Small farmers and ‘agroecological’ farming methods are the keys to future agricultural policies, says the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; our current industrial agriculture methods are reaping dangerous effects on our global food supply.
That’s the opinion of Professor Hilal Elver, the UN’s Special Rapporteur in her first public speech since taking the position earlier this year.
"Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail," she told an audience in Amsterdam, reports the Ecologist. Elver says that one billion people around the world are going hungry, and that a focus on small farmers and an “agricultural democracy” is needed in order to effectively feed the world.
"The 2009 global food crisis signalled the need for a turning point in the global food system," she said. "Modern agriculture, which began in the 1950s, is more resource intensive, very fossil fuel dependent, using fertilisers, and based on massive production. This policy has to change.
"We are already facing a range of challenges. Resource scarcity, increased population, decreasing land availability and accessibility, emerging water scarcity, and soil degradation require us to re-think how best to use our resources for future generations."
Elver cited scientific research that supports her position on ‘agroecology’, which is not only more sustainable and healthier for the planet, but capable of meeting the world’s demand for food.
"Agroecology is a traditional way of using farming methods that are less resource oriented, and which work in harmony with society,” Elver said. “New research in agroecology allows us to explore more effectively how we can use traditional knowledge to protect people and their environment at the same time."
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Elver also called on recognition for the role women play in our global food production, “from farmer, to housewife, to working mother, women are the world's major food providers,” she noted. “It also means recognising small farmers, who are also the most vulnerable, and the most hungry.”
Specifically, Elver called out the U.S. and Europe where small farmers are on the decline, “So if we deal with small farmers,” she said, “we solve hunger and we also deal with food production."
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