The interest and concerns of small-scale farmers at the frontline of food production must not be left out when global leaders meet later this year for the UN Food Systems Summit which will examine how food systems can be strengthened across the world.
Agricultural experts brought up the need to include the concerns of the farmers when speaking at a virtual dialogue organised by a Harare–based NGO, the Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), and its partners under the theme: “Farmers Perspectives: From Seeds to Food.”
“The interest and concerns of smallholder farmeras must not be left out at the UN Food Summit where global leaders are expected to meet. Their concerns must be addressed and taken on board to help improve food production,” said Kent Nnadozie, secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
Veteran agriculturalist and executive director of the Community Technology Development Trust Andrew Mushita said it was critical for global leaders to protect the rights of smallholder farmers to access seed.
“Seeds and food are intrinsically linked. In a continuous cycle, we grow our food from seeds and we get our seeds from our food. We believe strongly that a transformative agenda on sustainable and equitable food systems must go hand in hand with equitable and sustainable seeds systems,” he said.
“Global leaders must recognise and appreciate seed security as a vital component of achieving food security not only here in Zimbabwe but in Africa and elsewhere across the world.” The virtual dialogue series sought to discuss and provide critical input to the UN Food Summit set for September or October this year where global leaders are expected to meet, again virtually.
This Food Systems Summit will aim to explore strategies to maximise the co-benefits of a food systems approach across the entire 2030 Agenda and meeting the challenges of climate change.
Other participants said it was important to protect smallholder farmer interests in future policy and argued for increased protection from land grabs by multinationals.
Participants discussed wide-ranging issues covering seed security, risks of losing seed diversity, monopoly of seed production by multinationals, improving indigenous seed varieties, and general policy frameworks to safeguards the rights of smallholder farmers to seed and livelihoods.
The experts said governments and global leaders should also ensure farmers are competitive against larger agribusinesses, through measures such as ensuring they can trade their products freely within their own countries, without monopolies being developed. They also called for agricultural policies to ensure that production contributes to improved nutrition.
“Crop diversity that ensures a balanced diet should be promoted, alongside education on healthy eating, Improved seed diversity for important indigenous crops is an important issue,” said Mushita.
“Indigenous crop varieties are an effective buffer in case of calamity, droughts and climate change problems. Regulatory frameworks should be put in place to protect small farmers and the environment.”