We celebrate World Food Day 2020 with the stark reality that an additional 83-132 million extra people will go to bed hungry by the end of this year. The pandemic has been a massive shock, but - as we know - the real cracks in our systems go much deeper than the last eight months.
Rising inequality, the climate and environmental emergencies, and the erosion of democratic decision-making across the globe are all long-term symptoms of choices we have been making in our economic, social, political systems that are unsustainable. This is also true of food systems.
Now is the time to imagine - and work for - a different future.
Next year, the United Nations Secretary-General will convene a Food Systems Summit. In his words, ‘transforming food systems’ will be the only way to reach SDG2 to end hunger by 2030. To achieve this, fifty food system champions were nominated to drive progress towards the UN Food Systems Summit.
When I was approached to become one of the fifty Champions, I saw an opportunity to bring the expertise and priorities of ILC’s 250-member network to the forefront. Supporting the food and environmental management systems of small-scale producers is at the heart of ILC’s commitments to ‘People-centred land governance’. I am using my position in the lead-up to the Summit to promote a process that does indeed hold the possibility to be transformative.
Family farms occupy around 70-80 percent of farmland and produce more than 80 percent of the world's food worldwide. Contrary to trends in many countries, these are the women and men who must be the centre of the healthy, sustainable and inclusive food systems of the future. ILC’s Council sees the network’s involvement in the Summit as an opportunity to achieve this, starting with their rights to land, territories and natural resources.
Understandably, some ILC members have voiced concerns about the approach of the Food Systems Summit.
In an address last week to the ILC Asia Land Forum, the Special Envoy emphasised that the process will be “owned by everyone”. In a context where food chains are controlled by large corporate players, the more important question remains
“who will be driving the process?”.
The truth is, family farmers and small-scale producers are the groups most affected by the choices made by large corporate entities, so their voices need not only be present, but also the loudest. Especially the voices of women.
The Special Envoy also recognises that “people who farm need to be at the centre of decision making” and claims that the “Summit will provide a platform for small scale producers to ensure their voices are heard.” This is a good start, but much more is needed.
As the Director of the ILC Secretariat, I commit to providing complete transparency throughout the process, and to use every opportunity to amplify the voices of small scale producers from within the network. I will use every opportunity to promote a human rights approach, as adopted by the World Committee on Food Security.
At this moment in history, we have a unique opportunity to change course towards truly sustainable food systems, and the Food Systems Summit could be a stepping stone for us. I invite you to learn more and join the conversation by following ILC and the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 on twitter.