Wild meadows and UN Summits

Is it too late in the year to tenuously link blog posts to the Olympics?  Probably, but I’m shamelessly going to do it anyway!

Did you see the ‘Olympic gold meadows’?  10 football pitches worth of traditional British meadows, planted in the heart of the Olympic site.  Those meadows were planted on what was previously a contaminated wasteland.  When the site was opened, I found it incredible that the land had been transformed like this in just a few years.  Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without carefully planned investment – a mix of public and private money.

I’ve been thinking a lot about investment recently – and especially about investment in land and farming.  All businesses need access to capital, loan facilities and other forms of investment to expand, and farmers are no exception.  In fact, farming is perhaps more dependent on this than some other businesses as farming is done at the mercy of the weather and 1000 other factors which are beyond control.  I grew up in Devon, and I well remember the devastation of the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.  Farms, livelihoods and businesses were utterly destroyed and many farmers would have been unable to recover without subsequent investment.

Farmers in developing countries are no different.  They need to be able to access investment which helps grow their businesses in the good times, and sees them through the bad times.  Unfortunately, that’s not always been the kind of investment they’ve been able to get.  Some investment has actually taken land away from farmers, or prevented them from accessing the seeds they need, or locked them into a type of farming which is heavily dependent on expensive fertilisers.  Sometimes this has happened because of ignorance, but sometimes it has happened because investors have looked for a quick profit rather than a ‘wild-meadow opportunity’.

On Friday I’ll be heading to a UN Summit on Food – or, the “39th Session of the Committee on World Food Security”.  Quite.  Governments, investors, farmers, NGOs and UN agencies will come together to discuss Responsible Agricultural Investment, amongst other things.  Tearfund wants to see a few things included in the discussions.  We want to see investment that focuses on smallholder farmers, who need it most.  Investment that opens up farmers’ choices and power – instead of closing them down.  And investment that helps farmers adapt to the impact of climate change – so that they’re at the mercy of the changing elements just a little bit less.

Here’s hoping for progress towards these things at the Summit – I’ll report back afterwards…


  1. […] One of these was a way forward to develop principles for responsible investment in agriculture by sovereign countries, investor funds and individuals.  These are not to be confused with World Bank principles of a very similar name, but of a much more damaging nature…  There was a lot of fear amongst civil society that the World Bank principles would be taken as a starting point to develop the principles for the CFS.  However, the intense negotiations before this annual meeting meant that everyone agreed on a consultation to develop separate principles over the next 2 years.  We’re really hopeful that these principles will truly help to guide responsible agricultural investment; investment which represents wild meadow opportunities. […]

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