Sustainable Food Futures (NEW BOOK)

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Voltaire once said that “no problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking”.

In this book, we put that statement to the test. The problems plaguing food systems are well researched and well known. But how can we support transformation towards sustainable and just food systems?

One thing is clear,  the objective of future food systems can no longer be to simply maximise productivity

 

 

We are very pleased to announce that our new book, Sustainable Food Futures: Multidisciplinary Solutionshas just been published. The book includes proposals for solutions to move us toward more sustainable food futures.  The solutions, which are based on concrete cases, are organised around 4 themes:

  1. Recognizing place
  2. Enhancing participation
  3. Challenging markets
  4. Designing sustainable food futures

 

The solutions proposed in this book can be read as an atlas of possibilities.

There are multiple roads we can, and must, travel to bring us towards our destination: just and sustainable food futures. And yet, instead of moving towards a brighter future, we continue with a status quo that is not good enough.

To reach sustainable food futures, we require diligent and creative route planning. Not every route will work for everyone, or every context. Some routes will require us to go off road, while others take us along the toll roads. Others set about redefining what we know to be a road, and some may lead us directly to road blocks.

It is our hope that the majority will lead us to new social-technical or social-economic arrangements that promote just, sustainable, and fair food futures.

The book is available as a hardback, paperback and eBook.  We would really appreciate it if you could ask your local libraries to purchase a copy!  PS- it includes recipes!

Continue reading “Sustainable Food Futures (NEW BOOK)”

THE VITALITY OF EVERYDAY FOOD

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This was originally posted on ILEIA‘s website. It was written by  Stephen SherwoodMyriam Paredes and Alberto Arce who have edited a new book ‘Agriculture, Food, and Social Change: The Everyday Vitality of Latin America’ (UK: Routledge/Earthscan Press). I have co-authored a chapter in this book that I will summarise in a later post.


A great deal of energy has been invested in attempts to influence the thinking in science and government on the problems of industrial food and the benefits of agroecology and food sovereignty. Meanwhile, people everywhere take responsibility for creating the changes they want to see through daily food practices in their families, neighbourhoods and social networks. In addition to organising for ‘resistance’, we call for greater attention to the latent potential in daily living and being, or existence.

A popular ‘trueque’ or barter trade event in northern Ecuador, where people exchange their goods without the use of money. Photo: Colectivo Agroecólogio

We all have a serious problem when people’s most basic activity – eating – undermines their ability to exist. Yet this is precisely what we have achieved with the advent of modern food. Through the pursuit of cheap food as a ‘good’, we have generated a series of unwanted ‘bads’, such as mass destruction of soils and water systems, erosion of agrobiodiversity, and widescale sickness and death by pesticides, not to mention the constitution of two, rampant pandemics: overweight/obesity and global warming/climate change. Fortunately, growing awareness of the contradictions of modern food is sparking lively counter movements.

We challenge the widespread preoccupation over how agriculture, food, and development should be. Instead, we focus on how everyday experience in agriculture and food is. The work of social movements in the Americas leads us to call attention to the forces of change in people’s everyday encounters with food – not as characterised in concept, but rather as embodied in practice. Continue reading “THE VITALITY OF EVERYDAY FOOD”

Teaching Food Security Governance in Kyoto

I am thrilled to be teaching a month long course on Global Food Security Governance at the Kyoto University. I have been invited by the Graduate School of Economics as part of the Asian Platform for Global Sustainability & Transcultural Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities Unit.

The course is four weeks long and covers:

  • Context and concepts
  • Key issues and actors
  • Theories to support analysis
  • Methods for data collection and analysis

For more information see:  Lecture series Global Food Security Governance Kyoto

Is there space for innovation (and technology) in the CFS?

By Allison Loconto

 This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

Today we continue with our fourth thematic cluster: “Emerging Issues at the CFS: How are they being addressed?”.  In this post, Allison Loconto reflects on the politics of knowledge and techniques within in the CFS and in turn, how these contribute to food security.She acknowledges that frank debate about innovation and technology for sustainable agriculture and food security are not yet high on the CFS agenda, but that the CFS could become a mechanism to provide guidance on these questions as the global community begins to tackle them.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

 

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Each of us attending the 43rd session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) this year came to the meetings with a different learning/research objective. For me, this year, I was interested in following a topic that was not a clear priority for the negotiations, but nonetheless kept popping up throughout the discussions: technology and innovation.

For someone who is quite interested in how knowledge about techniques (another way of thinking about technology) circulates, the 43rd CFS offered an interesting arena for understanding how politics around knowledge and techniques are contributing to broader questions of food security.

Throughout the week, technology could be found as a silent undercurrent that upholds specific positions in the political debates around trade and agricultural policy. For example, the strong anti-GMO position taken by civil society within the organic and agroecology movements is often countered by a strong private sector call for ‘science’ and public sector promotion of ‘productivism’ where the sole objective and value of agriculture for food security is reducing the yield gap. The latter position is part and parcel of the conventional wisdom about the need to modernize agriculture.

In the opening plenary session, the representative from South Sudan summed up this position saying: “We need to inject technology and information into our systems”, the representative from Nigeria likewise stated that their cows are only producing 1 litre of milk per day and “the will of the people is to increase their production – but the challenges are so deep they cannot [access technology]”,  while the Chinese representative stated very clearly that they are strongly committed to linking together agricultural modernization, industrialization and information technology.

This idea that technology and information can be injected like medicine into the arm of a sick patient and will solve systemic problems of food security and development both ignores processes of innovation that can explain how technology becomes useful (and thus widely used) and how information must be turned into different forms of knowledge that are actionable (Gorman, 2002).

There is an assumed linear path for innovation that begins with invention, follows through technology and product development and design, and ends with commercialization. Following this logic, individual scientists and companies invent (the latest EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard figures show the more than 50% of R&D spending in the Agriculture and Food sectors come from private investment), with state investment through R&D funding (and protection of patent registration).

The private sector commercializes and develops products. The public sector distributes the benefits to all people (to prevent poverty), extension diffuses the new technologies and more broadly, the State manages environmental and social impacts of technology and innovation. Here, civil society is a watchdog that calls out bad technologies or bad practices while the majority of the people are consumers, producers, employees and voters (but not innovators).

However, there is significant evidence of innovation as multi-actor networked paths, rather than linear paths. A number of scholars have differently named these phenomena where innovation has become a collective endeavor (Van de Ven, 1999), with inventors and users collaborating and sharing ideas and information. These have been referred to alternatively as user innovation (Von Hippel, 1976); co-inventor networks (Breschi and Malerba, 2005); open innovation (Chesbrough, 2003); open source (Raymond, 2001); participatory design (Schuler and Namioka, 1993); community innovation (van Oost et al., 2009); upstream engagement (Macnaghten et al., 2005); mid-stream modulation (Fisher et al., 2006); Constructive Technology Assessment (Rip et al., 1995); cooperative research (Kleinknecht and Reijnen, 1992); democratising innovation (von Hippel, 2005; Felt et al., 2007); responsible innovation (Guston, 2006); responsible research and innovation (Von Schomberg, 2013; Stilgoe et al.); social innovation (Stirling, 2008); and grassroots innovation (Smith and Seyfang, 2013).

Therefore, “innovation is not simply a technology (or a technical object), it must be the reorganization of institutions, organizations, value chains, and businesses to enable actors to innovate on their own terms” (Felt et al., 2007). This means that innovation is not a new technology, but a new way of doing things. Thus, if innovation is a collective reorganization of systems, can we not also consider it to be innovative uses of old technologies, new combinations of traditional knowledge and techniques or perhaps the discontinuation of some technologies that have not become useful to many people?

These alternative ideas about innovation were highlighted during the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation CFS side event entitled ‘Who Will and How Will We Feed Humanity’. A panel of four speakers, representing the private sector (Syngenta), civil society (ETC Group) and farmers (Via Campesina) and a donor (GAFSP), tried to find complementarity between contrasting approaches to achieving food security and nutrition.

The motivation for this side event was precisely that discussions around how to achieve food security and nutrition and the related SDG targets are often polarized, with core challenges being framed based on an ideology or perspective (such as modernization, or productivity). As we know from theories of the performativity (Callon, 2010), different framings can lead to different and sometimes contrasting approaches to solving them. This is one of the reasons why this panel discussion was so interesting. We got to confront face to face these different framings of a single (hypothetical) problem of constraints on food security in two countries.

Continue reading “Is there space for innovation (and technology) in the CFS?”

Winds of change, or more of the same? Urbanization and rural transformation in the context of emerging global initiatives

By Alison Blay-Palmer

 This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

Today we continue with our fourth thematic cluster: “Emerging Issues at the CFS: How are they being addressed?”.  In this post, Alison Blay-Palmer reflects on opening at the international level for discussing food with an increasingly regional and sustainability focus. She questions whether emerging initiatives call into question the capacity of the CSM and its constituent groups to achieve its mandate on the Right to Food.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

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I offer the following comments as a new observer of the CFS process. I attended CFS 42 (2015) and then 43 (2016), and participate in the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) meetings for the SDGs and Urban and Rural Transformation.

The food spaces within and between rural and urban communities are simultaneously interconnected and contested in part due to increasing distances between smallholder producers who provide most of the world’s food, and urban eaters who are now in the majority and increasing in numbers.

In opposition to the globalization and industrialization that creates these rifts in our food system, and in tandem with increased explicit attention to urban-rural linkages by the CFS, recently launched initiatives such as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP),  New Urban Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and the City-Region Food System project offer local pathways to more coherent regional sustainable food systems and increased capacity for urban and rural transformation that respects the Right to Food.

Nevertheless, being outside of CFS debate, these initiatives might call into question the capacity of the CSM and its constituent groups to engage based on:

  1. inadequate funding for the CFS,
  2. a lack of joined-up policy; and;
  3. the threat to agro-ecological farming systems from high technology.

The MUFPP, launched in 2015, now has 133 signatory cities that together include more than 460 million people. The Pact draws direct connections between rural and urban communities “Recognizing that family farmers and smallholder food producers, (notably women producers in many countries) play a key role in feeding cities and their territories, by helping to maintain resilient, equitable, culturally appropriate food systems; and that reorienting food systems and value chains for sustainable diets is a means to reconnect consumers with both rural and urban producers” (MUFPP 2015: 1).

Enhanced direct links between producers and consumers offer the potential for better market opportunities for smallholder farmers and improved access to nutritional food for the urban food insecure. This level of integration is also key to addressing the 2030 Agenda goals. For example, the Report of the UN Secretary General titled ‘Agricultural development, food security and nutrition’ (2016) points to SDG 2 (zero hunger) that addresses food and nutrition security and its interconnections with production considerations including soil quality (Goal 15), water quality and availability (Goal 6), climate (Goal 13), gender equality (Goal 5) and production and consumption patterns (Goal 12).

While developed as an international initiative through UN-Habitat, the New Urban Agenda looks to integrate ‘urban and territorial planning’ to end hunger and malnutrition by making local food supply-consumption loops less wasteful and more affordable, coordinating policy at the food-energy-water-health-transportation-waste nexus, and conserving genetic (and presumably, though not explicitly) biodiversity. Paragraph 123 of the Agenda states:

 “We [Heads of State and Government, Ministers and High Representatives] will promote the integration of food security and the nutritional needs of urban residents, particularly the urban poor, in urban and territorial planning, to end hunger and malnutrition. We will promote coordination of sustainable food security and agriculture policies across urban, peri-urban and rural areas to facilitate the production, storage, transport and marketing of food to consumers in adequate and affordable ways to reduce food losses and prevent and reuse food waste. We will further promote the coordination of food policies with energy, water, health, transport and waste policies, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds and reduce the use of hazardous chemicals, and implement other policies in urban areas to maximize efficiencies and minimize waste.”

Continue reading “Winds of change, or more of the same? Urbanization and rural transformation in the context of emerging global initiatives”

Reflections on an epistemic road block in the CFS

by Philip McMichael

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

Moving forward with the third the thematic cluster: “CFS: Multi-stakeholder or multi-actor? And does it matter?”  Philip McMichael presents a review of how different actors in the CFS understand key terms and key issues. He also reflects on the implications of this for the future of the CFS.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

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As a member of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) technical support team in the preparation for the debate over a CFS version of Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems in 2014 and 2015, it became clear that this process involved some measure of windmill tilting. It revealed the substantial obstacles faced by the CSM in ensuring legal regulation of investment in land deals. Worse, CSM representations along these lines at the closing of this debate in October 2015 were dismissed by the then CFS Chair. But the debate also revealed substantial misunderstanding of the difference between small farming and industrial agriculture.

There was a clear epistemic standoff between the CSM and Private Sector Mechanism (PSM), which is not about scale preference, but really a distinction between farming culture and ‘agriculture without farmers,’ in the words of Vía Campesina. This distinction includes the claim made by the CSM on behalf of small producers for the ‘right to produce’ (as opposed simply to the ‘right to food’).

Small-producers produce about 50 per cent of the world’s food, yet account for about 50 per cent of the world’s hungry (ETC 2009). Further, they have experienced the dismantling of infrastructural supports and exposure to food dumping in their national markets in recent decades, as governments have come to serve markets instead of their citizens. Within this neoliberal milieu, UN/FAO member states and their private sector allies recast small producers as potential ‘smallholder businesses,’ waiting to engage in entrepreneurial agriculture if only provided with sufficient financial investments.

The focus here is on ‘productivism’, by which ‘smallholder’ farming is evaluated and found lacking, in terms of ‘yield gaps’ to be resolved via ‘improvements.’ Productivism imposes a standardized yield metric on farming, measuring only plant yields (but neither efficiency of water/energy use, nor environmental externalities), rather than what may be reproduced (eg, seed, soil fertility, water cycles, common resources, rural livelihoods) by low-input or agro-ecological farming.

This distinction between small producer farming and corporate agro-industrialization is routinely conflated in the CFS debates. Given the intensifying land deal context, in addition to the notion of land as an investment refuge, it serves investor interest to represent ‘smallholders’ as potential entrepreneurs, despite CFS documentation of the multifunctional character of small producer communities. Thus the CFS High-Level Panel of Experts’ Report on Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food Security defines small-scale farming in the following way:

Smallholder agriculture is practised by families (including one or more households) using only or mostly family labour and deriving from that work a large but variable share of their income, in kind or in cash… it includes crop raising, animal husbandry, forestry and artisanal fisheries… Off -farm activities play an important role in providing smallholders with additional income and as a way of diversifying risk… smallholders producing only or mainly for subsistence are not uncommon… smallholder’s families are part of social networks within which mutual assistance and reciprocity translate into collective investments (mainly through work exchanges) and into solidarity systems… smallholder agriculture is the foundation of food security in many countries and an important part of the social/economic/ecological landscape in all countries. (CFS 2013: 10–11)

Furthermore, the ‘potential efficiency of smallholder farming relative to larger farms has been widely documented, focusing on the capacity of smallholders to achieve high production levels per unit of land through the use of family labour in diversified production systems’ (CFS 2013: 12). The CSM claims a significant difference between labor, and financial, investment. Labor investment is the differentia specifica of small producer agriculture (Ploeg 2009), and, according to the CFS, small producers are the ‘main investors’ (2013: 16). But this point goes unrecognized in CFS debates because of the singular insistent understanding of ‘investment’ as financial.

Within the UN, the recent Special Rapporteur on the  Right to Food recommended deepening domestic production to reduce food dependency, observing that there are ‘approximately 500 million small-scale farmers in developing countries making them not only the vast majority of the world’s farmers but, taking into account their families, responsible for the well-being of over two billion persons’ (De Schutter 2011: 13). Reclaiming this right requires a power re-balance in order to restore integrity to domestic farm sectors and rights to producing communities. In the UN debates the persisting trade reflex (by which states secure their balance of payments) reproduces the notion that agriculture is a revenue operation and is best left to ‘entrepreneurial farming’ to ‘feed the world.’ One representative of the PSM, from an agro-food network, made the following observations in a CFS 41 debate:

While there is a consensus that farmers are at the center, farming needs to be understood as a profession, and food security is about economic growth, not just growing food— thus farmers need to break the subsistence cycle and become entrepreneurs, produce more with less land, and stabilize via land ownership, inputs (agro-chemicals), knowledge, and market access.

This representation of farmers echoes other such statements in the course of CFS debates regarding smallholders being at the heart of a ‘transition.’ Thus PSM representatives claim: ‘we invest in large and small’ – implying scale neutrality that obscures the incommensurability of small farming and industrial agriculture, and: ‘agriculture investments are wonderful job creators’ – suggesting either plantations or agro-industrial estates as job safety nets for displaced farmers where jobs are the currency of modernization. Job provision assumes that small-scale producers are better off earning a wage, and that small farming is no different from farm working.

The emphasis on a financial calculus similarly discounts local common pool resources, managed by self-organizing land users with shared rules which ‘differ from the logic of capital—they reflect, instead the interests and perspectives of the involved producers, ecological cycles and/or principles such as social justice, solidarity, or the containment of (potential) conflicts’ (Ploeg et al. 2012: 164). In sum, CSM’s ability to gain traction in this area of rights will require problematizing the epistemic reductionism of forms of farming, which obscures power differentials as well as incommensurability in the material and cultural meanings of agriculture.

 

McMichael.pngPhilip McMichael is Professor of Development Sociology at Cornell. His research is informed by a world-historical perspective and focuses on food regimes and food sovereignty, and rethinking the agrarian question. He has authored Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions (Fernwood, 2013), Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective (Sage, 2016), and the award-winning Settlers and the Agrarian Question (Cambridge, 1984); and he has edited Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change (Routledge, 2010), and co-edited Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change, with Jun Borras and Ian Scoones (Routledge, 2011). He is a member of the Civil Society Mechanism in the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security, has worked with UNRISD and the FAO, and has collaborated with La Vía Campesina, and the IPC for Food Sovereignty.

References

CFS. 2013. Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security. Rome: FAO.

De Schutter, O. 2011. How not to think of land-grabbing: three critiques of large-scale investments in farmland. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(2): 249–280.

ETC. 2009. Who will feed us? ETC Group Communique, 102 (November): http://www.etcgroup.org.

Ploeg, van der J. D. 2009. The ‘new’ peasantries. Struggles for autonomy and sustainability in an era of empire and globalization. London: Earthscan.

Ploeg, van der J. D., Ye, J., and Schneider, S. 2012. Rural development through the construction of new, nested markets: comparative perspectives from China, Brazil and the European Union. Journal of Peasant Studies, 39(1): 133–174.

 

The “Nepalisation” of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests

Assessing the impacts of a CFS output on the ground: Can a global governance instrument support struggles for tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security?

 By Katie Anne Whiddon

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

Moving forward with the third the thematic cluster: “CFS: Multi-stakeholder or multi-actor? And does it matter?”  Katie Anne Whiddon provides emerging insights into how the CFS-negotiated Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests are being taken up in Nepal. She sheds light on the key question of whether global governance instruments fulfil their objectives at the local level by examining the roles and leverage that CSOs/NGOs have gained through the VGGT process and based on a developing case study. She concludes by reflecting on what this means for tenure rights in marginalised communities.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

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FIAN Nepal

Since its reform in 2009, the United Nations Committee on World Food Security and Nutrition (CFS) aims to become the foremost inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue platform dealing with food security and nutrition policies. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (henceforth Guidelines or VGGT), adopted in 2012, are the first output that reflects the breakthrough of post-reform CFS negotiations. They are an unprecedented international agreement on tenure of natural resources that guide countries in achieving food security.

A Global Thematic Event at CFS43 was an occasion to share experiences on the application of the VGGT, but also to highlight the challenges of monitoring CFS decisions. Today, civil society efforts to report on the use of the Guidelines reflect the need to draw lessons from country-level processes. Stakeholders question the contributions of the CFS to global food governance, and ultimately, to the progressive realisation of the human right to food and nutrition.

Through a political ethnography, my research aims to identify the factors that condition the impacts of the Guidelines on place-based struggles for food sovereignty in Nepal, and the roles played by state and non-state actors in the implementation process.

VGGT implementation process in Nepal: state and non-state actors meet at multi-stakeholder platforms

Between 2014 and 2016, Nepal received funding from the Food and Agriculture Organisation to organise VGGT National Multi-Stakeholder Workshops and a training programme. FIAN Nepal, a right to food NGO, brought together marginalised communities from remote areas and government officials to discuss conflicts around legitimate tenure rights. Further VGGT awareness-raising and capacity-building events across Nepal were also organised by ANFPa (All Nepali Peasants’ Federation), supported by La Via Campesina and the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD).

Policy advocacy and justiciability were at the core of the VGGT workshops in Nepal, a country where power relations and skewed access to natural resources are the main causes of food insecurity. Non-state actors provided examples of how the tenure rights of rural dwellers and “climate refugees” continue to be violated, following decades of deforestation, evictions from conservation areas, displacement due to development projects and human-induced environmental stress.

In order to define the focus of my PhD, I attended the 2016 VGGT National Workshop in Kathmandu. I learnt that customary access to natural resources in conservation areas has become one of the key areas for utilising the Guidelines, as anticipated in an explicatory case study in the IPC‘s (International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty) VGGT Peoples’ Manual.

A ‘multi-actor’ discussion on the violations of tenure rights in Nepal’s protected areas

To kick-start the workshop, an interesting discussion emerged on how to translate the word “tenure”. The Nepali term “Bogh Chalana” (unwritten usufruct customs) places emphasis on informal tenure and customary practices, as addressed in Part 3 of the VGGT. This sparked a debate around the claims of indigenous peoples’ (IPs) customarily defined relationship to natural resources. Relevant normative provisions from the VGGT were discussed, including the right to prior consultation, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as defined in ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; both ratified by Nepal.

However, it was pointed out that such global instruments are often ineffective, partly due to legislative dysfunction and lack of coordination between government agencies. Participants queried the potential implementation of international norms, given the lack of political will even with national laws. A ‘multi-actor’ session provided an opportunity for grassroots communities from the buffer zones of protected areas to exert pressure on Members of Parliament from the Environment Protection Committee, following on from a previous consultation on FIAN Nepal’s findings. Women described cases of sexual abuse by security personnel and confiscation of fodder and baskets. Fishers shared complaints of physical harassment and confiscation of their catch and fishing gear (their only source of livelihood). They demanded an amendment of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973, in order to foster effective participatory management, respect equitable benefit sharing, and provide compensation for the loss of crops due to wild animals.

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FIAN Nepal

Can a global governance instrument support struggles for access to rivers and forests in the context of national food security?

 During the VGGT negotiations at the CFS, the safeguarding of tenure systems of indigenous peoples and other customary communities was one of the key battlefronts of civil society delegates. Whilst the CFS Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) now strives to develop participatory mechanisms for monitoring and accountability, in Nepal, the Guidelines have become a tool for holding the government accountable. The VGGT process has bolstered socio-economically excluded communities in asserting their rights to use rivers and forests in national parks.

However, contentious governance issues around ‘participatory’ processes in protected areas – which now occupy approximately 25% of Nepal’s landmass – are longstanding and closely linked to the political economy of natural resource governance in Nepal. An assessment of whether the VGGT implementation efforts can aid in resolving park-people conflicts calls for an evaluation of the dominance of interest groups in global and national conservation policies. The ideological underpinnings that frame technocratic ‘solutions’ to human-nature interaction should also be examined from a human rights-based approach. The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973 amendment has now been tabled in the Parliament, but it remains to be seen whether the legal reform has an impact on livelihoods.

As part of democratic (federal) state building since 1990, Nepal has ratified a raft of human rights-based instruments. Furthermore, the right to food and food sovereignty were enshrined in the Constitution of Nepal in 2015. Within this context, whether the leverage of CSOs/NGOs gained through the VGGT process can aid to restore tenure rights of marginalised communities is a question that requires empirical investigation at the interface of the ‘global’ and the ‘local’, both at the policy-making and the grassroots levels.

katieKatie Anne Whiddon is a PhD Student at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry University. The core of her PhD is a collaborative research project with civil society organisations on the impacts of the VGGT on local struggles for food sovereignty in Nepal.  She is a qualified interpreter and translator and has a Masters in African Studies from SOAS (2007). She completed her MA research on post-colonial nation building in Mozambique, where she worked at a rural school of agriculture. Since 2010, Katie has been an activist-interpreter for La Via Campesina, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty and the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) at the UN Committee on World Food Security.