(SEARICE statement for the round table discussions on food security and climate change, CFS 39, October 15 -20, 2012, Rome)
SEARICE appreciates the various documents (HLPE studies) prepared for this conference, and appreciates the recommendations aligned with the conservation, development and sustainable use of plant genetic resources amid the rigors of climate change. SEARICE furthermore appreciates the recognition that at the core of these policies should be farmers.
The documents presented to us state that, for farmers to be “at the center”, there is need to take advantage of their knowledge, there is need for their meaningful engagement and involvement from the start, there is need to provide them the necessary information such as weather statistics, at the proper time; and there is need to capacitate farmers to be able to adapt and so as not to be adversely affected by various mitigation measures.
Farmer involvement and the creation of physical and educational infrastructure, however, will be empty without the empowerment of small farming families. The extraction of traditional knowledge from small farming families should not be used so these can “adapt” to chemical agriculture, or to incorporate industrial farming. Their participation or meaningful engagement should not mean using small farming families as “experimentation sites” for technologies, just to obtain their views on new technologies or to ensure that they adopt new and emerging technologies without due regard to long-term socio-economic, health, and environmental considerations. Weather statistics and other information should not be given to farming families so that technologies can be adapted, without due regard to better local-based and natural non-transgenic options.
The centre of policies should not only be small farming families, but empowerment of small farming families. There is a big difference in including the empowerment dimension in putting policies in place. Empowerment of small farming families will mean providing small farming families with sufficient information, such as, of the pros and cons of an emerging technology, of both positive and negative effects, to better allow them to consider these and make decisions on their own. Empowerment of small farming families goes beyond simply “understanding their needs” and “participation from the start” but allows a process of conscientization where farmers are adept in carefully analyzing a variety of information and decide what is best for their families, for the community, and for the public in general.
Empowerment of small farming families will also solve problems of sustainability, which is identified as a difficulty in the HLPE summary. Policies must ensure that the access of small farming families to seeds should not only remain unhampered, but should allow them to freely use, exchange, share and sell farm-saved seeds. We thus welcome the recommendation that an HLPE study be conducted on the impact of IPRs and intellectual property regimes, but strongly suggest that impacts on agricultural biodiversity, and on farmers’ rights be considered.
Empowerment of small farming families will prevent them from getting assimilated to industrial or chemical agriculture. Empowerment will mean freedom not only from IPR and political enclosures, but also technological enclosures that perpetuate farmers’ dependence on external inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and transgenic seeds. Experiences have shown that these external inputs drive farmers into more debt and consequently, poverty, if not suicides. Farmer empowerment will ensure that the IAASTD recommendations, that allow small farming families to continue with their tested methods of producing food goes on unhampered.
We all must bear in mind, that the hunger problems facing the world, is not brought about by the non-adoption of new technologies such as transgenic crops, but because there is insistence of increasing corporate profits, instead of empowering small farming families. Considering that the “business as usual” is no longer an accepted approach, we will need to digress from the objective of increasing shareholder value into one of empowering small farming families for food security.