We Must Support Household Farmers To Assure Food Security


Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns has released a report illustrating the critical need to support household farming globally, and church twinning can contribute to this goal.  According to Public-private partnerships: Working together to reduce global hunger:

"Given that 60 percent of the world’s one billion hungry people are smallholder farmers and another 20 percent are landless agricultural workers, any strategy for fixing a broken food system must include a significant investment and focus on meeting the needs of smallholders and rural workers in a lasting way.


Moreover, since women farmers produce the majority of food for domestic consumption in many developing countries—yet are systematically excluded from programs designed to assist smallholders—sustainable food security plans must be built around effective responses to the particular needs of women.


An Essential Role for Church Partnerships

Many people of faith and their broader civil society counterparts embrace this low-input, locally focused prescription as a blueprint for the kind of investment in agriculture that is most likely to promote both household food security and broad-based sustainable growth.

Furthermore, since the 2011 FAO State of Food Insecurity report affirms that food price volatility will likely continue through the next decade, it is even more important to invest now in the productive capacity of smallholders for their own consumption, as a hedge against new waves of hunger driven by periodic price spikes in globalized commodity markets.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has frequently noted that both partnerships and fair markets play important roles in realizing this vision, and that the private sector must help to build them. The challenge of connecting sustainable smallholder production to national and international value chains has driven efforts by private philanthropists like the Hewlett Foundation (through its Transfarm Africa initiative) and the Gates Foundation (through programs like the Cocoa Livelihoods Program17) to bridge the gulf between small producers and private food companies.

“Private sector activity must start with the smallholder farmers whose future prosperity is the focal point of all our effort….” – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

As faith communities and allied organizations we have long worked throughout the world to alleviate human suffering and to support individuals and societies striving to meet basic human needs. Our common traditions encourage us to walk alongside those who suffer seeking to respond to their challenges in ways that are culturally, economically and environmentally sustainable...

As we monitor the U.S. response to food insecurity through initiatives such as the “Feed the Future” program, the G8 “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” and the multilateral Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) we have watched the number, scope and scale of Public-Private Partnerships grow.  Because we know that how donors invest in agriculture is as important as the investments themselves, we urge the U.S. Government, as it partners with the private sector for the purpose of increasing food and nutrition security, to adopt the following principles:

Respect the dignity of the human person: Public private partnerships should reflect a “right to food” approach, addressing not only access to food, but also availability to diverse communities, nutritional adequacy and sustainability… Partnerships should enhance smallholders’ capacity to meet their immediate household food and nutrition needs.

Provide measurable benefits to smallholders:  Public-private partnerships must demonstrate specific benefits for truly smallholder farmers…These benefits should include locally appropriate measures and tailored programs to ensure the empowerment and participation of women farmers.

Ensure sustainability: Public-private partnerships should focus on long-term sustainability, prioritizing the development of agricultural approaches that respond to specific agroecological conditions and that build local self-reliance, rather than unnecessarily expanding industrial production strategies …

Protect and prioritize local private sector actors: Food produced and sold locally by small-scale farmers keeps cash flowing locally and serves to strengthen the local economy. Agricultural partnerships focused on food availability and access should seek to ensure local food production that is culturally appropriate, diverse and adequate for meeting the nutritional needs for active and healthy lives.

Thus far, the vast majority of private-sector partnerships highlighted by Feed the Future and the G8 alliance have been with some of the largest agribusiness corporations in the world.  Although each of these partnerships should be judged on its own merits, we remain concerned that, in the rush to leverage high profile private investment, governments not unwittingly under invest in smallholder producers, household food and nutrition security and sustainable local economies."