Farmers’ driven approach to sustainable and resilient food systems
It is an innovative approach that WFO has been promoting since 2019 when WFO General Assembly approved the Farmers’ Route Declaration, a statement that promotes a reversed paradigm from an approach where farmers are just targets of policies and programs to a farmers driven approach in all agriculture related debates. This same approach is now being promoted for the preparations work of the UN Food Systems Summit, with WFO committed to secure an opportunity for the voice of farmers worldwide to be heard as key actors within the food systems, based on the WFO policy on Sustainable Food Systems.
The objective of this approach is to make sure the specific identity of farmers is recognised and taken into account within all the global discussions related to agriculture. Agriculture is an economic sector, farmers are entrepreneurs who take risks and invest in themselves to increase their livelihoods and those of their families and communities, while at the same time trying to increase their resilience to the changing climate and reduce the impact of their job on the environment. This is why, if we want to implement the 2030 Agenda and shift towards resilient, sustainable and inclusive food systems, farmers need to be repositioned at the centre of all decision-making processes related to agriculture at all levels.
Agriculture is a key sector at the backbone of the economy of many countries. Farmers play a crucial role in food systems being producers of fresh, healthy and nutritious food, contributing to preserve biodiversity and environment (i.e. carbon sequestration, soil management, biomass production), increasing livelihoods of local communities. A sustainable agricultural sector is a fundamental element for the achievement of all the SDGs, considering the multifunctional features of agriculture which provide social, economic and environmental services to the entire society.
WFO is promoting this farmers driven approach in all the global processes in which it is involved, including the 2030 Agenda and its Decade of Action that encompasses the UN Food Systems Summit. With regards to the Summit, a WFO task force has been established so to make sure that the bottom up and farmers led approach is respected and that the farmers’ voice and expertise is taking into account. WFO, through its Task Force, is collecting best practices from WFO national farmers’ organisations to be submitted to the UNFSS team as game changing solutions to contribute to shift towards sustainable food systems. Farmers cannot make it alone and are aware of the complexity and interlinkages of food systems. Therefore, WFO is planning to organise food systems summit dialogues on regional basis, to foster discussion among producers and consumers, as well as other relevant stakeholders, to raise awareness on the need to position farmers at the very heart of food systems.
Specifically regarding the UN Food Systems Summit, members of the WFO task force are now participating in the activities of the UNFSS Action Tracks and WFO is actively engaged in the collection and assessment of best practices from the farmers to be presented to the UNFSS team as game changing solutions to help the shift towards more sustainable and resilient food systems. Also, a dedicated communication campaign will be conducted by WFO to make sure farmers central role within food systems will be evident to everyone. Main challenges will be the risk of working in silos, the fact that it is not always easy to reach out to farmers organisations at national level and make sure to mind the gap between what happens at the global and at national level, as well as the challenges imposed by the Covid19 pandemic, at different level.
The approach shows how farmers are aware of their role, responsibilities and the expertise about production strategies, environmental, social and economic impacts that a sustainable agricultural sector has on society. However, one constraints is the external vision that other actors has of the farmers that does not yet identify the farmers’ constituency as an independent and separate one but often assimilate them to other stakeholders. Covid19 affected agriculture but farmers responded showing how their resilience is key for food production and distribution. Also, issues related to connecting from rural areas to virtual meetings.
This kind of approach is applied to all the agriculture related processes and decision-making at all levels. Farmers are aware of their responsibilities and role within the food systems, but this needs also to be recognised by all the other actors and sectors of society, and this should be replicated in all countries depending on the national structures and tailored to the local situation.
Covid19 impacted on the implementation because it affected severely the farming sector. WFO needed to re-organise its activities according to this, i.e. an information hub was created on the website to collect best practices from WFO members on adaptation/response to Covid19. Such practices were made public to guarantee knowledge sharing among WFO members and facilitate replicability when possible. Positioning farmers at the centre of any decision-making process related to agriculture, in recognition of the role they play within food systems, is key to make sure we build back better from Covid19. In fact, we saw how food supply chains were disrupted by the pandemic, food shortages, markets’ closure, impacts on food security and health as well as economy of rural areas among others.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Deliverables & Timeline
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The World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) gathers national farmers’ organizations and agricultural cooperatives from all over the world https://www.wfo-oma.org/ and has been promoting a farmers driven approach for the past three years.