On 3rd July in Brussels, FARM presented the conclusions of the electronic forumit organised in preparation for the international conference "Who will feed the world ? Towards diverse and sustainable agriculture for driving development
".Summaries of the contributions were drawn up for each of the issues discussed.
The electronic forum “Who will feed the world ?” was the opportunity for a wide number of internet users to make their contribution in preparation of an important international event dealing with farming, a current issue and of concern to public opinion.
The consultation was structured around six issues examining the role of agriculture in development and growth as well as the types of governance of the various agricultures of the world. Over 500 people followed the discussions and over 200 messages were received during the two months of the discussions with a wide-ranging French-speaking audience a third of whom were from Africa.
Rich and lively discussions enabled conflicting points of view to be aired and the presentation of many successful accounts of agricultural development around the world. A consensus has been arrived at : investment in agriculture is required to give it back a role in driving forward development.
Question 1 : What are the opportunities for local production in a context characterised by profitable world markets ?
Important investment and pro-active public policies are needed for removing the constraints farmers have to face which prevent them from increasing their production and benefiting from the current price rises. This would mean, among other things, improving access for farmers from the South to production resources and markets and helping them in the organisation of agricultural processing industries. There is just one fear : that urgent measures to help consumers are not followed by measures to help farmers.
Question2 : Can smallholdings provide jobs for young rural people of working age ?
The issues of rural employment must be examined in the various contexts. It is not possible to have one overall analysis. The rural exodus can be advantageous when labour is absorbed by other economic sectors. If non-agricultural demand is weak, it is important to stabilise the populations in the rural environment by providing upstream and downstream activities and more generally non-farming activities.
Question 3 : In what way can farming contribute to the preservation of the environment ?
Techniques are available for lowering and managing environmental risks. However, these methods are not easily compatible with the desire for increased farm production. Adopting techniques which preserve natural resources needs public policies and improved remuneration which are indispensable for ensuring the sustainability of farming.
Question 4 : North-South Partnerships : what are the shared challenges ?
What new forms of partnerships between the agricultural players ?
Challenges : in the light of the current context, the greatest challenge shared by farmers from the North and the South is how to increase production.
New players in cooperation : the importance of the financial resources the new players have at their disposal such as the Gates foundation or Chinese cooperation is a source of fascination but the true purpose of this investment is also a source of concern.
Question 5 : What are the roles of professional organisations in managing markets (a constitutive element of an agricultural policy) ?
In order for the farmers’ organisations to fulfil their roles – such as lobbying, the training of producers, support for production and the management of markets – a new partnership between farmers’ organisations and public authorities must guarantee a favourable context, implementing agricultural policies enabling visibility in the markets, supporting the setting up of processing industries, encouraging a strengthening of capacities etc.
Question 6 : What international regulations are needed for reconciling farmers’ interests around the world ?
Stronger international regulation of the agricultural markets is essential for ensuring food security, preserving natural resources and fighting poverty. The discussions were not conclusive over the issue of taking agriculture out of the World Trade Organisation’s negotiations and setting up a World Organisation for Agriculture. All opinions agree on the need for financial support in the farming sector. Discussion remains open on the methods of financing by the public sector : regional or national policies, price regulation or otherwise, for or against subsidies to farmers etc.