Inclusive ways to sustainable and healthy food for all
All around the world small-scale farmers are using sustainable and inclusive methods to produce food. Working together with nature and each other, they provide their families and communities with sufficient and healthy food. But their production methods are under pressure from large-scale agriculture and the globally dominant system of industrial food production. Together with our partners, Both ENDS is trying to turn the tide in favour of sustainable, local practices that are mostly known as 'agro-ecological' or 'nature-inclusive'. Why are we focusing on these methods? Agro-ecological practices are climate-proof and inclusive and increase the opportunities for communities around the world to produce their food sustainably.
From Analog Forestry in Central America to organic market gardening in Kenya, from FMNR in the Sahel to NTFPs in India – all of these agro-ecological practices protect ecosystems, give local communities a voice in how they live and how they use their land, make use of local knowledge and traditions, and ensure local, sustainable food production.
While large-scale agriculture and the current global food system have led to climate change, loss of biodiversity and the depletion and degradation of millions of hectares of soil, the sustainable (or transformative) practices promoted by Both ENDS and our partners help preserve and restore (agro-)ecosystems. They are also climate-proof: largely because agro-ecology improves biodiversity, the natural balance and the quality of land and water, these practices are better able to withstand the increasingly frequent fluctuations and extremes in the weather. Healthy and biodiverse river basins and ecosystems are much more resilient and also help to combat global warming.
In addition, these practices are not based on imported technological knowledge and materials, but build on local knowledge and traditions that often go back for centuries. That knowledge is supplemented by new scientific insights into ecological processes. As a consequence the agro-ecological ecosystems that are emerging around the world in various contexts can adapt very well to changing social, economic and climatological conditions.
Being embedded at local level means that communities have much greater say in how their food is produced. They themselves manage their land and water, store and sow their own seeds and make their own biological pesticide and fertiliser. Men, women, people with or without land – everyone has a role to play in the process. The focus is on cooperation for the exchange of knowledge and inclusive decision-making within (and often between) communities, so that little input (knowledge, materials, permission) is required from outside.
Local, sustainable ways of producing food based on agro-ecological principles help to achieve food sovereignty, the capability to sustainably provide in one's own food. That is a step further than food security: while food security focuses mainly on producing sufficient food, food sovereignty is about people having control over the food they produce and consume. There is little evidence of such control in the global, industrial food system. Food produced on a large-scale often forces local, better quality products out of the market. Unlike agro-ecological and circular agriculture, large-scale agriculture rapidly depletes the soil and uses enormous quantities of water. That leads to scarcity and small-scale farmers lose access to land and water, and thereby their income. They are forced to stop farming or to participate in large-scale, non-sustainable production. This disrupts communities and harms ecosystems, and is completely unnecessary.
The focus on food security in many cases has proved not to work. Despite the worldwide increase in food production we have still not completely eradicated hunger and malnutrition. The industrial food system has proved very vulnerable to crises: climate change, natural disasters, sicknesses and war prevent food from reaching many parts of the world and cause prices – sometimes locally, but often also internationally – to rise so rapidly that buying sufficient food becomes too expensive for many people.
Both ENDS and our partners are therefore working to transform food and agricultural systems: to build local, inclusive and sustainable systems that are more resilient in the face of external factors and generate opportunities for everyone to produce their own food sustainably.
Support for local, sustainable practices
Financial and political support for these agro-ecological practices is however essential. If they are to survive and expand it is important, for example, that communities and small-scale farmers obtain better land-use rights and access to water. To achieve that, laws and rules – mostly at local level – need to be changed and implemented. It is also important that local legislation does not hamper the sale of local products.
Many systematic changes are also required at international level to promote and make possible local, sustainable food production. Trade agreements often compel countries to ban farmers and communities from harvesting and sowing seeds in favour of international seed traders with intellectual property rights on seed products. Governments help their international companies by supporting overseas activities like the construction of ports and roads to enable the bulk transport of agricultural products to the rest of the world.
Small farmers may also need financial support to get them started with sustainable food production. With a small grant, communities, cooperatives and women's groups can improve existing practices or develop new activities, for example start a new shop, set up a seed bank or draw up a marketing strategy. Both ENDS and our partners therefore call for better access to financial support for these groups. Most money still goes to large-scale, conventional agricultural projects rather than to agro-ecological methods. By focusing on small grants as an alternative to the current financial system and thus ensuring that public money is used for inclusive, sustainable practices, the necessary transformation of food and agricultural systems can be set in motion.
For more information
Read more about this subject
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of degraded land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil. They do this using a method called 'Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR)'.
Agroecology is a diverse set of agricultural practices, a field of science and a social movement. It aims to transform food systems towards greater ecological sustainability, social justice, and resilience. Both ENDS and CSO-partners around the world support farmers and pastoralists practising agroecology, both on the ground and in gathering political and financial support.
Inclusive Land Governance
Both ENDS works with partners around the world to ensure that land is governed fairly and inclusively and managed sustainably with priority for the rights and interests of local communities.
A Negotiated Approach for Inclusive Water Governance
A Negotiated Approach envisages the meaningful and long-term participation of communities in all aspects of managing the water and other natural resources on which their lives depend. It seeks to achieve healthy ecosystems and equitable sharing of benefits among all stakeholders within a river basin. This inclusive way of working is an essential precondition for the Transformative Practices that are promoted by Both ENDS and partners.
Finance for agroecology
The lion's share of public budgets for climate, agriculture and development still goes to conventional agroindustrial projects that contribute to the current climate, food and biodiversity crises. Both ENDS and our partners are calling for a transition to agroecological practices that are people- and environment-friendly.
The merits of community-based restoration
Globally, the area that is suffering desertification and land degradation is ever expanding. Unsustainable and often large-scale agricultural practices, including the copious use of pesticides and fertilisers, are a major driver of land degradation, aprocess that is further exacerbated by climate change, causing more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. This is very problematic not only for the hundreds of millions of people who directly depend on land and water for their livelihoods, but also for life on earth as a whole. It is clear that this process must be stopped and reversed, better sooner than later. But how to go about it?
Rich Forests promotes a sustainable and future-proof production system and supports, among other things, the transformation of degraded land into food forests. With this, people provide for their livelihood, increase their income and at the same time restore soil and biodiversity.
Communities Regreen the Sahel
In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil and protecting the sprouts from cattle and hazards.
Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP)
Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP) is a rights-based approach ensuring inclusive and gender-responsive land governance, especially for those whose rights to land are not fully acknowledged.
Small Grants Big Impacts
Small grants funds offer an effective, alternative way to channel big money from large donors and funds to local groups and organisations that are striving for a sustainable and just society everywhere around the world.
Press release / 21 April 2023
Manifesto: The Netherlands can reduce its international footprint with new Agricultural Agreement
The Dutch Agriculture Agreement, which is currently under development, is too much focused solely on the Netherlands. That is the opinion of a broad coalition of more than sixty NGOs, farmers' organisations, scientists and companies that have today sent an urgent letter to agriculture minister Piet Adema and foreign trade and development minister Liesje Schreinemacher. The government's agricultural policy should also aim to reduce the Netherlands' enormous agrarian footprint beyond our borders, by taking food security and the preservation of biodiversity as its starting points. The coalition has published a manifesto in which it sets out how reform of the Netherlands' foreign agricultural policy could be given shape.
Publication / 21 March 2023
News / 21 March 2023
Agua es vida: Both ENDS and water governance
Water is literally life, the lifeblood of ecosystems, of nature, of humans. However, in many places the distribution and use of water is unjust and unsustainable. Water management is generally focused on short-term economic interests, on maximizing the profit of a well-connected few at the expense of people and nature. This dominant view of water and water management has its origins in the European industrial revolution, which became the global norm through colonialism and globalization. But according to Melvin van der Veen and Murtah Shannon, water experts at Both ENDS, this view will have to give way to equitable, sustainable and inclusive water management. Both ENDS cooperates with and supports communities and organisations worldwide who are working to this end.
Blog / 12 October 2022
Op-ed in Trouw: "Give more money to local sustainable food producers in developing countries"
The Dutch government and Dutch businesses spend a lot of money on food production in developing countries. But, according to Karin van Boxtel, policy officer at Both ENDS, far too little of that money finds its way to sustainable, nature-inclusive producers.
News / 22 March 2022
World Water Day: just climate solutions already exist
These past weeks we have been joining the #WeWomenAreWater campaign to put the spotlights on just climate solutions of and for women, girls, trans, intersex and non-binary people around the world. The campaign started on International Women's Day (March 8th) and ends today, on World Water Day. Just climate solutions already exist but these initiatives are grossly underfunded, and the people implementing them are also those most impacted by climate change and climate-related water scarcity. Therefore, we would like to highlight, especially today on World Water Day, some of these solutions below. And we also have a special message from the colleagues at Both ENDS working on inclusive water governance.
News / 18 March 2022
International Forests Day: the importance of forests for livelihoods and a healthy environment
Today is International Day of Forests. An ever more important day, as the amount of forest and forested area's on this globe is shrinking at a fast pace. One the main causes is our ever increasing demand for products such as soy and palm oil from area's that have been deforested for their cultivation. The current proposed EU-deforestation law to prevent this, is not strict enough and does not include the protection of other crucial natural areas such as grasslands, savannas and swamps, as well as the human rights of the millions of people living in these area's. During these past few weeks we therefore participated in the campaign #Together4Forests, calling on citizens to send a letter to their own responsible ministers. The campaign paid off: almost 54,000 letters were sent to European ministers across the European Union, demanding a strict forest law that guarantees the import of only deforestation-free products in Europe.
To celebrate this International Day of Forests, we would like to emphasise the great value of forests and other natural areas, directly or indirectly, for the livelihoods of at least 2 billion people. Below, we selected some examples that show how, throughout the world, local communities use many different ways to collect and produce food and other natural products in a sustainable way, while protecting and restoring the forests and forested area's they are so dependent upon.
Press release / 7 March 2022
New report: investment in agroecology necessary for healthy global food system
A recent study by Profundo for Both ENDS and Oxfam Novib shows that investment in agroecology is necessary for a sustainable and inclusive global food system. Today, some 768 million – one in ten – people suffer from hunger or a severe shortage of food on a daily basis. Conflict, economic stagnation caused by the Corona epidemic, and the climate crisis present an immediate threat to the production of and access to sufficient nutritious food. Agroecology, a form of agriculture that places small-scale farmers, the natural environment and short supply chains at the centre of food production, makes communities in developing countries more resilient and helps them combat hunger. The study concludes however that major donors, including the Netherlands, are so far providing insufficient support for agroecology.
Event / 7 December 2021, 14:00 - 15:15
WEBINAR: EU's push for strong Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) on seeds
The European Union's (EU) foreign trade policy has many implications for the sustainability of food systems in developing countries, heavily impacting farmers, breeders, and citizens. The unhidden promotion by the EU of strong intellectual property rights on plants affects food systems from its very basis, i.e., the seeds that are available for farmers to grow. Amongst these intellectual property rights, the main instrument that is advocated by European authorities is the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention, which provides exclusive rights to breeders over the propagating material of new plant varieties, while diminishing the rights of others to use the material for further breeding and hampering with the rights of farmers to freely save, use, exchange and sell their seeds.
Publication / 29 November 2021
News / 30 September 2021
Agroecology in Kenya: fighting water pollution while securing food production
About 75% of Kenyans earn all or part of their income from the agriculture sector which accounts for 33% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years. Various factors have contributed to low agricultural productivity, including an overall decline in soil fertility because of the continuous removal of nutrients by crops; poor farming practices; land degradation and overuse/misuse of synthetic fertilizers that acidify the soil. The solution against these problems is: agroecology.