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.
Through its agrarian trading position, the import and export of agricultural products, and the export of the Dutch agricultural model, the Netherlands is now inextricably part of the global agricultural system.
"Dutch agriculture and our role in the worldwide food system have an enormous impact on farmers, the climate, food security, market development and the environment in the Global South," says Nout van der Vaart, policy officer for food and agriculture at Oxfam Novib.
"Dutch farmers are showing that things can be done differently, with a positive impact on food security and biodiversity in the rest of the world," says John Arink of Caring Farmers. "We would like to see that positive role reflected in our national and international agricultural policy, so that it offers prospects for farmers around the world."
Dutch agricultural policy beyond our borders
After the presentation of the Agriculture Agreement, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are expected to draw up an International Strategy for Sustainable Agriculture. The authors of and signatories to the manifesto published today call on the government to ensure that Dutch agricultural policy as a whole benefits farmers both in the Netherlands and in Asian, African and Latin American countries. That means it should relate not only to agriculture but also to foreign trade and investment policy.
"Farmers in many countries outside Europe are suffering the consequences of trade agreements between their countries and the Netherlands or the EU," says Karin van Boxtel of Both ENDS. "These agreements contain clauses limiting the use of and trade in indigenous seeds. This restricts the opportunities of small-scale farmers to adapt seeds and plants to quickly changing weather conditions and thus to ensure the supply of sufficient food. It also makes them dependent on the seeds and associated pesticides of large multinationals. Moreover, trade agreements allow the large-scale sale of cheap milk powder and chicken meat from the EU, which hampers the development of local milk production and poultry farming."
Conversely, Dutch farmers will feel the impact of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement, under which meat and other products from South America produced under lower standards than those in force in the EU will be available on the Dutch market.
Fair and sustainable
The signatories to this manifesto believe that things can be done very differently. The Netherlands can ensure that its foreign agricultural policy contributes in a fair and sustainable way to local food security and biodiversity in the countries where it currently has an enormous agrarian footprint. The manifesto presents a number of practical suggestions for achieving this.
"We see the Netherlands applying double standards," says Violet Matiru of MCDI Kenya. "They want to increase food security here, but at the same time they promote trade that does not benefit farmers and consumers in Kenya. A good example is the flower sector, in which the Netherlands is a leading actor. In a country like Kenya, where people are dying of hunger, flowers are being produced on a large scale that are non-edible and do not contribute to food security."
The manifesto is an initiative of a group of organisations including Both ENDS and Oxfam Novib. It is still open for signatures until 8 May. It will be presented to Dutch parliament on Tuesday 9 May, so that the proposals it suggests can be included in the International Strategy for Sustainable Agriculture.
For more information
Read more about this subject
Publication / 24 April 2023
Publication / 30 October 2023
News / 4 May 2023
Our manifesto "The Dutch Agriculture Agreement reaches further than the Netherlands: offer prospects for sustainable farmers and consumers worldwide" has now been signed by over 70 civil society organisations, agricultural organisations and companies, environmental organisations and scientists from around the world. Below, a few of them give their personal motivation why they support the manifesto.
Press release / 7 March 2022
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.
News / 16 November 2023
Disposable fashion items continue to flood into the country, the nitrogen crisis has brought construction to a standstill and energy poverty is on the rise, but Dutch politicians are contemplating their navels. These are problems that we can never solve on our own. The clothes we wear, the food on our plates, and the electricity that comes out of our wall sockets – they are all produced in global trade and production chains. With far-reaching consequences, both in our own country and far, very far beyond our borders. It would be naive to think that we can solve all these problems through domestic policies alone. And vice versa: we would be evading our responsibilities if we continued to believe that the Netherlands only plays a humble role on the global stage. Latest figures show that the Netherlands is the fourth largest exporter and the seventh largest importer of products worldwide. With the elections on the way, it is time to look beyond our own small country. Because it is also important to vote with a worldwide impact.
Blog / 16 February 2021
The Netherlands can contribute much to making agriculture sustainable – nationally and internationally
If the Netherlands wants to make its agriculture and livestock industry sustainable and to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their products, it will also have to look beyond its own borders. The Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products. We have a great impact because, through our trade relations, we uphold a system of intensive agriculture that destroys ecosystems and undermines local production. Partly due to our trade in agricultural products, the Dutch economy is has a large, and growing, footprint. That should and can be different: the Netherlands is in a good position to lead the required transition in agriculture. Fortunately, the party manifestos for the coming elections offer sufficient opportunities to set that in motion. A new coalition can thus take decisive new steps.
Elections are soon to be held in the Netherlands. The political parties are sharpening their knives and have outlined their plans in hefty manifestos. Not surprisingly, they mainly focus on domestic issues. International themes are primarily addressed in terms of opportunities for Dutch companies and threats in areas like health, privacy and competition that we need to protect ourselves against. But if we want to make the Netherlands sustainable, we especially need to look at our footprint beyond our own borders and make every effort to reduce it. In the weeks leading up to the elections, Both ENDS looks at where the parties' manifestos offer opportunities to achieve that.
News / 14 December 2023
In the weeks following the elections, Both ENDS is looking at how Dutch foreign policy can be influenced in the coming years to reduce our footprint abroad and to work in the interests of people and planet. We will be doing that in four double interviews, each with an in-house expert and someone from outside the organisation.
Publication / 7 November 2022
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.
News / 14 March 2021
A number of our colleagues at Both ENDS made a lot of noise at various locations around the country today, as part of the national Klimaatalarm (Climate Alarm) campaign. Annelieke Douma gave a short speech in Haarlem on the major role played by the Netherlands in climate change and environmental degradation beyond our borders. She made a number of suggestions that would immediately make Dutch foreign policy a lot more climate-friendly. Below is the text of her speech.
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.
Event / 28 September 2023, 16:00 - 17:30
What does a food system look like that serves the well-being of people and the planet?
While agriculture and livestock food production in the world have become increasingly large-scale, industrial and ever more efficient for decades, the damage and inequality this food system causes is also becoming increasingly clear. Across the world, more and more people are therefore engaged in alternative, sustainable food production that ensures many generations to come to still have access to fertile, healthy land and clean water.
In this talkshow, we highlight some of these examples and hope to fuel the dialogue about this topic.
- Rosinah Mbenya - PELUM Kenya (via Zoom)
- Matt Canfield - University of Leiden
- Ida Simonsen - Dutch UN Youth Representative Biodiversity and Food
- John Arink - Ekoboerderij Arink (biodynamic farmer)
Farid Tabarki - Studio Zeitgeist
Inspired? Join our 'The Future We See' - talkshow on September 28th! You can either attend live or online, quietly listen or actively participate in the discussion - or during the drinks afterwards. We hope to see you there!
Also take a look at our previous session
To get a glimpse of the atmosphere, see a short video of our last session (about economic systems): https://youtu.be/AUNGcROovnc
And to dive in a little deeper, watch this compilation: https://youtu.be/nzuwIREeiNo
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.
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.
Publication / 7 March 2022
Publication / 1 September 2017
Publication / 2 November 2021
News / 20 June 2021
South Africa is the home of rooibos, an ancient, health giving herbal infusion, discovered thousands of years ago by the KhoiSan, indigenous peoples of the Southern part of Africa. During the last century, rooibos has been increasingly commercialised, mainly by white South African farmers who produce it on a very large scale, causing environmental damage, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. Fortunately, small-scale, environmentally sound and community-led rooibos cultivation initiatives also exist. Our long-standing South African partner Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) has, for more than two decades, been involved in this type of rooibos cultivation with the communities in the Suid Bokkeveld, in the western part of South Africa. Although it was not always easy, Noel Oettle, senior advisor at EMG, thinks this way of producing is the future.