News / 6 September 2012

Civil Society Organizations express concerns about Summit on Agriculture in Vietnam

Last week the Hunger 4 Action Conference’ , the Second Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change took place in Hanoi. More than one hundred Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), including Both ENDS, signed a letter in which they express their concern about the conference. Crucial topics would hardly be addressed, and the voice of small farmers, cattle-breeders and fishermen would not be heard while they are responsible for about 70 percent of global food production. The letter, which also contains suggestions about how it should be, was sent to the outgoing minister Maxime Verhagen, one of the organizers of the conference.

Property theft and violation of rights are of minor importance

The conference poses a series of objections. First, during the preparation of the conference no (woman) farmer, cattle-breeder, or fisherman was included or consulted, while the conference was about these people. Secondly, the concept of “Climate Smart Agriculture” dominated. This means that the focus was mainly on expansion within agriculture with new techniques which are too expensive for small farmers and that commercial seeds, including genetically modified crops and pesticides, were stimulated. By only focusing on “climate smart” agriculture, other challenges were neglected, as well asother smart techniques and already existing sustainable solutions in agriculture. But the most important objection to the conference was that small farmers did not have the opportunity to voice their needs and practical solutions. Also, no attention was paid for the sustainable improvement of local agricultural systems by using agro-ecological agriculture. Furthermore, property theft, suffocating tenure systems and violation of land rights were not on the agenda. All these are of essential importance for small farmers, cattle-breeders and fishermen, and in accordance, for their contribution to the world’s food supply.


What should be done?
A good starting point is the IAASTD report “Agriculture at a Crossroads”, which emphasizes that ‘business as usual is no longer an option’ and that farmers should be given a central role in policy and research. Furthermore, the Committee on World Food Security started a process about food security which is a shining example of  participation in an international settingOne of the outcomes of this process is a very useful document which provides guidelines for equitable land tenure systems of agricultural land, forest and fishing grounds, promoting food security. Despite their voluntary nature, theze guidelines are a solid base for  local communities and CSOs to help governments in preventing land grab of small farmers, forest inhabitants and fishermen.


2013 and further

Had the the issues mentioned above been priority in the preparation, and had civil society been more involved from the start, the conference would have looked quite different. Emphasis would have been put on agro-ecological farming, the right to food, land- and water rights, participatory land use planning, and sustainable management of natural resources and (agro) biodiversity. Both ENDS hopes, together with the 120 other signatories of the letter, that the ministers present at the conference will take the contents of the letter into account, and  bring about a change now that they are back in their home countries.


Picture: Cristopher Schoenbohm


Letter of the CSOs to the organizers of 'Hunger 4 action'

Agriculture at a Crossroads - IAASTD

Committee on World Food Security

Read more about this subject