Throughout the years, and especially after its 2009 reform, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has become a pivotal locus for discussing the state of global food security and nutrition. During its 43rd session held last October in Rome, amongst a myriad of topics discussed, stakeholders focused their attention on smallholders’ access to markets; the role of livestock in sustainable agricultural development; the interconnections between food security and climate change; as well as the Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Named “making a difference in food security and nutrition”, the outcomes of the 43rd session will be tackled along these lines and in a future blog post.
In tandem with the three Rome-based agencies (FAO, IFAD and WFP), and relying on scientific support provided by the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), the CFS is the foremost inclusive intergovernmental platform of the UN constellation. Its contributions prove much needed in a scenario in which more than half of the world’s population suffers from one or more forms of malnutrition. This dire statistic shows that efficient convergence of policies is still lacking, which proves even more problematic in times of soaring flows of refugees and internally displaced people; deleterious impact of climate change in food production systems; derangement of production chains in reason of persistent conflicts; and ongoing challenges posed by urbanization and changing dietary requirements in developing countries. One of the main tasks of the CFS is to supplement these gaps, matching the content of its recommendations with actual practices and engaging both civil society and governments within a functioning process.
Connecting smallholders to markets, one of the key issues in the realm of social protection, received special consideration at the 43rd CFS session. Although responsible for 70% of the overall food production – a number that can go considerable higher in some developing countries – and employing the majority of the population in rural areas, family farmers still face persisting restraints (FAO, 2015). Food insecurity, gender imbalances, and difficulties to access markets and acquire technical expertise are just some hurdles affecting this crucial yet vulnerable group. Reckoning that small producers are recurrently the weakest link in agricultural value chains, parties at the CFS reunion asked how they could better collaborate to integrate smallholders within the four dimensions of food security: availability, access, utilization, and stability.
Some recommendations regarding the issue were proposed at the meeting, for instance: fostering more enabling markets that adequately remunerate smallholders’ work and investments, which can help them to diversify productions and to cope with times of crisis, conflicts, and natural disasters; providing access to productive resources to women and youth, as more inclusiveness can increase yields in farm productions and diminish undernourishment; developing smallholder-targeted infrastructures; and linking family farming outputs with public procurement programs for school feeding and other public institutions (FAO, 2016). Still mostly visible in the discursive realm, such policies, if properly implemented and shared amongst developed and developing partners, can meet up with the Voluntary Guidelines for the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food, a beacon for the CFS’ debates.
The role of livestock in sustainable agricultural development motivates lively disputes within the CFS and was subject to recommendations from the FAO’s committee. The debate largely relied on a report published in July 2016 by the HLPE. The document recognizes the importance of livestock to many countries and stresses the need to enhance the sector’s contributions to sustainable development, as well as strategies to minimize the multiple impacts associated with the activity. While reckoning the importance of the sector for poverty reduction and the achievement of food security and nutrition, the report assumes that sustainable management of livestock should involve organic and agro-ecological approaches, which can minimize environmental degradation and reduce the carbon footprint associated with livestock systems. The non-binding recommendations can be useful for many countries in South America such as Brazil and Argentina, which depend on intensive productions aiming at both domestic and international markets.
Meeting future demand for food, which is to dramatically increase as population reaches 9.5 billion by 2050, requires novel approaches in both the livestock sector and in connecting smallholders to markets to assume a truly inclusive, multi-stakeholder character. The second part of this series looks into how the CFS adds up to the Agenda 2030, and deals with the interconnections between food security and climate change.
FAO. 2016. Connecting Smallholders to Markets – recommendations. CFS 2016/43/5. Rome: Committee on World Food Security.
______. 2015. CFS High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets – background document. Rome: CFS.
HLPE. 2013. Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food Security. Rome: High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security.
______. 2016. Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition: what roles for livestock? Rome: High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security.
IFAD. 2016. Rural Development Report 2016: fostering inclusive rural transformation. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Cover Image: FAO, available here.
This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of socialprotection.org.
PhD candidate in Comparative Politics, Institute of Social Sciences-University of Lisbon PRIMO early stage researcher / Marie Curie Fellow
This research has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 607133
 Around 800 million people are chronically undernourished; another 2 billion suffer some form of micronutrient deficiency; and 1.9 billion are overweight, of which 600 million are obese See: http://www.fao.org/3/a-mr980e.pdf, access in April 2017.
 In developing countries, consumption of meat has been growing at a pace of 5-6% per year and that of milk and dairy products at 3.4-3.8% per year in the last decades. See: http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4252e/y4252e05b.htm, access in April 2017. Also see: IFAD (2016).
 According to the FAO, there is no universally accepted definition for smallholders. The International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) policy dialogue, which initiated in 2014, shed light into the centrality of family farming.
 Indeed, of the 1.4 billion extremely poor, 70% live in rural areas (HLPE, 2013).
 The issue has been part of CFS debates since 2011, but only now gained momentum.
 For a good debate on the topic, see the Food Governance website, namely Thomas Patriota’s blog post: https://foodgovernance.com/2017/02/21/the-cfs-policy-recommendations-on-connecting-smallholders-to-markets/, access in April 2017.
 Livestock accounts for around a third of global agricultural GDP and is the largest user of land resources, permanent meadows and pastures (HLPE, 2016).