In the aftermath of the 2008 food crises, curbing agricultural price hyper-volatility and tackling food insecurity have become priorities for the international community.
In this context, civil society organizations are currently redeveloping agricultural and food reserves as the means that could potentially address the new food realities. More specifically, these reserves are presented as a strategic market regulatory tool and an emergency mobilization device in case of food crisis, thanks to joint leadership by local and international communities. We are spotlighting below the introduction of a report by the NGO Oxfam regarding an assessment of local reserves in the Sahel1
. These introductory remarks focus on the existence of local food reserves––the first line of defense against food insecurity––and tangible solutions they can locally provide to farmers and consumers, especially in the Sahel.
At momagri, we have also explored the practical procedures for an optimal reserve policy that will not function in a sustainable and efficient manner without a new global agricultural governance system and without regulatory measures for futures markets to fight speculation on reserves.
momagri Editorial Board
In recent years, the challenges of food security have largely focused on two issues of growing concern for the international community. On the one hand, the devastating effects of food price volatility on the most vulnerable populations, which have caused over 300 million people to fall under the poverty line; and on the other hand, the recurrence of acute food crises that continue to reverse positive development trends in sub-Saharan Africa.
Within this context, food reserves are being reassessed by civil society organisations as an instrument that can potentially address both issues at different levels and in a range of ways; a. as part of the solution to price hikes (serving as a key tool in the fight against food price instability) and b. as part of the solution to recurrent food crises in regions like the Horn of Africa and the Sahel (as an emergency food security instrument).
The global debate on food reserves is evolving in parallel with the renewal of development paradigms that traditionally offered global solutions to issues marked by local specificities. There has been a decisive shift from global development blueprints that were applied globally in all contexts to a focus on tailored approaches that place communities at the heart of development initiatives. Ownership and local participation are now widely accepted as key factors that are crucial for the success of any development initiative. Translating these principles into practice remains a major challenge.
ECOWAS has proposed a system of food reserves against food insecurity based on four lines of defence (Hub Rural, 2012, p.9):
1. The first line of defence includes local food reserves, generally organised at the community or village level, at the district level or by producer organisations;
2. The second line of defence is composed of the national security stock and/or strategic reserves, placed under the responsibility of States or within a specific arrangement agreed by the States or a pool of financial partners;
3. The third line of defence is composed of regional stocks with various components envisaged;
4. The fourth line of defence includes existing solidarity and international assistance mechanisms (UN humanitarian agencies, development partners, international NGO).
Despite existing literature on the different modalities of food reserves, there is a dearth of specific analysis focusing on the potential of the first line of defence against food insecurity. The aim of the present study is to address this gap by analysing recent experiences, reviewing the factors that can determine or condition their failure or success, and assessing innovative instruments (such as linking local reserves to national food reserves, index insurance and stabilization funds) that could also contribute to their improvement.
The debates on local food reserves are often dominated by the fact that their history to date is marked by uneven performance records and by a wide range of complex problems described as endemic by the most critical observers. This study will argue that the first line of defence has a number of distinctive features that make it particularly well placed to positively contribute to food security strategies in the Sahel. It will ultimately seek to determine the factors and conditions required to create an enabling environment in which local food reserves can function effectively.
1 The complete report is available from: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/rr-first-line-defence-local-food-reserves-sahel-040213-en.pdf