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By Kirtana Chandrasekaran and Martín Drago *
Will our governments take the urgent and necessary steps to address these crises? They have an opportunity in the round of negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Lima, from December 1 to 12.
Peasants and peasants like the Salvadoran Adolfo are the main food producers today. We need them, and not industrial production, to feed the planet in the context of climate change and the widespread degradation of natural resources.
On our planet, 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger and overweight and obesity affect more than 2 billion people; 65 percent of the world's population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than malnutrition.
The hungry are primarily the rural poor in developing countries, primarily small-scale producers in Africa and Asia. Almost one in nine people go to bed hungry each night.
This is not the case for Adolfo and his family, despite living in an area that was devastated by the effects of climate change and floods, the Valle Lempa in El Salvador. He knows from his own experience that agricultural diversity and the conservation in peasant hands of traditional seeds are essential for the livelihood of small-scale producers.
The vast majority of governments around the world have ignored small-scale producers for decades, plunging millions of them into poverty. However, they are still the ones who produce most of the world's food, using traditional varieties of seeds and without resorting to industrial inputs.
In Africa, peasants and peasants grow practically all the food that is consumed locally. In Latin America, 60 percent of production, including meat, comes from small family farms. In Asia, the world's center of rice production, virtually all rice is grown on farms of less than two hectares.
Still, agribusiness and some governments strongly promote industrial agriculture (based on monocultures, hybrid seeds, and chemical pesticides and fertilizers) as the best way to feed the planet.
In addition, industrial agriculture is one of the major contributors to climate change, due to its high consumption of fossil fuels, pesticides and fertilizers and its impacts on soils, waters and biodiversity. There is enough evidence that it is destroying the resources we depend on to produce our food.
But promoters of industrial agriculture ignore its environmental impacts.
Knowing the great challenge that climate change represents, since it could considerably reduce agricultural productivity, especially in developing countries, there are other paths that should be promoted.
On the other hand, the defenders of industrial agriculture justify it by pointing out that due to the growing world population, more food will need to be produced and for this it is necessary to increase yields. But we know that growing more food and increasing yields are not the only challenges. In fact, we already produce enough food to feed our current and future population.
The problem is not the lack of food, but its uneven distribution. Access to food is defined by wealth and profit, rather than need. Free trade is promoted over the right to food.
As a consequence, half of the world's grains are used to feed animals raised in industrial establishments and a significant proportion of food staples are converted into biofuels to power cars. Thus, hungry people run out of food to feed to rich consumers.
To eradicate hunger it is essential to increase the income of impoverished sectors and help small-scale food producers to maintain their ways of life, to feed themselves and the world in a sustainable way.
But the structural solution to hunger and poverty will be found by building the food sovereignty of the peoples. In other words, “the right of peoples to nutritious and culturally appropriate food, produced in a sustainable and ecologically sound way, and their right to decide their own food and production system”, sums up the Nyéléni Declaration with which the World Forum for Sovereignty concluded Alimentaria, held in Mali in 2007.
For this, it is essential: that control of agri-food systems and policies falls on those who produce, distribute and consume food, instead of on markets and corporations; prioritize local and national economies and markets; promoting the environmental, social and economic sustainability of production, distribution and consumption; and guarantee the right of food producers to access and manage land, water, seeds, and biodiversity in general.
"Food Sovereignty supposes new social relations free of oppression and inequalities between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations," the Nyéléni Declaration also highlights.
Food sovereignty includes the right to food security. But a country that focuses solely on achieving food security does not distinguish where food comes from or the conditions under which it is produced and distributed.
National food security objectives are often achieved through the production of food under conditions of environmental destruction and social exploitation that destroy local food producers, while benefiting agribusiness companies.
In recent years, various United Nations agencies have recognized that agroecology is the most effective way to combat food, environmental and poverty crises. An analysis of agroecology, carried out in 2011, showed that it has the potential to double food production in 10 years.
Even a fraction of this profit can significantly reduce hunger in the world. The evidence is clear, but changing the global agri-food system is difficult.
To meet this challenge, the movement for “food sovereignty” emerged; which has the support of more than 300 million women and men, small-scale food producers, consumers and activists for environmental justice and human rights, among others.
The power of seed and pesticide companies like Monsanto and Syngenta, of giant supermarkets like Wal-Mart and of grain companies like Cargill has grown so much that they exert a lot of influence on national and global agri-food policies. This ensures that agribusiness receives billions of dollars in grants and regulatory support.
Ending hunger in the world is within our reach, but a fundamental transformation of the global agri-food system is needed: a radical shift from industrial agriculture to agroecology for food sovereignty.
This transformation would undoubtedly have very positive repercussions on the climate crisis: less industrial agriculture and more agroecological production equate to less carbon emissions, something essential to protect ourselves from climate change.
Adolfo and millions of producers like him are on the front lines of this transformation and world leaders must provide them with much more support - at the UN level, as well as at the national and local levels - if they are serious about solving the climate crises. and food.
* Kirtana Chandrasekaran and Martín Drago coordinate the Food Sovereignty program of Friends of the Earth International.
(The opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of IPS, nor can they be attributed)
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez