5 things to watch out for at the Bonn climate talks

 

Government delegates from almost every country in the world have started global talks on climate change in Bonn, Germany. What do we need to see from governments this year?

1. Keep the spirit of Paris alive and stand by their promises, to safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods

Two years ago in Paris, world leaders promised to prevent irreversible climate change, urged on by faith leaders, civil society and businesses.  Now governments must turn that promise into reality.  They must keep the momentum going to ensure the Paris Agreement delivers on its full potential. [Read more…]

Why the European elections matter for development

This is a Guest Post from Stephanie Beecroft, Advocacy Officer for EU-CORD, a network of 22 Christian Organisations in Relief and Development of which Tearfund is a member. 

If you’ve kept up with any of the news coverage or the party campaigns for the May elections in recent weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the future of the UK within Europe will be wrapped up that day.

Whether the UK should be ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the European Union is clearly an important issue for voters, but the question won’t actually be decided at the European elections. Thursday, 22 May won’t provide the backdrop for a final showdown on membership of the EU.

What the election campaigns probably haven’t told you is the importance of the European Parliament elections for the global fight EP-Elections-Word-Cloudto end poverty. And yet, they will have far-reaching consequences, impacting on the EU’s ability and willingness to support communities living in poverty or victims of disasters around the world.

The European Union as a whole is the world’s biggest donor of development and humanitarian aid and the world’s largest trading bloc. Policy and funding decisions made at EU level have a significant impact around the world. The European Parliament can play a strong and decisive role for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

It can be the difference between an EU that takes aid funding seriously and one that consistently fails to live up to its commitments. It can be the difference between an EU that cares about conflicts and crises around the world and one that turns its back and pretends not to see. It can be the difference between an EU that promotes transparency, accountability and development that works for people, and one that puts business and profits first.

Back in 2012 I supported Tearfund to lobby the European Parliament, calling on MEPs to support new laws demanding that European extractive companies publish the payments they make for oil, gas and precious minerals in countries where they operate. The EU passed this legislation last year, providing communities in natural resource-rich countries with the opportunity to see how much money their governments are receiving and hold them to account.

The European Parliament played a big role in pushing through this unprecedented legislation. If the Parliamentarians had been less favourable to the plight of those living in poverty around the world or unwilling to listen to the likes of Tearfund campaigners and partner Bishop Stephen Munga from Tanzania, that legislation might not have been passed. A European Parliament whose members are less favourable to development for the next five years might lead to the failure of policies and legislation that could be equally important for the communities that Tearfund supports.

Whatever your position on the European Union it is important to realise that decisions made by the European Parliament can have a big impact on people living in poverty and at risk of disasters around the world. Your vote and your choice of candidates in the European elections can make a difference to the direction of those decisions. Before heading to the polling station on 22 May, it’s important to know what the different candidates and parties in your constituency stand for. If you’re unsure what they think, www.electio2014.eu can help you find out.

As you head to vote in the European elections, ask yourself what kind of Europe you want to see. If that Europe is a Europe that puts people first and stands against inequality and unfair policies in the world, use your vote wisely.

For more about the elections read the EU-CORD elections briefing or the BOND election manifesto.

Meseret’s story, a member of a self help group in Ethiopia

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, written by Courtenay Cabot Venton, an international development economist, who also wrote a report for Tearfund on the benefits of transforming people’s lives through self help groups in Ethiopia.

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I meet Meseret in a town in Ethiopia called Nazareth. We are sitting in a small room, rain falling on the tin roof. As she speaks, I know that her story is one that will stay with me forever.

Conflicting emotions accompany me to Ethiopia. On the one hand, my excitement is uncontainable. Meseret is a member of a Self Help Group (SHG) program. The SHG approach is recent and has been transformative, literally eradicating extreme poverty from the inside out. It is the first approach, in 15 years of field work, that I feel could change the face of poverty within our generation.

At the same time, there is a nagging fear. I love my work, but it often leaves me feeling raw. In Ethiopia, I have had to come to terms with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Deemed a human rights violation by the UN, FGM is a common practice. One of the great gains of the SHGs has been a reduction in FGM. It was a term I had heard plenty of times. But when you spend time with people where such a practice is commonplace, the pain moves from a cerebral understanding (“isn’t this dreadful”) to a place in your heart where it does not dislodge. I struggle deeply to come to terms with the fact that women elders are implicit in its outworking, holding down the girls and performing the ceremony without any form of anesthesia, in order to protect the girls’ purity for their future husbands. The knowledge takes my faith in humanity and buries it deep down in the ground, in places so dark that I struggle to reconnect.

And then there are the stories that provide the lifeline to my faith in the power of good. Enter Meseret. She wants to be able to write her story so that other women will know that they can also change their future-and I offer to write it on her behalf.

This is what she tells me.

“I grew up in a town called Fiche, the eldest of five. I came from a poor family, but we managed to get by. I went to school and had plans to attend university.

When I was 14, my world changed. My father fell ill and died four days later. Every day I would come home from school to find my mother crying. She had been completely dependent on my father, and we had no income. As the eldest, I had to find a way to support my family, and I began to make and sell a local beer after school.

When I was 18, my mother arranged for me to marry an older, richer man; I did not like him. I had promised my childhood sweetheart, Belay, that we would marry when we were old enough. Belay had his family send the elders to ask for my hand in marriage, and my mother agreed.

The next year I had my first child, a daughter named Kalkidan. The three of us moved to Nazareth-a bigger town-to find work. We came with 50 Birr ($2.50); it was all that we had. We rented a very small room and slept on the floor. There was no money for food, and I struggled to nurse my baby. My husband managed to find work as a laborer. They provided him with lunch, and he would save aside a small portion in a plastic bag and bring it home to me.

Some of the women who lived near me invited me to join their self help group. I would notice them meeting each week, and they explained to me that they were supporting each other, finding ways to improve their community, and saving small sums of money to support their efforts and start small businesses. At first I thought “how can you even think that you can change your life by saving 1 Birr a week?”

As I became more involved, I started small business activities and my income started to grow. I also found myself growing in confidence. I applied for a local job at the government offices and was given the post-this was a huge step forward for me. But my husband didn’t like it; I was disrupting the traditional roles. He began to beat me every single night. And every morning I would walk down to the government office for my day’s work, sore from my beatings, knowing what was awaiting me at home.

My husband finally gave me an ultimatum: him or my work. I chose my work. I knew that I deserved to be independent, to ensure a future for my children. I had also witnessed my mother’s struggle to cope even with everyday life after my father died. My parents had worked hard to give me an education, and I was determined to honor that and make my own future. My husband left for another city to go and find work.

Shortly after my husband left, my mother died. The women in my SHG took turns, each one staying with me for the day and then overnight. They were like surrogate mothers, holding me as if I were their daughter.

My income from my small businesses started to grow, and my job promoted me. I was able to send my daughter to school, I built a small house, and bought furniture. My husband came back after two years, and was amazed at what I had accomplished. I told him that he could never come back into my life unless he was prepared to respect and honor me, and that if he ever raised his hand again, I would leave him immediately. It was hard, but we found ways to reconcile and forgive. Now, he always consults me whenever there is a problem in the community, and he looks after the children so that I can go to night school.”

When I ask Meseret, or any of the women in the community, how long she thinks her self help group will stay together, her first response is a confused expression. Then the smile creeps across her face, and she begins to laugh, as if I had been trying to pull a joke. “We will be together forever. We are sisters.”

On my last day in Nazareth, Meseret tells me how they have recently stopped a woman from giving away her child, whom she couldn’t afford to keep. I can’t even begin to imagine having to choose between children, selling one so that I might feed another enough to prevent starvation. The women in the SHG convinced the woman to keep her child, and told her that they would support her.

Meseret is now the chairperson of women and children’s affairs for the local government, acts as a leader for the SHG group network, and is getting her degree in human resources management. “I hope to continue to help other women to become part of SHGs,” she tells me, “so that they can also change their future.”

I often put her picture up on my computer while I am working. When I look at her, I see the incredible brightness in her eyes that tells me that this is a woman who has overcome, and who knows she will help others to do the same.

Tearfund currently has 200,000 SHG members in Ethiopia, impacting over 1 million people.

One Hen, a Boston-based charity, is helping to expand this approach with youth.

Catching Fire: The odds are never in our favour

Roll up, roll up! For more bread and circuses. Everyone has been raving about The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, released today, ever since the original film came out last year. The latest film fuses the reality-type show of Big Brother, the horror of Lord of the Flies, the sinister surveillance of Orwell’s 1984, and the glamour of Strictly Come Dancing, all in one.

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The cruelty of fighting to the death continues with more games; the victors of the first games, Katniss and Peeta, are warned by their mentor Haymitch: ‘From now on, your job is to be a distraction so that people forget what the real problems are.’ The Games and its victors-cum-celebrities are used as ‘entertainment’ to distract from the real problems of impoverished and starving people in the Districts outside the Capitol of Panem. Just as Roman emperors placated the masses with ‘bread (panem) and circuses’ or gladiators.

We might kid ourselves that this is just a film, set in a horrific future world, that doesn’t reflect our lives today. But, at some point, I’m sure that we’ve all chosen to watch some light-hearted entertainment on TV like I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here where we’re encouraged to laugh at other people’s uncomfortable experiences.

I already see signs of us living in a world of inequality, not far off The Hunger Games trilogy, and the ways in which we distract ourselves from the real problems, like the citizens of the Capitol do. We go shopping for clothes or stuff that we don’t really need and ignore a homeless person on the street. We buy more food than we need and throw away £60 worth every month, whilst more and more people rely on food banks to feed their families each week.

Foodbanks shouldn’t have to exist, but they are a last resort. A man in West Sussex, who received a food parcel while he was on probation until his benefits were sorted, was so grateful his local Foodbank in Chichester existed: ‘I had a difficult decision to make, do I pay the deposit on a flat and starve or eat and remain homeless? The foodbank has allowed me to pay my deposit and not go hungry.’

This kind of disparity is highlighted in Catching Fire as we see a flash of graffiti: ‘The odds are never in our favour’ as Katniss and Peeta go on a victory tour through the Districts. The citizens of the Capitol gorge themselves and wear ridiculously extravagant costumes, pursuing their own happiness. While those in the Districts starve and are oppressed; any sign of protest or discontent is beaten out of them.

This makes me ask myself, do we ensure that the odds are never in the favour of others? Could we be perpetuating the terrible living conditions of others and increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots by the way that we live and distracting ourselves from what’s really going on?

If the heroine in Catching Fire is Katniss, who becomes a beacon of hope and justice, inspiring rebellious uprisings in the Districts, then my hero in the real world of inequality is Claudio Oliver, an inspiring urban farmer, married to Katia, in Brazil, where the divide between the rich and poor is rising.

Claudio shared his vision with me: ‘I want to stop people from thinking of consumerism and poverty just in material terms and to start to understand a person living in poverty as someone who doesn’t have a friend, as someone who is lonely.’

‘And the best way to make friends is to start doing something communal.  A great way to start is in our own homes, our gardens, by starting to work the soil and sharing its fruits with our neighbours we can rebuild communities.

‘The practice of living in community with one another and being in touch with creation is being lost, as many people become increasingly busy, pressurised and isolated. People need meals, families, communities and laughing.  There is nothing like meals being at the centre of our life. Not a career. But the centre of the household.’

Claudio promotes community living, values relationships and an alternative way of life based on responsible consumption and recycling waste in Brazil.

I’m inspired by his approach to tackle the real problems of inequality head on so that we can prevent the extreme situation of ‘the odds are never in our favour’ in the film Catching Fire.

Why not respond to this article by doing this Rhythms’ action of connection?
Time for a sandwich: spend some time talking with a homeless person and while you’re at it, offer to buy them a sandwich. For more action ideas sign up to Rhythms today.

Full steam ahead!

By Cath Candish

So it’s here. The long awaited Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit has finally arrived, and I am sitting in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London. There’s something of the cruise ship about this building.

Its grey angular body juts aggressively into the elegant Westminster landscape. But once inside, smooth lines, space and light make it the ideal place for a conference; not least one that could be about turning a ship around – or a fleet of ships – for that would seem the challenge of the OGP.  It’s the challenge of how to engineer the tough turn-around from a default compass setting of ‘information is power and closed government is the way forward’, to instead set sail and make for the fresh winds of public scrutiny, engagement and open government.

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‘Transparency is an idea whose time has come’, was Francis Maude’s much quoted phrase today at the OGP, but even though transparency is increasingly protected in law, there is nothing inexorable about its progress. The OGP aims to help governments inspire one another through the tough process of reform. Turning those government ships around is going to take time and commitment.

Now is the time, but is there the commitment, especially as the G20 looms on next year’s horizon?

Britain, the host of this year’s summit, can be seen as Admiral of the fleet. This morning David Cameron announced to us that a central register of company beneficial ownership will be made open and accessible to the public. This is real progress, that if properly implemented, forces shell company beneficiaries out of the shadows. But as the British Government knows well, the work doesn’t end here.

One of the first places to start is the budget. Tearfund would like to see OGP member countries join the fiscal transparency working group, to agree together on how to make year on year progress towards greater fiscal openness.  Because, Tearfund has found that once the process of fiscal transparency begins, people develop an expectation that goes beyond budgets. They want to know more information and have more say about more policies, how they are made and implemented. 

I care about all this because I have seen with my own eyes that corruption is indeed a deadly disease that breeds poverty: the desperate ingrained kind; conflict: the protracted complex kind; and hopelessness: breeding the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ approach. But this disease is preventable: ‘Transparency’, as one Mexican participant famously said, ‘is like a vaccination against corruption’.

What does it say to the rest of the world, that the OGP was started by a handful of countries, including US and UK? Some say they prefer to seek African solutions to African problems. But corruption is not an African problem as much as it is a global one; the globalisation process has deepened, entrenched, and tossed it around into ever more complex international waters.

It will take a global solution, and a host of local ones, to turn these ships around. The question remains as to whether the UK will lead the fleet on to the G20 next year, encouraging other members to follow our example. Will we continue the momentum of progress made this year into the next, or will we cast adrift on a raft of our own complacency? Full steam ahead!

 

Lifting the veil of secrecy on land deals

As the British Prime Minister hosts a pre-G8 Summit on Saturday, Open for Growth, and G8 leaders meet in Northern Ireland next Monday, they should shine a light on land deals to give people in developing countries more control over their land and protect poor small-scale farmers from land grabs.

In the run up to the events, the UK has recognised that lack of transparency around land deals can both create a barrier to responsible investment, and weaken livelihoods and ignore rights of local communities.

ImageMeanwhile, Tearfund’s local partner in Peru, Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), has been working on issues related to land tenure and use, and their latest research shows why urgent action is needed globally (summary report in Spanish).

Their report shows that environmental damage, social conflicts and loss of food security are security are some of the worrying consequences of the way that land deals or concessions are happening. However, the main concern is that indigenous groups lose control over their land, as they often play no part in negotiations about concessions and have little access to usable information.

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Concentration of land in the hands of large companies is proceeding at a rapid pace, as shown in the full report. For example, in some departments in Peru, mining concessions cover nearly two thirds of the land, as shown in this graph.

This has contributed to a number of worrying impacts in Peru:

  • Reduced food security as land is turned over to agricultural exports. This can be seen in the increasing amount of food being imported into the country, the value of which rose from US$ 510 million in 1991 to US$ 2,429 million in 2008.
  • Social conflicts:  230 social conflicts were reported in Peru as of the end of 2012. Conflicts related to environmental issues, including loss of access to water for small-scale agriculture, as it was diverted to large scale agriculture and mining activities, was a particular issue that accounted for nearly two-thirds (150) of all cases.
  • Environmental damage.  The pressure placed on land, by the extractive industry and large scale agricultural activities, often creates environmental liabilities, as well as effects on the health of the population. The mono-cropping of vast areas of the Amazon for pine nut or sugar cane for biofuel has also led to similar damage.
  • Loss of control over indigenous peoples’ territories.  Despite the existence of many so-called “dialogue” processes that take place between the mining companies and communities, the report shows that these have often ended up being unfair because the indigenous people’s leaders have little or no technical or legal information on which to base their negotiations. Related to this is the lack of official information on the actual amount of land that has been granted in concessions.

One case that illustrates this is of a Korean company ECOAMERICA, which was sold 72,000 hectares of supposedly uninhabited land for agricultural development for less than 50 pence a hectare.  The communities found out about the deal months later, took legal action and won the first court case, which was then overturned by a higher court. Last year, the Constitutional Court finally ruled in favour of the communities, although they claim that activities are still continuing on their lands.

Tearfund’s partner, Peace and Hope, strongly recommends the following, based on their report:

  1. Consultation – for any process in which communities may be affected by natural resource exploration or development activities, ensuring that the consultations are conducted in good faith and in the language of the population, with legal and technical assistance and true and fair intercultural dialogue.
  2. Indigenous land titles – the state must prioritise the titling of land for native and rural communities. This requires coordinated efforts between the Ministry of Agriculture and the regional governments, and must include contributions from civil society.
  3. Transparency – of commercial transactions affecting indigenous people e.g. the websites of state bodies, such as the ministries, should provide up-to-date information.

Tearfund is part of the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, which is calling for G8 leaders to establish a global platform called a Land Transparency Initiative, which would help improve land rights in poorer countries and support the UN’s Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure. This initiative should also require land investors to share details of both their investments (which can be responsible) and engagement with affected communities. The G8 must also get its own house in order by regulating all G8-based companies investing in land so the details of all deals are shared and affected communities are involved and heard in the negotiations.

The G8 can help put hunger in a museum

“…Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can.

No need for greed or hunger.

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world.

 

You, you may say

I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

I hope, some day, you’ll join us,

And the world will live as one…”

These lyrics from John Lennon come to mind as I dream of a future world. Can you imagine a world without hunger? Imagine IF…

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I’m passionate about seeing a world in 2050 where future generations won’t have any recollection of people being hungry.  Children of future generations will be able to enjoy and experience this kind of world

So is Maxwell, a 41 year old chief of his village in Malawi, near Blantyre.

“I would like to see every person be able to feed their family,” he says.

This is my dream.  Throughout a world of 9bn people, everyone has enough food to eat.  They eat healthy meals together, as families and communities.  Children go to school on a full stomach.  Some grow their own on farms, allotments or urban rooftops.

Food is produced and consumed sustainably and efficiently.  People and economies all over the world are resilient to rare food price spikes.  Farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives, governments, unions and civil society have established standards for sustainability and they are accountable for them.

Babies all over the world have nutritious food and children have a varied diet, rich in micro-nutrients, so that their brains and bodies develop fully.

Government leaders all over the world prioritise food security high on their agenda and in their national budgets.

Consumers eat more sustainably as they are more connected to people who produce the food and understand the impact on people’s livelihoods and resources. People buy more fair trade products.  They buy food that reflects the true cost of producing it, including the impact on the environment.

Many economies have diversified out of agriculture, but farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America earn enough to feed their families and get a good price for their own produce.  They withstand droughts and floods.  Another 1bn people in rural areas buy all of their food.  Most food that is produced, stored and processed reaches the consumer. Many use organic methods and limited chemical fertilisers to ensure that nutrients stay in the soil.

Women, who rely on small-scale farming, rearing livestock and fishing, have their own seeds, livestock, land, tools and technical advice to feed their families, and produce more nutritious food.  Good roads mean that they can earn money on open, fair and well-functioning markets.

Young people, farmers’ organizations and indigenous people are empowered with more rights.  Land, fisheries and forests are governed more responsibly and transparently.  Plans are in place, which mean that most people, governments and businesses use energy, land and water efficiently and sustainably.  Investments in agriculture and value chains are responsible and are held accountable.

We can achieve this world in 2050, but only collectively.  

Tearfund’s local partner organisation in Malawi, called Eagles, helps farmers to learn about conservation farming, which produces high yields of drought-resistant crops, and pass on the learning to others.

Conservation farming techniques, together with projects to help people diversify their incomes like savings and loans clubs, help Maxwell and his neighbours to face the future.

And with a chief like Maxwell, who is proud of his village and wants to lead his neighbours away from dependency to lives of self-sufficiency, there is hope

‘My hope for this village is that I want to see that every household member has enough food for his household,’ he says.

So how do we get there?

Here’s one we prepared earlier, at Tearfund!  This smart video animation shows how the G8 can help put hunger in a Museum.  A family finds out how hunger was eradicated.  Starting with a meeting of G8 world leaders in June 2013, it spells out some of the actions required and significant turning points from 2013 to see a world free of hunger now in 2050.

On Saturday 8 June, thousands of supporters will gather at a Big IF rally in Hyde Park to call on the British Prime Minister to lead the G8 to act now on ending global hunger. After repeated calls from the IF campaign, the Prime Minister will hold a “Hunger Summit” on the same day to address this silent scandal.

Love food, hate waste

This blog was published on Reuters Alertnet first here

Half of all the food produced globally is wasted and never makes it onto the plate.

Half of the food bought in Europe and the US is thrown away.

That’s like throwing cash in the bin. The latest report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Global Food: Waste not, Want not addresses one of today’s biggest challenges: how to produce more food and eat sustainably in world of finite resources.

I buy peaches in my local shop in the UK fully intending to eat them, but then discover them a week later all rotten.

So why do I do it?  Do I really need to buy a whole punnet of peaches, when I have other food to eat?

It doesn’t always cross my mind that I’m throwing away a harvest which farmers in developing countries worked hard to produce.  But that’s what it means for farmers like Haringa Ram in India who are often limited to growing one crop a year, cut down meals, and have to take loans to feed their family and to buy animal fodder for his cattle.  It’s scandalous that we throw away food, while one person in eight – the equivalent of the combined populations of Europe, Canada, Australia and the US – goes hungry every night.

Largely, we waste food because we get used to buying more than we need and we have the choice.  But farmers like Haringa Ram don’t have that choice.  And they struggle with poor storage facilities, roads, transport and markets.  China, for example, loses 45% of all rice produced.

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Women farming in India. Pic: Layton Thompson/Tearfund

On my travels with Tearfund, farmers have woefully described food rotting in poor storage facilities in India, rats eating harvests in Myanmar, locusts in the Sahel (West Africa) and elephants trampling all over crops in Chad.

It’s not just the food that is wasted, but also all the resources used to produce food: land, energy, water and fertilizers.  That’s an unnecessary waste of valuable resources that are gone forever, once used.

This is crazy, as we face an increasing pressure on resources needed to produce food – water, land and energy – for a growing population.

Meat eating will almost double by 2050, according to the report. Already a third of all cereal produced globally is fed to animals. Beef requires 50 times more water than vegetables in the processing stage.

It worries me when my friend in Nigeria tells me that he sees a trend in people wanting the ‘good life’ that they see in the West, and modelling their lifestyle in a similar way.  Clearly, that is not sustainable all over the world.

We have lost our connection with food producers. We cannot continue with unsustainable eating patterns that mean there is less food available globally, especially for people in developing countries, and that degrade land, soil, and water.  We must change our attitudes and behaviour: farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers alike.

The UK’s Prime Minister has promised to tackle hunger at the G8 summit this year, which could be a key step forward in ending hunger.  He must stick to his promises to increase both aid and funding for farmers to adapt to changes in the climate through the UN Green Climate Fund. Farmers and herders, especially women, need seeds, livestock, land, tools and technologies that can equip them to feed their families, to produce more nutritious food, store it, get it to market, earn money and stop their children being hungry.

We must tackle the deep inequalities in the global food system which allow a few to make billions while leaving hardworking smallscale farmers and ordinary people to struggle to eat enough.

Consumers in developed countries could change the world by shopping more simply. Everyone has different eating habits, but we can buy little and often, not more than we need, plan meals before shopping, be creative with leftovers, buy fair-trade, shop locally and buy food in season. We all have a key role to play, from farm to plate.

Going for Gold in the Race Against Hunger

This blog was first published on Huffington Post here

It’s been a very exciting and emotional two weeks cheering on the Olympians, but the highlight for me was Cameron leaving a legacy of London 2012 beyond even our exceptional haul of medals by hosting a global hunger event bringing together sportspeople and senior politicians from Brazil, Kenya, Bangladesh and India. When he could have been celebrating his twin gold medals elsewhere, instead the Somalia-born Mo Farah was running up a temporary race track outside Number 10 Downing Street to angle his spotlight towards global hunger.

Cameron and Mo Farah

It may be the end of the Olympics, but the UK has blown the starting whistle on efforts to tackle hunger over the next year. This is a significant achievement by the UK government, announcing new political commitments on hunger. Tearfund, and many others, will of course be urging the UK government to continue to show global leadership by putting hunger high on the G8 agenda in 2013, to take concrete action that will change people’s lives for good. Ireland too will add momentum by using its EU presidency to urge action on hunger and on climate change.

“Inspire a generation” has been the Olympic motto. We can truly be proud of London 2012 if it leaves a legacy of political commitment to accelerate and intensify the fight against hunger, which will see a generation not only inspired but more able to realise fully their potential. By the time the first note of the Olympics’ 2016 opening ceremony sounds in Rio, we expect to have made real progress in reducing the number of under-fives whose growth is stunted – currently 25 million.

Serguem Silva, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Brazil, told methat world leaders should follow Brazil’s example of championing hunger at the highest political level which has brought success in reducing malnutrition. And so, as the UK passes on the baton to Brazil for the Olympic games, every single one of us is on the same team in the race against hunger.

The challenge of malnutrition and stunting isn’t only about nutritious food. We need to tackle the causes of food insecurity as a whole. Malnutrition and food crises in both East and West Africa, as well as other world regions, are warning signs of a broken food system in our world. World leaders, civil society and businesses can prevent food crises by investing in small scale farmers (particularly female farmers, who are so often overlooked), improving their access to markets, helping them to adapt to climate change and high food prices, tackling land use and rights, and changing production and consumption patterns to reduce pressure on scarce natural resources. Preventing 25m children from being stunted is a superb start and it’s my hope and prayer that it will kick off the work necessary to help the 1 billion people who go hungry every night.

Matthew Frost, CEO of Tearfund

Supporting smallholders in securing global food security

This is a guest blog (originally posted here, also seen on Huffington Post) by Jeremy Lefroy, Conservative MP for Stafford and a member of the International Development Select Committee. From 1989 to 2000, he and his family lived in Tanzania where he worked in the coffee industry. Upon returning to the UK, he continued work assisting smallholder farmers in East Africa and founded Equity for Africa which provides equity-type funding for small businesses. Jeremy recently visited Tearfund’s work with partners in Rwanda and guest blogs here in a personal capacity.

This weekend, as London 2012 draws to a close, David Cameron will be chairing a conference at Downing Street about tackling malnutrition among the world’s poorest children.

I hope that this meeting is the start of a concerted effort by the UK – which holds the G8 Presidency in 2013 – to encourage the world to take hunger and malnutrition seriously.

Mo Farah, British 10000m gold medal winner, will attend the Hunger Summit at No.10 on Sunday 12 August

At least one billion people suffer from chronic hunger, more than at any other time in history; and food security for much of the rest of the world is increasingly fragile. The International Grain Council estimates that globally, we currently have enough grain to feed the global population for 72.4 days. This figure is expected to fall to 66.9 by 2013 and decrease further in subsequent years.

The world’s population, currently just over 7 billion, is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050. Food production needs to rise to meet basic needs, let alone the consequences of changing diets.

The 500 million small farms (less than 2 hectares)  in developing countries, where farmers and their families work their own land supporting some 2 billion people, will play a vital role. They have often been thought of as inefficient when compared with larger estates.

With the right support, that is not the case. When smallholder farmers have access to technical advice, inputs, and technologies, including high-yielding seeds, affordable fertilizer, and irrigation, they can be as efficient as much larger farms, sometimes more so.

I have been working with smallholder farmers in various ways for the past 25 years. Official development organisations largely ignored them in the 1980s and 1990s. In the UK, it was NGOs such as Tearfund, Oxfam, Cafod, TWIN, Christian Aid and Equal Exchange which supported them and showed how important they are to the global economy and food security. The cooperative and fair trade movements brought their work to greater prominence in the UK, now the largest fair trade market in the world. Just as important has been the contribution of many private sector companies that worked have alongside smallholder farmers year in, year out.

I am glad to say that governments are now recognising the importance of smallholders. Even so, recognition is one thing. What is needed is action. Below I set out some action which could be taken – indeed which is being taken in some countries.

Land title

For smallholder farmers, security of title is vital. Without it, land is at risk to land grabs – sadly increasingly common – and local disputes. In Rwanda last year, with the International Development Committee of the House of Commons (IDC), I saw how a nationwide land registration scheme supported by DFID is working in villages.  By 2015, at least 6.4 million people will have title deeds to their land. As well as meaning that land cannot be sold without the consent of the owner, farmers can use land as collateral to borrow to invest and raise productivity.

Nutrition, crop diversity and pooling of land

From 2007 to 2008, during the last food price crisis, the number of undernourished people in the world rose by 40 million to a total of 963 million and has continued to rise since. Crop diversity – grains, fruits, vegetables and cash crops – is important for food security, nutrition and incomes which is why farmers tend to plant many different crops on even the smallest of plots.

An advantage of secure land title is that plots can be pooled while retaining individual ownership.  If land is pooled, instead of each family allocating small areas to every crop, larger areas can be planted in the most suitable sites within the pooled area.

A scheme along these lines is being implemented, also in Rwanda – the Land Use Consolidation farming model to improve land management and agricultural productivity while maintaining crop diversity. Farmers in a given area grow the priority food crops in a synchronized fashion while keeping their land rights intact. Consolidation is voluntary, but it is a prerequisite for gaining the benefits such as subsidized inputs under Crop Intensification Program (CIP).  Since its introduction in 2008, the consolidated production of priority crops under CIP has brought significant increases in food production.

Water

Too little attention has been given to water usage and security, despite the warnings that access to water is likely to be one of the major sources of conflict in the coming decades. Agriculture is estimated to use 70 per cent of the world’s available freshwater. With the water needs of the world’s increasing population, it will need to use water much more efficiently than at present.

Rainwater harvesting, using earth dams or from roofs; drip irrigation for smallholders; growing under polytunnels; recycling of water used in crop processing – all this can be done with relatively small investment. Yet funding for all these, whether from commercial or subsidised sources, is too little despite the clear short- and long-term returns.

In Chiansi, Zambia, the IDC saw how major irrigation schemes could be developed for the benefit of larger farms and smallholders alike. One farmer told me how he was already earning two hundred dollars a month from the crops produced on his smallholding using the irrigation infrastructure from the larger project. I believe that close cooperation between large and small farms in the same area has great benefits, not just for shared irrigation but also processing and marketing. It also brings greater social cohesion.

Storage, rural roads and value-added processing

Proper storage facilities are one of the most effective ways of improving food security. In June, with the IDC I visited Bamyan province in Afghanistan. There about half of the potatoes grown either go to waste or are sold very cheaply at harvest time because they cannot be stored properly. The US Agency for International Development helped to build 50 potato storage facilities in the province in 2008. This is a start but this is sufficient for just 2% of annual production.

In DR Congo, I and my colleagues on the IDC saw the difference a reasonable road, with DFID funding, could make to farmers. A journey of 80 kms, which had taken 5 days, was cut to 2-3 hours, reducing transport costs and meaning that fresh produce was much less likely to go to waste.

Food processing is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, yet it is undervalued in many developing countries. In Afghanistan, crops are sent to neighbouring countries and then returned, processed and packaged. If this value were to be added in Afghanistan, it would bring jobs, income and tax revenues there. Processing factories would also give farmers another market for their produce.

Research and extension services

Research and extension services have often been neglected in recent years. This is partly because they are easy targets for government cutbacks and partly because of the reduced importance of state marketing boards, which often collected a levy on the sale of crops to finance research and extension.

But here there is a clear role for public private partnerships. Responsible private investors recognise the importance of ‘common goods’ such as research and agricultural extension services. By financing efficient and locally run research stations they can make an invaluable contribution to the continued growth of the industry. A good example is in Tanzania where tea research is now done by the Tea Research Institute of Tanzania (TRIT) (an industry-run and financed institute) which has acquired an excellent reputation. There is no reason why the same model could not be used for extension services.

Supporting smallholders

Smallholder farmers are essential partners in achieving food security and reducing malnutrition and poverty. They need long-term commitment both from their own governments and the international community. This is not just a question of aid. Smallholder farmers are businesswomen and businessmen who need access to finance, fair and efficient markets and reliable infrastructure.

I look forward to the UK using its presidency of the G8 to championing the role of smallholder farmers globally and ensuring that their voice is heard and their contribution recognised.

Declarations of interest: Jeremy Lefroy MP is a member of the IDC; director and trustee (UNAid) of TWIN; has been involved in businesses working with smallholder farmers in Africa and South America since 1986.