Rome, Italy, July 14, 2020 – Today, farmers’ leaders from global and regional farmers’ organisations across the globe convened virtually on the sidelines of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), to bring to the attention of policymakers, the needs and solutions of farmers, during and after COVID-19.
Jointly organised by the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) and IFOAM Organics International, the event offered an excellent venue to discuss the devastating effects of the pandemic outbreak on the livelihoods of farmers and shine a light on the way the global farming community has been reacting resiliently.
The event was composed of two sessions. The first part focused on the experience of global farmers’ organisations in helping members coping up with the resulting shocks in the food systems. Participants in the panel were: Theo De Jager, President, World Farmers’ Organisation; Shamika Mone, Chairperson, INOFO/IFOAM-Organics International; Nettie Wiebe, Representative, La Via Campesina; Laura Lorenzo, Director, World Rural Forum.
Opening the event, Theo de Jager highlighted that never before in the history of food systems, there has been such a strong recognition of the key role of farmers in our societies. Food is on top of the priorities of all consumers, not only of an expert audience. COVID-19 is a huge threat but at the same time, it provides a golden opportunity for farmers to show consumers how food gets to their tables. In these unprecedented times, it is extremely important for Farmers’ Organisations to join hands and act together, with a special contribution from the Young Farmers, who are able to ask the difficult questions about production and sustainability. “Today we can explore new horizons and ask each other what food systems should look like in 10 years,” he said.
Shamika Mone, on her side, underlined that COVID-19 increased the consumers’ interest in local food and its traceability and how this has been a challenge for the resource-poor farmers.
Laura Lorenzo emphasised how, in this crisis, the family farmers have been among the most vulnerable people. “Family farmers will be able to fulfil their potential to achieve sustainable development if only such challenges, including access to sanitary equipment and channels to sell products, are addressed,” she stated. She also mentioned the importance for governments and partners to work into a broader framework; otherwise, the world food security will be threatened.
Nettie Wiebe, on the other side, focused on the contribution of small scale farmers to sustainable development, with particular attention to the impact of excessive concentration on the functioning of food value chains.
The second panel featured the perspective of regional farmers’ organisations, focusing on what are the main key priorities and challenges to succeed. Speakers joining the debate during this second session were Elizabeth Nsimadala, President, Pan African Farmers’ Organisation; Nemo Amaral, Representative, COPROFAM; Patricia Flores, Senior Project Coordinator, IFOAM – Organics International; Esther Penunia, Secretary-General, Asian Farmers’ Association.
On challenges exacerbated by COVID-19, Elizabeth Nsimadala identified access to inputs and access to markets. She also announced that PAFO is working on collecting solutions farmers can bring to fight the COVID crisis.
Nemo Amaral, representing COPROFAM, emphasised that we not only need to invest in production but also in networks and cooperative systems and strengthen their access to markets.
Patricia Flores highlighted the key role of family farmers in providing food for the populations in the Andean region.
Esther Penunia called on governments and funding partners for direct financing to farmers’ organisations so to strengthen their role in building more sustainable and inclusive food systems.
By the end, it was clear that there is a need for the farmers’ organisations to coordinate a shared response to promote the role of the farmers towards fairer and more equitable food systems.