As a proud supporting member of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (the only activism, albeit passive on my part, that I allow myself to engage in these days), I am happy to share the statement (see below and here on Facebook) read out on the State of Food & Agriculture in the Asia-Pacific Region at the 33rd FAO of the UN Regional Conference for Asia & the Pacific in Malaysia by Esther Penunia of the Asian Farmers Association on behalf of Civil Society.
Photo credit: Courtesy of AFSA on Facebook
This is an important statement which reflects the dire situation on food sovereignty that our region and indeed the world faces as a result of past and current agriculture and food policies to produce a broken food and agriculture system that benefits no-one except a few monopolistic commercial interests.
The statement (copied from here) is repeated below:
We, representatives of small farmers, landless, rural women, fishers, agricultural workers, pastoralists and herders, indigenous peoples, consumers, youth and NGOs coming from 17 countries met last weekend. We would like to share with you our assessment of the state of food and agriculture in the region.
While we have halved hunger and malnutrition in the region we are still faced with issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and on the other extreme, extreme wealth, overconsumption and obesity. Ironically, farmers and rural communities, who are producing our food, are the ones who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Corporations and big supermarkets have taken over our food and agriculture systems.
This monopolistic and commercialized food and agriculture system has led to the lost of agricultural biodiversity. Of the over 80,000 plant species available to humans, only three – maize, wheat and rice – supply the bulk of our protein and energy needs. There is urgent need to diversify agro-ecosystems in order to have more diverse nutrient outputs, but this call has fallen on deaf ears as it runs counter to the Green Revolution approaches dominating the policy directions in this region.
We have a broken food and agriculture system. This we see in the conversion of forests into monoculture and oil palm plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, corn and cabbage farms in Thailand, the loss of food diversity in Kerala, land grabbing in South Korea. From Mongolia to Australia, we are losing control of international and domestic markets. We suffer from low prices. Our lands, waters, forests and seeds are taken away by corporations and local elites.
The international rules governing our food and agriculture system are also broken. The demands of developing countries for immediate implementation of a special safeguard mechanism to counter import surges have been consistently ignored. With the opening up of our markets, especially with the threat of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), local farmers will not be able to compete with imports. Public stockpiling and , a mechanism to secure food supply in times of crisis and ensure procurement from local farmers, is seen as trade distorting. Social protections for farmers have also been sidelined in international negotiations.
It is no wonder that the younger generation turns away from farming and fishing. We thus have an ageing population of producers.
We need a radical change in order for us to achieve the SDG of eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We need a new food and agriculture system that brings resilience to our farms and farmers and help us achieve the SDG of eliminating hunger and poverty by 2030. We need a reboot of our system, towards one that is responsive to the impacts of climate change.
We need to fully implement agrarian and aquatic reform and transition to agroecology. Agroecology is the best pathway to achieve the goal of more sustainable food systems. It is productive, climate resilient, environmentally and health-friendly, provides decent employment and secure livelihoods, and can directly deliver diverse, nutrient rich foods. Thank you for your attention.