Declaring a vision for world hunger

The World Food Summit on Food Security has released a declaration outlining its vision on how world food security is to be achieved. However, questions remain whether this vision goes far enough - especially as economic and climate crises loom large.

"Do you know how many small-scale producers there are in the world?" "1.5 billion!"

"Do you know what percentage of food consumed in the world comes from small-scale producers?" "75 per cent!"

"Do you know how much greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture can be cut by using small-scale agro-ecological production instead?" "50 per cent!"

The Civil Society Forum Parallel to the World Food Summit used these facts as a rallying cry outside the Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO) yesterday, to highlight how important smallholder farmers are in the fight against hunger and climate change.

Inside the building, meanwhile, government representatives, including many developing country heads of state (though conspicuously only one from the G8, the host Italy), were discussing the policies that affect these very people, and the billion or more hungry people around the world.

The outcome of the summit is very important for the governance of world food security. However, the most substantial part of the Summit, the adoption of the declaration - which could have detailed a vision of how governance of the global food system could be improved for the sake of the world's hungry - took only one hour.

The declaration suggests a focus on the poorest farmers, but as Gawain Kripke, policy director for Oxfam America explained: "it is un-costed, unfunded and unaccountable. The sentiment is honourable but that alone doesn't put food on a billion empty plates. There are serious challenges looming. The economic recovery is sending food prices higher again. Climate change is a massive challenge to poor farmers. And the $20bn for agriculture committed at the G8 meeting in July may be a mirage. We can't afford more heroic failures. This food summit - as with next month's climate summit - needs to produce action, but there is little time left."

Today, the parallel Civil Society Forum has launched its own declaration, in cooperation with groups representing people who are often most impacted by hunger and malnutrition, and who are also most marginalised by international fora - women, indigenous groups, and rural youth.

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