Agriculture G8 = more hunger and poverty

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Strengthening agriculture and expanding the WTO are contradictory objectives

Press release – Via Campesina – April 21, 2009

The first G8 on Agriculture which ended yesterday in Cison di Valmarino produced a final declaration which not only admits its own failures in the past, but previews a future full of contradictions. The G8 will never be able to alleviate hunger in the world by making its decisions behind closed doors, in the absence of the main actors in the global debate on agriculture – the millions of peasants and family farmers, women and men, who feed the world.

The G8’s assertion that “farmers must be the main protagonists” rings particularly hollow when the meeting this weekend was explicitly designed to limit the access of farmers organisations and reduce their visibility. The G8 held their meeting in an isolated castle in the mountains, and the Italian Agricultural minister refused to meet representatives of Italian and International farmers organisations who wished to express their opinions.

The text finally produced by the G8 is extremely contradictory. While it recognises the role of food producers and the crisis effecting rural areas, it fails to define a real strategy which could alleviate this crisis. The declaration on one hand talks of placing “agriculture and rural development…at the centre of sustainable economic growth by strengthening the role of agricultural households and smallholder farms and their access to land” and on the other of “reaching a balanced, comprehensive and ambitious conclusion of the Doha Round”, two policies which are incompatible – the WTO has repeatedly been shown to have catastrophic effects on smallholder agriculture as it liberalises agricultural markets and privatizes natural resources.

The declaration also supports the proposed creation of the Global Partnership on Food and agriculture while at the same time recognising the centrality of the role of the FAO – two positions which cannot be reconciled. The existing institutions of the UN must be at the centre of the solution to the current crisis – not the World Bank and IMF represented by the Global Partnership.

Apart from the contradictory nature of their declaration, the G8 at least included one admission which has been blatantly obvious to the rest of the world for many years – that the world has utterly failed in its attempts to halve the proportion of the world’s hungry by 2015 in line with the Millennium development goals. It is precisely the policies of the G8, imposed on countries of the south for many years, which are responsible.

Any real policy for putting farmers and sustainable smallholder agriculture at centre stage would reject the free-trade agenda and the global partnership and allow states to protect the rights of their people to work and eat. Farmers, who represent about half of the world workforce, are the first one to be affected by hunger and malnutrition.

Representatives of the international peasant’s movement Via Campesina were assembled in Treviso this weekend to make their alternatives heard. Their demands are simple – allow peoples and countries to define and protect their own agricultural systems, without negatively affecting others. Transform the agro-export model in both the north and south to one based on local, sustainable agricultural production, based on sustainable family farming.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Italian Platform for Food Sovereignty, Ibrahim Coulibaly, president CNOP in Mali said it quite clearly – “Africa can feed itself – it does not need global agricultural policies imposed on it by an illegitimate group of rich countries … it is not the role of the G8 to decide international agricultural policy!”

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