The Earth Summit 2012 Should Give Strong Support To Small Scale Sustainable Agriculture

Aksel Nærstad, Senior policy advisor at the Development Fund, Norway


Agriculture is the main problem in food security. However, it is also the main solution.

There are many immediate actions and practical policy initiatives which can be implemented now that will immediately strengthen food sovereignty, reduce environmental damage and support the innovative work of peasants / small scale food producers and providers. We argue the following responses will help respond to the food crisis.

  • Restore public support for agriculture to address the food crisis. Agricultural assistance declined from $8 billion in 1984 to $3.4 billion in 2004 (2004 US$). Governments should cooperate to place an annual $5 billion surtax on food oligopolies over at least the next 25 years to recoup a portion of these losses. The recovered funds should go directly to peasants’ organisations to support their initiatives.
  • Convert “land-grabs” to peasants’ fields. There is growing international recognition that the public or private internal or cross-boundary land grabs are destructive of the environment and food security. The estimated 80 million hectares of land involved in these transactions should be made available to peasants and converted into 26.7 million farms of roughly 3 hectares each.
  • Convert biofuel land to food. New policies should transfer biofuel land to landless or land-poor peasants (4.6 million families could get 3 hectares each) – potentially doubling farm production (average farm size in Africa and Asia is currently 1.6 ha). The $11 billion annual subsidy should support agro-ecological developments on the farms.
  • Secure sufficient, nutritious and appropriate foods for at least 9 billion people by 2050. Today, the cereals used for animal feed could meet the annual calorific needs of more than 3.5 billion people. The current world population is approximately 7 billion. There is no technological barrier to meeting our future food needs.
  • Adopt policies that reduce soil erosion to protect long-term food security. Today, the industrial food chain leads to an annual loss of topsoil amounting to 75 billion tonnes and costs the world $400 billion. An oligarchy of ten global fertiliser companies discourages good soil management. Peasant soil conservation systems utilising naturally occurring soil microorganisms are responsible for fixing 140-170 million tonnes of nitrogen – equivalent to $90 billion in chemical fertilisers. Policies must support these conservation strategies.
  • Reduce crop losses. Today, annual food losses equal more than half of the world’s cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes), meaning unnecessary production and roughly 500 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. Food losses in industrialised countries range between 90 and 111kg per person/ per year. New policies should immediately lower OECD crop losses by 90 per cent – at least to sub-Saharan African and Southern Asian levels of 9-11kg per person, per year.

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