Blog Post

Shaping tomorrow’s food systems

The role of farmer organisations in global food system transformation

by Jörg Schindler | 07 April 2022

Shaping tomorrow’s food systems
Nearly one billion people globally suffer from acute hunger. Two years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this number has risen by a further 160 million people. According to the World Food Programme, the number of people who depend on emergency aid has more than doubled to approximately 276 million people. Meanwhile, the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is being felt far beyond the European region, with prices of commodities supplied by the two countries reaching all-time highs in recent months. Global wheat prices jumped by 70% at stock markets since March 2021. The conflict is having a major impact on countries in the Middle East and North African regions countries, who are highly dependent on imports of wheat, maize and sunflower oil, as well as fertilisers, from Russia and Ukraine.    
However, food prices were already on an upward trajectory even before the start of the current conflict. Africa, in particular, was already heavily affected by a combination of drought, desert locust invasions, as well as spiralling costs of fertilisers and other agricultural inputs. Globally, high energy costs are leading to the diversion of more food crops, to produce biofuels. TMG’s Managing Director, Alexander Müller, described a perfect storm of “the four big “Cs”[Climate, Conflict, Covid and (high) Costs]” that could trigger the next global food crisis.  
“Beyond Zero Hunger” - The role of farmer organisations 
The interconnected nature of these challenges calls for a global response. Eight years after its launch, the One World – No Hunger Initiative (SEWOH) of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has embarked on a new programme focusing on the governance of food systems. TMG is contributing to the project by analysing the role of farmer organisations in the transformation of the food system. 
On 4 and 5 April 2022, TMG and the Andreas Hermes Academy convened a workshop with 30 leading representatives of farmer federations from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe to explore this issue. 
The discussions highlighted innovative ways in which farmer organisations are helping shape broader systems. In western Kenya, for example, the Kakamega County Farmers Association (KACOFA) has joined forces with Shibuye Community Health Workers - a grassroot women’s organisation - and youth farmer network to initiate the Governor’s Day with Farmers. Governor’s Day with Farmers (GDF) is more than an event. It aims to create a a consultative platform that brings farmers and the policy makers closer together. After months of preparation, 700 farmers participated at the first edition on 22 February, 2022. The Kakamega Governor and farmer representatives signed a joint declaration, committing the County to integrate farmers’ issues into ongoing development planning processes. The GDF can thus be seen as a truly successful example of strengthening farmers’ voices in food system governance. 
Prof. Kaburu M´Ribu, national Chairman of the Kenyan National Farmers Federation – in which KACOFA and other county associations are embedded –  called for successful initiatives like the GDF to be implemented in other counties. This helps connect such sub-national planning processes at the national level, and hence could play an important role in transforming the food system in Kenya. To this end, KENAFF participated in the food systems dialogues organised in the lead up to the World Food Systems Summit, and is closely involved in the process to develop Kenya’s Food System Transformation pathways.  
While acknowledging the importance of national-level coordination, many workshop participants stressed that the main challenge is implementation. They said that global-level alliances and governance frameworks can help strengthen interventions at the national and local levels. One such instrument is the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries (VGGT). Strong advocacy from farmer organisations also helps to hold governments accountable to upholding the human rights considerations that are the heart of the VGGT. 
The workshop identified the upcoming UN Climate Conference in November as an important platform for strengthening the contribution of farmer organisations to National Adaptation Plans, “…because COP 27 will be driven by African countries and will focus on adaption and the necessary funding.” 

Written by Jörg Schindler

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