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Launch of 10th Right to Food and Nutrition Watch: how trade affects development.

Today, the 10th edition of the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch is published.

Launch of 10th Right to Food and Nutrition Watch: how trade affects development.

Ten years in a row, ICCO Cooperation has been co-publisher of the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch. The Watch is an annual publication that monitors key policies and issues related to the right to adequate food and nutrition at the global, national and local level. In doing so, ICCO, together with the co-publishers FIAN International and Bread for the World, gives a voice to peoples’ challenges and efforts.

Global hunger on the rise again

The Watch started in 2008 in reaction to the major world food price crisis in 2007/2008. The goal back then was to strengthen the monitoring and accountability for the realization of the right to food and nutrition. And, unfortunately, this is still what is needed today. The UN stated last week - in the report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World - that global hunger is on the rise again, after steadily declining for over a decade. In a world of 7 billion people, 815 million people are now underfed (11% of the global population). But not only undernutrition (or poor nutrition) is a problem, as more and more people worldwide suffer from obesity (13% of all adults on the planet).

How global trade affects food security

An interesting article in this year’s Watch is Chapter 8 (pp 80-85) by Biraj Patnaik, Honorary Research Fellow at Coventry University. Patnaik shows in his article how global trade rules restrict national policies and eventually affect food and nutrition security. An interesting debate, also in the Netherlands, as ‘aid and trade’ are increasingly being linked. In 2013 Lilianne Ploumen, minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, introduced a new policy focussing on integrating Dutch aid, trade and investments. This in order to contribute to the eradication of extreme poverty, to sustainable, inclusive growth all over the world as well as more involvement of the (Dutch) private sector. However, according to critics, trade has taken the lead in Dutch policy, while direct involvement of Dutch companies could give way to conflicts of interests.

Back to the article of Patnaik. In the article the author describes an interesting case from Samoa. This Pacific island nation has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, partly due to the high consumption of turkey tails. This is a waste product generated from the poultry industry in the USA and ‘dumped’ on the Samoa market. The government of Samoa banned the import of turkey tails, which led to a decrease in meat consumption and improvement of diets. However, Samoa was forced to lift the ban as it was seen as a barrier to trade. This is a good example on how international trade agreements limit the space of national governments to define their food policies in favor of public health interests.

Another example describes how the WTO Agreement on Agriculture interferes with national food and agriculture policies in Indonesia. Due to the agreement the country was forced to open up its domestic food markets and reduce subsidies to smallholder farmers. This damaged  the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, who simply cannot compete with imported products from multinationals. This is how trade rules can undermine local food systems . Therefore, moving more and more towards ‘trade’ within the international  aid agenda is not without risks.  

The 0 KM philosophy

In answer to phenomenons as described above we see a trend towards more local production and consumption by people themselves. World famous chefs, like Claus Meyer and Kamilla Seidler, call for the use of local food (the so-called 0 KM philosophy). An example of this is ICCO’s project Manq’a, in which youngsters follow an education to become a chef, during which the use of  local products is promoted. The project focuses on poor youngster living in urban areas. They often have bad eating habits, leading to malnutrition, including obesity. By showing them the value of local and healthy food, a change is being made towards good eating habits and locally sourced products for themselves and their future customers. In this way, also local farmers benefit.

The Watch concludes with: ‘The last decade has seen growing coordination and solidarity among rural constituencies and innovative approaches by young people to foster food sovereignty [...] It is essential that platforms exist for the exchange of information on issues related to the right to food and nutrition, with the voices of social movements and marginalized groups at their core’ (pp 102-103).

Policy makers at international and national level should gain more insight on how international aid, trade and investments influence the position of smallholder farmers as well as nutrition. And realize that ending hunger, food security and improved nutrition can only be achieved in a sustainable way by giving also voice to social movements and supporting initiatives such as Manq’a.

In the run-up to World Food Day (October 16, 2017) ICCO Cooperation publishes a series of blogs about food security, nutrition and sustainable consumption.