Global governance and public policies, two imperatives for the same challenge
Momagri Editorial Board
The Agrimonde-Terra outlook study conducted by research specialists from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD with the support of international experts focuses on land availability and use as well as food security by 2050, when the world population could reach 9.7 billion people. Five forecast scenarios have been developed1:
- "Metropolization" describes the continuous growth of cities, whose inhabitants consume ever greater volumes of animal and/or processed products; no attempts are made to mitigate climate change; smallholders are marginalized.
- "Regionalization”, recounts how the growth of medium-sized towns and their interconnection with rural areas would lead to the emergence of regional food systems, based on family farms and traditional foods.
- "Households" , describes how, within a context of high mobility between rural and urban areas, hybrid diets develop, based on both traditional and modern supply chains, with agricultural land primarily managed by family farms and cooperatives.
- "Healthy”, assumes that the cost of malnutrition will result in a switch to healthy diets, fostered by global cooperation and public policy, within a context of climate change stabilization and reconfiguration of farming systems.
- At last, "Communities" , describes how recurrent crises may foster the development of small towns and communities in rural areas, whose aim would be to pool agricultural ownership so as to guarantee food security.
As a result, the experts from these two organizations ultimately feel that there is no ideal solution, only the scenario of “a healthy food diet” could ensure sustainable food security by 2050 that would allow “food supply that promotes health and eco-friendly farming practices and land uses. Achieving this precarious balance will require strong, coordinated public policies. A system of global governance will need to be developed for food security and land use to avert food crises, land grabs and deforestation and to attenuate climate change effects2”.
With regard to the similar study conducted by the two organizations in 20103, this new forecast is not as detailed about the issues linked to public policies and their global governance for agriculture and food. Yet one can only praise the fact that it recognizes the need for the implementation of a strong global governance system based on regulated trade that is required to ensure healthy, adequate and sustainable food. “The results of the Agrimonde-Terra (…) highlight the main levers for action, in particular the need for global land use governance that takes account not just of the agricultural and food sectors, but also other economic sectors. This should involve all the various stakeholders, and result in more diversified diets, new international trade regulations, more integrated crop and animal production systems and guaranteed access to land for a wide range of agricultural structures”4.
Deploring the failures of a global governance system scripted by market forces and governmental disengagement “avoid international governance by market forces”, “sovereign governments are finding it difficult to develop public policies in this new context in which the importance of the State is declining5” “governments are increasingly wary of intervening in markets, leaving unresolved the question how best to address rural market failures6”, food security is presented as “a global public good”7by the experts participating in this study. This global public good must be based on proactive public agricultural policies rooted in price support and subsidies that are recognized as essential to speed up progress toward healthy diets and waste reduction. (“on the demand side, public policies, including price and subsidy policies, and education are essential to accelerate progress towards healthy diets and the reduction of consumption waste and losses”8) as well as promoting producer organizations.
Yet one would have liked that the ideas be taken a step further:
- Where are the farmers? While the forecast study writes about 570 million farms in 20159, it provides a somewhat disembodied approach to agriculture. Let’s not forget that in about 50 countries, agriculture employs half of the population, or even 75 percent in poorer nations10. In addition, 70 percent of hunger victims are deprived farmers.
- We regret the quasi-absence of mentioning some determinants that are nevertheless intrinsic to agricultural markets, and most importantly price volatility. In fact, contrarily to climatic, nutritional and agro-ecological factors, the notion of structural volatility in agricultural markets is little considered (it is mentioned only once in the short report of the foresight, three times in the 38-page working paper).
- While the forecast study widely covers the need for a new governance system, there is almost no reference to biofuels (that are mentioned only once in the 38-page working paper), and to storage policies (a single reference to the word storage in the short report and twice in the 38-page working paper), and this in the framework of the “fuels vs. food” debate. This is all the more damaging that in order to implement food security as global public good, flexibility in biofuel production and pooling storage policies (cf. ASEAN + 3 for rice) represent two key prospects.
- While any foresight study focuses on the medium- and long term, it must also echo the short-term challenges. We also regret the very little mention of current debates. There is also a lack of focus on the limits of the WTO rules, the clinical death of the Doha Round, and even the strengthening of national agricultural policies worldwide, with the exception of European policies.
- Lastly, while the study widely covers the issue of land availability and use, and deals with the land grabbing trend, it does not bring forth new and truly organized elements on the issues of securing access to farmland.
Food security has one and identical substance with agricultural stability. A too great distinction between the two leads to missing a part of the problem and several solutions. Questioning the current approaches for agricultural issues in the framework of renewed cooperation is therefore the prerequisite that will ensure the sustainable and joint evolution of agricultural and food systems toward food security.
1 Details of these scenarios has been taken based on CIRAD’s press release
2 Agrimonde-Terra foresight study on ‘Land use and food security in 2050’
4 Cirad’s press release
5 Working paper
https://inra-dam-front-resources-cdn.brainsonic.com/ressources/afile/355677-d1563-resource-agrimonde-terra-scenarios-en-anglais.pdf page 25
6 Short report of the foresight
https://inra-dam-front-resources-cdn.brainsonic.com/ressources/afile/355665-02ca8-resource-agrimonde-terra-synthese-24-p-en-anglais.pdf page 23
7 Ibidem, page 23
8 Ibidem, page 23
9 Agrimonde-Terra : Foresight land use and food security in 2050
10 Fonds International pour le Développement Agricole (FIDA), 2011.