“So many different stakeholders are involved, not only governments, but UN agencies, private sector, international financial and research institutions, civil society organizations and farmers, and NGOs,” explains Amira Gornass, Chair of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

“We have to make sure that the voices of all the stakeholders, especially those furthest left behind, are heard.”

The stakeholders Ms Gornass refers to, include UN agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP), but also representatives of farmers who are, even now, struggling to feed their communities amidst rapidly changing climatic, economic, social, environmental and political landscapes.

Collaboration and coordination is undoubtedly the only way to approach such global issues, but it’s clearly not without its difficulties. “The challenge is striking the balance between inclusivity and effectiveness,” continues Ms Amira. “Building consensus takes a long time and more emphasis needs to be given to working with local smallholder farmers. It’s these localised approaches that lead to sustainable long term solutions.”

 

From government to smallholder level

 

According to CFS smallholders supply 70% of overall food production, and yet ensuring that they are represented in discussions and benefit from the policy frameworks is one of the greatest challenges that needs to be addressed, if we are to reduce food insecurity and improve levels of nutrition.

"Localised approaches, with smallholder farmers, will lead to sustainable long term solutions."

One example is the 2015 Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises. Following extensive consultation with a wide base of stakeholders, the document provides a framework that can be used by everyone who may have a role in improving or impacting food security and nutrition in countries experiencing periods of prolonged crisis. 

Whilst the Framework may provide best practices, there is no obligation to apply them, which is why it’s vital that key stakeholders, including farmers, are part of the process of policy development from the outset. “When people own the policies themselves, we have a much greater chance of seeing them implemented,” explains Ms Gornass.

Governments have an essential role to play in engaging smallholder farmers and during her tenure as Chair of CFS, Ms Gornass has devoted considerable time to working at the regional and national levels to reach the smallholder famers. “Just last week I was in Côte d’Ivoire sharing our policy recommendations on connecting smallholders to markets,” says Ms Gornass. “This will help them improve their productivity and production of food and ultimately improve nutrition and reduce food insecurity.”

 

photo credit: Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Ph for FAO

Empowering women is key too

 

Another issue that CFS has sought to address is the empowerment of women. Women make an essential contribution to agriculture across the world. FAO estimates that roughly 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries is female and yet it is estimated that 60 percent of the world’s chronically hungry people are women and girls. Women also face a greater challenge in accessing markets and securing benefits, technology, finance and education.

"Roughly 43% of agricultural labour force in developing countries is female, yet around 60% of the world’s chronically hungry are women and girls."

Research shows that when women are empowered and have equal access as men to productive and financial resources, income opportunities, education and services, there is a consequent increase in agricultural output and a significant reduction in the number of poor and hungry people. It’s not just access to resources that Ms Gornass is advocating for women. “We empower women by providing a platform for participation and including them in the whole decision-making process. Assisting  women to get access to productive resources is usually reflected in the condition of their families and the wider community.”

The problem of food insecurity is complex and the need is urgent, whilst collaboration and coordination can be challenging, it’s the only way to address such a multi-faceted problem.