‘World Hunger Day’ 2019: Agroecology Needed to Address Hunger and Climate Crisis, Youth Play a Key Role

This year, the world witnessed how the youth have taken it upon themselves to act urgently and as one to compel world leaders to take action on the worsening climate crisis that threatens their future and the future of this planet. People’s movements across the globe have seized the momentum to expose how corporate agriculture—characterized by chemical-intensive production, monocultures, loss of biodiversity, landgrabbing, and destruction of rainforests—contributes greatly to the climate crisis. Youth-led voices from below have made it clear that nothing less than a paradigm shift is needed, especially in something as basic and encompassing as how we produce and consume our food.

Today, October 16, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) celebrates its annual World Food Day and calls for renewed efforts to achieve #ZeroHunger. But for majority of the world’s population, World Hunger Day is closer to reality. The FAO’s latest estimates peg the number of people who suffer from hunger at 820 million. It has also raised concerns over the rise of unhealthy diets “as a result of globalization,” with one-fifth of deaths worldwide linked to unhealthy eating habits. “Nutritious foods that constitute a healthy diet are not available or affordable for many people,” the FAO admits. 

World hunger and unhealthy diets have been a result of structural poverty, and especially in the case of those who directly produce food such as the millions of small-scale farmers in poor countries, the massive destruction of agriculture and loss of food sovereignty under neoliberal globalization. Many are displaced and forced to grow monocrops for export or become laborers in plantations run by large agribusinesses. They are without their own land to grow food and barely make enough to feed their own families, much less their communities. In such conditions of poverty, hunger and lack of livelihood opportunities, the rural youth are forced to migrate to the cities and to other countries to seek better livelihoods and employment opportunities, often in exploitative conditions of work with little social protection.

The imposition of hazardous pesticides and technologies such as genetically-modified crops—a push for monopoly control by agrochemical transnational corporations with support of governments—has poisoned innumerable food producers. Chemical-intensive agriculture is destroying biodiversity on a massive scale. Pesticides are killing off pollinators and contaminating soil and water systems, while “genetic” drift is contaminating crop biodiversity and adversely affecting farmers saving seeds. Nutritious local crop varieties have disappeared or are fast disappearing. Today, only nine plant species account for 66% of total crop production, despite the fact that throughout history, more than 6,000 species have been cultivated for food. All of these mean that the food that is available is increasingly of poor nutrition, laden with toxic chemicals, and grown in a manner harmful to people and the environment. 

Hunger is exacerbated by the climate crisis, as extreme weather events affect poor agricultural communities the most. At the same time, profit-oriented agriculture is itself a big contributor to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2019 Climate Change and Land Report estimated that up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from the global food system, which is characterized by the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and animal wastes. Carbon sinks are lost due to the conversion of forests, grass and wetlands for industrial agriculture. For instance, the Amazon fires are caused mainly by big agribusiness interests that push for export crop and animal production that is part of unsustainable global food supply systems. There is no question that the dominant agricultural model will only lead to more land and resource grabs, hunger and food insecurity, deaths and disease, as well as hasten the catastrophic increase of global temperatures.

In contrast, agroecology is an economically viable and socially just approach to sustainable agriculture and food systems. It is grounded on ecological and social principles and the integration of science with local and indigenous knowledge and practice, emphasising farming in harmony with natural cycles and processes, and the political approach of food sovereignty — including the right to produce and access nutritious and culturally appropriate food.

Agroecological practices by farmers have been around for centuries and have fed generations of people. Today, agroecology is at the center of ongoing dialogues and innovations involving farmers, scientists, and social movements. Even the FAO Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts has recognised agroecology as an important transition pathway towards the sustainability of food systems. Meanwhile, the IPCC recommends agroecology and diversification to increase the resilience of food systems to climate change.

Led by PAN Asia Pacific, this year’s #16DaysofGlobalAction on Agroecology was spearheaded by the youth and participated in by more than 40 partner organisations and their networks in 20 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. From 1 to 16 October 2019, various actions were taken to raise awareness on and call for agroecology, reaching out to an estimated 600,000 people. The #16DaysofGlobalAction is proof that agroecology is gaining momentum as a movement, from the grassroots level up to the global level.

We call on governments to end policies that promote the systematic corporatisation of agriculture: this includes the production and use of highly hazardous pesticides; commercialization of genetically-engineered crops; land and resource grabbing in the guise of development; state violence against environment and land rights defenders; among others. Local, national and international policymakers must put into place support mechanisms meant to replace chemical-intensive agriculture with agroecology, and enact policies that would ensure the people’s access to land and resources, and the exercise of food sovereignty. The youth, rooted in social movements of farmers, agricultural laborers, and other small food producers, must play a key role in the struggle to promote agroecology and uphold food sovereignty. The world’s youth is unmatched in its energy and vigor as part of a movement that strives to free food production and consumption from the devastating grip of capital.

The youth, rooted in social movements of farmers, agricultural laborers, and other small food producers, must play a key role in the struggle to promote agroecology and uphold food sovereignty. The world’s youth is unmatched in its energy and vigor as part of a movement that strives to free food production and consumption from the devastating grip of capital.

#YouthMarchOn for Agroecology and Food Sovereignty!
#AgroecologyNow!

Endorsed by the following:

Global and regional networks –

  • Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN)
  • Arab People for Food Sovereignty
  • Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN)
  • Association for Women’s Rights in Development
  • Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation
  • Institute fro Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • International Pops Elimination Network (IPEN)
  • PAN Africa
  • PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP)
  • PAN North America (PANNA)
  • People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS)
  • People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) – Europe
  • Solid Agro
  • Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS)

National organisations –

Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh Research Center for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK)
  • Bangladesh Adivasi Samity
  • Bangladesh Bhumiheen Samity
  • Bangladesh Kishani Sabha
  • Bangladesh Krishok Federation
  • Bangladesh Rural Intellectuals Front
  • Nijera Kori

Cambodia

  • Cambodia Coalition of Farmer Community (CCFC)
  • Cambodia Grassroots Cross-Sector Network
  • Ponlok Khmer

Cameroon

  • SEFE

Colombia

  • Colectivo Regional de Organizaciones Agroecologicas y de Comercio Justo del Valle del Cauca (CROAC)
  • Grupo de Investigación en Agroecología de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Palmira nos unimos

East Timor

  • Movimentu Kamponezes Timor-Leste (Mokatil)
  • Kdadalak Sulimutuk Institute (KSI), East Timor

France

  • Urgenci International Network of Community Supported Agriculture

Germany

  • Agrar Koordination
  • PAN Germany

India

  • Andhra Pradesh Vyavsaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU)
  • CARITAS India
  • Food Sovereignty Alliance
  • Karnataka Vyavsaya Vruthidarula Union (KVVU)
  • KUDUMBAM
  • PAN India
  • South Asian Network for Social & Agricultural Development (SANSAD)
  • Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED)
  • THANAL
  • Telengana Vyavsaya Vruthidarula Union (TVVU)

Indonesia

  • Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA)
  • BINA DESA
  • Front Mahasiwa National
  • GITA PERTIWI
  • Krisnawaty Organic Farm and School
  • Pembaru
  • SERUNI

Italy

  • Movimento per l’Autosviluppo, l’Interscambio e la Solidarietà

Kenya

  • FAHAMU
  • Shibuye Community Health Workers

Korea

  • E-Consumer Korea

Kyrgyztan

  • ALGA

Malaysia

  • North South Initiative (NSI)

Mexico

  • Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena y Campesina (UFiC)

Mongolia

  • Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
  • People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) – Mongolia

Myanmar

  • Ayeyawady MATA
  • Be Dar Social Development Organization
  • Bee House
  • Chin MATA
  • Community Response Group (COMREG)
  • Citizen Action For Transparency (CAFT)
  • Dawei Development Organization
  • Karen MATA
  • Karenni MATA
  • Land In Our Hand
  • Metta Development Foundation
  • Paung Ku
  • Sagaing MATA
  • Shan MATA
  • Southern Youth Development Organization
  • Tanintharyi MATA

Nepal

  • All Nepal Peasants Federation
  • Caritas-Nepal
  • Social Work Institute

New Zealand

  • PAN-Aotearoa

Pacific Islands

  • Pacific Islands Association of NGOs

Pakistan

  • Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)
  • Roots for Equity

Philippines

  • IGOROTA Foundation
  • KADAMAY
  • Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP/Peasant Movement of the Philippines)
  • Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG/Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development)
  • NNARA-Youth
  • PAN Philippines
  • PANALIPDAN-Mindanao
  • SAKA
  • SIKAD
  • UMA

Senegal

  • ARCADE

Sri Lanka

  • Human Developmeny Organization (HDO), Sri Lanka
  • Movement for National Land and Agrarian Reform (MONLAR), Sri Lanka
  • National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO)
  • Vikalpani National Women’s Federation

Thailand

  • People’s Democracy Movement of Thailand (PDMT)
  • Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT)

Togo

  • Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE-Togo)
  • Just Food

Vietnam

  • CARITAS-Dalat
  • Centre for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas
  • Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED)

Zambia

  • PCFS-Zambia
  • Zambia People’s Forum

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