Aid Groups: Small-Scale Farms Key to Ending Hunger

Appeal for Policies to Help Women Producers

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ROME, NOV. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Catholic development agencies are preparing for a World Food Summit by appealing for aid to small-scale farmers, especially women, as a means of alleviating hunger.

Members of Caritas and the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE) alliance are traveling to Rome for next week’s summit. They are calling on world leaders to “harness the potential of small-scale farmers,” a Caritas communiqué reported.

The aid networks are appealing for “urgent action,” as they report that a billion people go to bed hungry every day.

“Currently over 23 million people across East Africa are in need of emergency food aid due to drought and a food price crisis made worse by the global economic recession,” the communiqué noted.

It stated that “since the global food crisis hit in 2007 there is increasing recognition by governments of the need to invest in small-scale agriculture in developing countries to ensure that small producers earn a decent income and enjoy the universal right to food.”

Bob van Dillen, a representative from the Dutch agency Cordaid who will attend the summit on behalf of Caritas and CIDSE, affirmed that this is “a very positive development.”

However, he underlined the need to translate this recognition into “national country policies and donor support strategies that promote small producer organizations and strengthen their ability to improve production, processing and marketing — including their capacity to negotiate with buyers and other market actors.”

Van Dillen underlined the need for summit leaders to “prioritize farmers’ engagement in policy development, their access to land and water, inputs, credit, insurance, markets, training and extension services.”

Threats

The networks warned against the “significant threat that the international community will promote the use of high-tech agricultural techniques, many of which are socially or environmentally unsustainable.”

These techniques, the communiqué asserted, “create dependence on external inputs, rather than investing in what these farmers really need.”

Caritas and CIDSE also cautioned that the summit’s expected support for “further opening of markets and completion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations” will only “hurt small-scale farmers rather than help them.”

The networks stated that “if the international community is serious about harnessing the potential of small-scale farmers, policies should particularly target women producers, who are the backbone of the rural economy and crucial actors in ensuring household food security.”

They called on “developing country governments to allocate, within five years, a minimum of 10% of their annual budgets to implement these urgent policies.”

The organizations also turned to the international donor community to appeal for “commitment to agriculture and rural development.”

The summit will begin on Monday and will end Wednesday. CIDSE is organizing a workshop on investing in small-scale agriculture during those days.

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ZENIT Staff

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