oostendorp made is that global trade in agricultural goods and other food items suffers from many inequities. “We should think about creating a level playing field for goods that include the externalities in the price.”
Larger food systems
“Food value chains don’t exist in isolation, but are part of larger systems with their own problems”, SNV Netherlands Development Organization CEO Meike van Ginneken noted. “You can’t work on better value chains if the bigger problems are not addressed”, she said. “Food systems depend more on non-sector support policies in the north, such as on migration and trade, than on agriculture and food policies”.
Van Ginneken also emphasized the importance of equal access to information and knowledge. “But data alone is not sufficient,” she said, “data needs to be translated – so people will use them -.”
Lastly, she noted the opportunities and obstacles for women and youth in achieving food security. “Through SNV’s work at the local level, agricultural development results in economic empowerment of producers and consumers. This is when you can empower women, because there is a bigger pie to share. Youth now see agriculture as an unattractive sector to work in. Actively addressing this image problem is something we have not yet done sufficiently”.
Connecting migration and food security
Marit Maij, special envoy for Migration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that policy makers need more data and evidence to understand the connections between migration and food security. Maij: “Our ideas and the public debate about migration are barely evidence-based. We need to share more knowledge and data about migration and its root causes. For example, in-kind food aid provided by donors often drive out local food producers and suppliers”. Secondly, Maij pleaded for the comprehensive refugee response framework approach with policies beneficial for both refugees and hosting communities. This include rights to protection, healthcare and education, but also labour rights. Migrants often work in the agricultural sector. “And now many southern countries experience rapid population growth,” she said, “key for food security is to pay attention to sexual and reproductive health rights, taking into account cultural sensitivities and to promote women’s empowerment.”
Local agricultural investments
“Long-term sustainable business models are not a one way street conducted by investors”, continued Atze Schaap, corporate director for Dairy Development at Royal FrieslandCampina. “The world and market dynamics are changing rapidly. We have to find a way, together with government and NGOs, to deal with this”. Schaap further elaborates: “It’s not just about product trade, but also about sharing knowledge. Our presence as international company in markets abroad can speed up the development of local farmers and thus make the agricultural sector more attractive for young generations.”
Schaap emphasized the importance and the challenges of investing in agricultural development in Asia and Africa. But what is needed to do that? “Partners who are willing to share sufficient information. Commitment of local people who embrace entrepreneurship. We also need local investments, to involve young leaders and realize that the smallholder of today is different from the smallholder of tomorrow.”
Comprehensive policies to realize global food security
All in all, aligned with the IFPRI report, the panelists pleaded for evidence-based and comprehensive policies to make food systems ready for the future. Aldrik Gierveld, Deputy Director-General Agriculture and Nature of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, concluded: “It all starts with more knowledge and better knowing what is at stake in our complex food systems. We need that background to design better policy. There is still a lot we have to do”.
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