En route to India and thoughts on global agri-food governance

NB: This is a few days late as I had no internet access until now

En route to India and working through the first of two eight hour layovers. This trip has come about so quickly that I feel remarkably unprepared and somewhat unsure of how I feel or how I should feel. I wonder what Baudrillard would say about that? The simulation of a trip: Reality negated by so many other “visits to” and “vistas of” India: Predetermined, socially acceptable emotional cues have been successfully implanted and are ready to be performed before, after and during my stay.

Regardless of whatever PoMo-jumbo I am using to make sense of all of this, I am ready for an adventure full of learning and research opportunities.

I have received a lot of advice from friends leading up to the trip, most of it contradictory. Eat the food: Don´t eat the food. Find a soft place to land and take some time to adjust: Upon arrival, just go grab some street food (thanks Dad). Don´t drink the water: Only drink beer (… again, thanks Dad).

Over the next three weeks I will be updating this blogs with stories from India and the Global Gathering of Women Pastoralists. I will do my best to contextualize these stories when they feed back to issues of global governance.

In the mean time, I will update those interested in the work that has been occupying my days and nights recently.

For the past two weeks my work has been focused on developing a timeline of the events and organizations that have emerged or reformed in response to the 2007/2008 Food Price Spikes. The result: a dizzying array of meetings and earnest declarations that follow each other and pledge greatness and do very little else.

This is not to say, however, that there has not been a shift in policies or politics.

If we consider these policies and mechanisms from a food sovereignty policy framework (which is how I have been approaching the task), there is hope, at least a little. If the fundamental concerns of the food sovereignty policy framework can be simply summed up as:

  • Localisation of food practices
  • Political Participation
  • Agro-Ecological Production
    • NB. Thanks to Josh Brem-Wilson (PhD Candidate, Centre for Peace Studies, Bradford University) for chatting through these ideas with me.

then policies and organizations that uphold and give primacy to these principles offer, at the very least, an opportunity for the strengthening of food sovereignty at the local, national and regional level.

As I just mentioned, from reading through the declarations and policies to come out of the meetings held around and after the food price spikes we can see that while there is a great deal of rhetoric at the global policy level around these principles, action and implementation has not followed suit with the exception perhaps of FAO, which in recent years has

  • expressed the fundamental importance of supporting and focusing investment on small-holder family farmers;
  • invited civil society to engage in the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) as official participants and supporting their right to organize autonomously; and,
  • published reports on the value, important and potential or agro-ecological farming and raise alarm over the dumping of pesticides and agro-chemicals  in the “developing” world, notably when new European and North American standards and restrict the sale and use.
    • NB I am writing this at the airport without the internet but when I get some time I will update with references.

Unfortunately, while the Declarations coming out of the G8, G20, APEC Summit, MDG, GAFSP and other food security and development initiatives have in many ways picked up key components of the language of food sovereignty (notably participation and country-led plans), very little in the way of action confirms that it is anything more than strategic politicking.

I hope that I am proven wrong.  I am working on a table that runs through the meetings in a chronological order and outlines the key meetings, key actors, key outcomes, and links to the outcomes. I will do my best to finish it up on the flight (battery power permitting) and post it for input and reference in the next few days.

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