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Land Acquisition & Food Security

 

A question was asked of us on Twitter using the hashtag #askGPP, by RB_Phan:

How serious has the trend for speculators and rich nations buying up agricultural land in Africa and other undeveloped areas become?

In mid-2008, global food prices sky-rocketed. Key foods like wheat, rice, maize doubled or trebled in price, driven by increased consumption in the booming economies of China and India, falling supply after crop failure from natural disasters, and compounded by arable land being shifted to biofuel production and speculation on international markets.

Some countries panicked in response. Russia banned wheat exports. Vietnam banned rice exports. And, a few countries started to purchase large tracts of land in other countries, to secure their own supply of food in the future.

I first read about it in the Economist last year, and was staggered to see the sheer scale of what was happening. Saudi Arabia, China, some of the Emirati city-states and others purchased farms through their sovereign wealth funds, state-owned companies, or directly as the state. Naked in their self-interest, they were out to ensure that their citizens had enough to eat well into the future.

Spanish NGO Grain published a fascinating report on the topic towards the end of 2008, and has more recently setup a website - farmlandgrab.org - dedicated to tracking what’s happening. More recently, John Vidal wrote a great article on the topic in the Observer in March.

Some have argued that it’s a new form of imperialism, the rich stealing from the poor; others have said that it’s simply the market at work.

From my point of view, as someone committed to seeing an end to extreme poverty, it’s something to keep a close eye on. In and of itself, it’s not a problem - people have been buying and selling land in other countries for decades. But, it’s part of broader movement of the securitisation of resources, one that risks positioning global food supplies as a geopolitical issue with security considerations.

Food - along with fresh-water - is not just a commodity. It’s part of the global commons, an assured human right, and a foundation stone of the fight against poverty. Tonight, almost a billion people will go to bed hungry, not because there’s not enough food, but because they can’t afford it.

The global community has an obligation to deal with issues in food supplies as a challenge of the commons, not as 193 competing states. The land grab that we’re witnessing should be seen as an early warning sign that we must work harder on cooperation to deal with these common challenges, because the consequences of failing to act are huge.

GPP Supporter Questions to Nestle - Responses 2

 

Recently we met with the team at Nestle UK, and they offered to answer some of your questions about how they work. After gathering your suggestions on Facebook, we passed the five most liked questions onto Nestle. These are the answers from Nestle's Corporate Affairs team for questions 3, 4 and 5. The answers to the first two questions are published here. Our thanks to Alison and Sam at Nestle for being open to such dialogue.

3/ Clarice Fell: Hi there, so great what you guys do. I recently took a 4 month trip to Uganda Africa. I saw where coffee is made. Where the beans are grown. Nescafe and other major coffee brands buy their beans from there. They pay next to nothing for it the workers live in extreme poverty. The companies put massive taxes on the coffee and charge us massive prices. I don't know how one of the world’s biggest exports leaves it's workers in poverty. I know that this same senario is like for chocolate the coco beans are sort the same way. If anything ask them to provide better pay and living conditions to the ones who actually grow the coco beans. As without them there wouldn't even be chocolate. Ask them to follow Cadbury’s league and make it fair trade. Thanks any way for all the hard work. Praying for justice for our world. :)

For more than 30 years, we have been working with our coffee suppliers to encourage sustainable farming and improve the living standards of coffee-farming communities. To do this we need to address global issues such as food and water security and work with coffee farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their produce as this is crucial to increasing their income.

In August 2010 Nestlé launched The Nescafé Plan, a global initiative which aims to help guarantee a long term supply of quality coffee produced with a lower environmental impact. The plan will be implemented with the support of Rainforest Alliance, other partners from the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and the 4C Association (Common Code for the Coffee Community Association).

The plan outlines our commitments in three key areas; coffee farming, coffee production and consumption and is backed by an investment of £213 million until 2020. Similar to The Cocoa Plan, The Nescafé Plan accelerates and expands programmes of support that we have been involved in for decades. We believe it will help us guarantee a long term supply of quality coffee by making coffee farming more attractive to the next generation of farmers and enable them to produce coffee with a lower environmental impact. Information is available for consumers on both www.nestle.com and http://www.nescafe.com/sustainability-uk.

4/ Jenny Jones: I live in Australia and if I see something with Nestle attached to it I deliberately don't buy it. So my question would be: "when will you step up and lead the world in becoming a fair company that puts your fellow humans in front of your massive profit? I'm sure you can afford to do this. That's when I will start supporting your products again."

Nestlé’s basic business principle is that we can only create value for our shareholders if we at the same time create value for society and we have identified three focus areas where, for Nestlé, business and societal value creation can be optimized and these are nutrition, water and rural development. We call this Creating Shared Value (CSV).

About half of our factories are in developing countries and we source about 70% of our raw materials from these rural areas. CSV means that more than just being present in these regions, we are actively leveraging our presence to reduce poverty, improve nutrition and health, and preserve the environment for future generations.

We have recently published a report which outlines over 290 business activities and programmes which support one or more of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (http://www.community.nestle.com/Pages/mdg-landing.aspx) which you may be interested in looking at. The projects range from supporting female livestock workers in Pakistan to helping farmers in our supply chain reduce the environmental impact of the crops they produce.

5/ Awal Ahmed: I want to know what measures they have in their contract to ensure environmental sustainable production methods at the community level and what they are doing to reduce communities vulnerability to climate change?

Environmental responsibility is a key component of our Corporate Business Principles and Supplier Codes (http://bit.ly/ieh2aB and http://bit.ly/dKZ4TH). As a company our aim is to not just offer products with the lowest environmental impact compared to alternatives but to work throughout our supply chains to reduce the environmental impacts of farming and crop production and promote sustainable agriculture. A key component of our major initiatives such as The Cocoa Plan and The Nescafé Plan is to help farmers produce crops in a way that minimises the environmental impact while maximising yields and to help them deal with challenges such as climate change. For example we supply coffee and cocoa farmers with high potential plantlets which produce earlier and are bred to be disease resistant. We have also highlighted water as a priority issue. Aside from our global commitment as a founding signatory of the CEO Water Mandate an initiative led by the United Nations Global Compact, we are committed to improve our efforts in sustainable water management across the business www.nestle.com/csv/environment. As agriculture uses two thirds of the world’s water we also work with farmers and suppliers to encourage effective water management – in courntries ranging from Italy to Cote d’Ivoire. Our drip irrigation project in Nicaragua is a good example of working collaboratively to develop a low-cost drip irrigation system to be used in plantations where we source coffee as part of a public private partnership between Nestlé, ECOM, the Rainforest Alliance and International Development Enterprises IDE covering 1500 coffee farmers. Through the sustainable use and control of water we can accelerate plant growth and achieve better quality crops even during water-stress periods. You can read more about this and other projects in our MDG Report www.community.nestle.com/mdg7 or on the section on water on www.nestle.com.

Which logo indicates what, anyway?

 

Worldwide, there are hundreds of certification schemes and other initiatives promoting the sustainability of food. That is good news for increased sustainability within the food industry. There is a potential pitfall though, as Emma Herman, a spokesperson for Fairfood International, points out in a guest blog.

More than one billion people worldwide suffer from extreme hunger. Fortunately, more and more people are aware of this and will not stand for it. The movement towards sustainability has the wind in its sails.

The number of different sustainability initiatives is still increasing. Besides well-known certification labels such as Fair Trade Original and Rainforest Alliance, there are also what are known as multi-stakeholder initiatives, in which companies and NGOs meet to consider criteria for making an entire sector more sustainable. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil is a good example of such an initiative. A similar development can be seen around specific themes, for which codes are being developed such as the SA 8000, which concerns workers’ rights. And then there are companies that choose to start their own sustainability initiatives. The coffee giant Starbucks, for instance, started the Starbucks Shared Planet programme.

All of these sustainability labels, codes, programmes, certification schemes and roundtables contribute their share to increased sustainability of the food industry. That is very beneficial for our climate, for the billions that work in agriculture and for the poorer countries, as fairer trade allows them to develop in a sustainable way.

However, the multitude of initiatives can also be confusing. Consumers complain that they can’t see the trees for the wood. As it stands, nobody knows which logo means what anymore, with the consequence that some concerned consumers might throw in the towel altogether. Obviously it would be terrible if these good intentions end up overshooting the mark in such a way.

In Fairfood International’s lobbying conversations with food and beverage companies, the latter often point out that entrepreneurs also have difficulties finding their way amongst the crowd of sustainability initiatives. They want to be told clearly what is expected of them, and what they can do to fulfill these expectations. This is why Fairfood acts as an intermediary between the food and beverage industry and the different sustainability solutions on offer. In some cases pointing the way to a certification scheme or code of conduct, in others, giving examples of corporate initiatives that worked out well. In this way, companies that want to make an effort in their Corporate Social Responsibility will find the right partners and so achieve tangible results quickly. The responsibility for undertaking sustainability initiatives lies with the companies themselves. Fortunately, more and more companies are willing to contribute to a structural solution for extreme hunger and poverty in this way.

Would you like to learn more? Then look up the Solution of the Month on the Fairfood blog, for a review of different certification schemes and other sustainability initiatives.

Rains leave Pakistani females drenched in despair

 

In the past month, millions of spectators have watched a fifth of Pakistan disappear underwater and despite more expected rainfall in Pakistan, greater concerns are emerging which will affect the female flood victims most.

A wide array of problems has arisen within the Flood Relief Camps . Many camps do not allow women, forcing them to endure the stress of finding alternate accommodation, regardless the fact that they are frequently accompanied by children and some are pregnant, leaving them alone, to compete with the men in the mayhem created when supplies are delivered. The mixed sex camps have resulted in women and older girls suffering from poor hygiene as a result of inability to wash in public view and sleeping arrangements are also troublesome as often men, women and children of different families have to share shelter which is culturally shameful. Those that employ gender segregation offer the most viable gender-related solution although amid the disorder that follows any shock, one may doubt the existence of such arrangements.

Many overwhelmed humanitarian agencies and government officials have been beaten in providing food and clean water relief by Islamic fundamentalists, which can help them to win the hearts and minds of many of those displaced. This in turn can contribute to instability, particularly around the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that may spiral into a turf war. A recent study by the ICRC investigating the vulnerability of women suggested that “Women are especially susceptible to poverty, exclusion and the sufferings caused by armed conflict when they are already subject to discrimination in times of peace.” Moreover, “The use of sexual violence as a method of warfare and the requirement that women bear more children to replace sons that have died make women especially vulnerable.” Clearly this is one scenario that must be avoided, not just for women but more so for the well-being of the country.

Khalida Jamali, Professor of Economics at the University of Sindh in Pakistan believes in that if women could gain greater rights and access to microfinance they can start to enter the workplace in greater numbers, resulting in considerable gains for the country’s economic development.

Some twenty million people have been affected, but, thankfully, many aid organisations such as UNICEF are actively working in Pakistan to care for children and mothers that have been affected adversely by this atrocious disaster. As this disaster begins to fall out of the headlines, it can all to easily slip out of our minds, however, it is clear that it will take a lot of work to help Pakistan rebuild.

Posted by Rohan Mohanty - GPP Intern in Women & Gender, Environment & Climate for column Issue Analysis on Sep 14th 2010, 06:00

MDG7: Sahena's Story

 

Pakistan is currently enduring the worst flooding in the country’s history, and is expected to take months or even years to fully recover. Meanwhile, there’s a terrible drought in Niger, forest fires across Russia, food riots in Mozambique and the rains across Africa have become unpredictable, sometimes not appearing at all. Sahena, in this Oxfam video, talks about the unpredictability of the seasons in Bangladesh, and how this is upsetting their crop planting.

This unpredictability has enormous consequences for millions of people, and climate change has been blamed for causing such extreme weather.

As we see from the video in Bangladesh, people in poor communities can and are learning to cope with the changes in climate, and doing so with admirable determination and effort. A wonderful aspect of this project, is that it and other projects like it are not only helping communities cope with flooding, but by working with and educating women, they are improving their status in societies where they are not nearly so valued as men. The video shows how women involved in these projects are being empowered to stand up for their rights in their society by gaining confidence in their knowledge and usefulness.

Despite such wonderful projects we must not neglect our responsibilities. If those of us in the developed world do nothing to change, the situation is only going to worsen and force communities like Sahena’s to work even harder to protect their homes, or face losing them. Because of its abundant affecting factors and it’s equally numerous consequences, climate change is the biggest environmental challenge that we face. The UN MDG monitor reports that “action on climate change is within our grasp”, and there are major campaigns from NGOs that we can support to show our concern for people like Sahena.

These campaigns tend to approach the issue of climate change from a number of different directions. Charities are targeting politicians in an effort to persuade them to adopt binding emission targets and fair aid deals targeted specifically at helping developing countries adapt to the changing climate. At the same time they are investing in these small scale local projects that are nevertheless making huge differences to both individuals and communities. Our support is crucial to their success, and due to the many ways that we can quickly and easily take part in campaign actions online, there is ample opportunity for us to show how we feel.