Curbs on land grabbing in Africa and food speculation are urgently needed to stop hunger rising again, ActionAid said today as a meeting of food experts began at the United Nations in Rome.
Government ministers, experts and representatives from civil society and Asian, African and Latin American small-holder farmers’ groups will attend the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) meeting at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from today.
The high-level discussions will look at voluntary rules to regulate large-scale land acquisitions and investments in poor countries – including for growing industrial scale biofuel crops – which in many cases ActionAid and others have described as ‘land grabbing’.
Alex Wijeratna, ActionAid’s hunger campaigner, said: "An estimated 50 million hectares of fertile land – an area double the size of the UK – has been acquired overseas over the last few years by companies, investors and sovereign wealth funds, and very often to the detriment of poor people and local economies.
"We are calling for a moratorium on land grabbing – and on turning fertile land over to industrial biofuel production – until much tougher rules are in place to safeguard the human rights of poor communities on the ground."
The FAO said last month that the number of hungry world-wide had dropped below the one billion mark to an estimated 925 million people, however there are fears that continued land grabbing and food speculation could reverse this.
Alex Wijeratna said: "Experts say food speculation alongside climate conditions is amongst the main factors behind the recent escalation of world food prices and things could get worse very quickly if we don’t act to curb it. Speculators are gambling with poor peoples’ food and livelihoods, and so we’re urging the UN to recommend curbs on speculation as soon as possible."
The recently-reformed Committee on World Food Security was given the mandate by the international community to become the top global policy forum to advise and guide national and international strategies to tackle hunger and food insecurity. All governments – and now for the first time civil society too – have a place at the table.
Ruchi Tripathi, ActionAid’s head of right to food, who will be at the meeting in Rome, said: “The inclusion of the voices of peasant, fisherfolk and smallholder farmers’ groups in these global discussions is an historic advance and we are hopeful of jointly coming up with much smarter and more sustainable solutions to the global food and hunger crisis.”
"Chronic hunger demands long-term solutions – including supporting women farmers who produce most of the world's food. One of the big challenges for experts meeting in Rome next week will be how to ensure countries invest enough in women farmers to bring food security to the world’s hunger hotspots.”
photo : ©Photo: James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid