Secure the Right to Food and Water

Policies that ensure access and secure the right of food and water to be adopted, based on the Future Policy Award 2009 winning best policies. 

Ensuring secure food and water is a fundamental challenge to our future prosperity. While the Millennium Development Goals aimed to halve extreme poverty and hunger, as well as the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (Goals 1 and 7), there is still much to achieve.

According to the UN, 842 million people are estimated to be undernourished, 748 million do not have an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion have no better access to sanitation. Over a billion people,  a sixth of the world’s population, still suffer from hunger while food demand is predicted to rise 30% by 2030. The right to secure food and water must be recognised and guaranteed worldwide.

Faced with the interconnected challenges of climate change, urbanisation and rapid population growth, access to secure the right to food and water remains a daily struggle for millions of people around the world. Such shortages of these two fundamental ingredients to life will undoubtedly affect our future security, through displacement and armed conflict, further aggravated by climate change.

Despite the vast nature of these challenges, exemplary policy solutions already exist. School meals, food coupons and malnutrition programmes can all be part of the solution, as can improving the transparency and accountability of our water provision. It is also important to highlight solutions which tackle commercial demands on our scarce resources through innovations in business and enterprise as well as agricultural solutions.

Cities, states and regions across the globe have already begun to implement innovative future-just policy solutions that seek not only to meet current human sustenance needs but also secure those of future generations through our transition to a sustainable planet.

Promoting Urban Agriculture

By 2030 an estimated 60 per cent of all people will live in cities (FAO, 2009). From British allotment gardening, to Cuban community supported urban agriculture, to Japanese rooftop gardens – there is an increasing number of examples of intra-urban and peri-urban areas being transformed into productive food-growing land.

Producing food locally means shorter transport routes and less processing and packaging. In the U.S., these parts of the value chain consume more than a third of all energy used for food production. Limiting these activities can substantially reduce the carbon footprint of each meal. In addition, urban food policies encourage consumption of nutritious food, provide food security and sovereignty. Members of the community can become involved, and employment and income opportunities are created. Local agriculture projects create solidarity and purpose among the communities, sustaining morale and help building community pride.

Supporting Organic Agriculture

Organic farming produces healthy, tasty food, helps conserving biodiversity, reduces the CO2 footprint of famers, protects soil health and conserves water. As organic products become more popular, economic opportunities for producers and distributors increase. Organic farming includes strict limits on chemical synthetic pesticide and synthetic fertiliser use, livestock antibiotics, food additives and processing aids and a prohibition of genetically modified organisms.

These specifics require special efforts and knowledge and cause extra costs, in particular if a farm makes the transition from conventional to organic practices. To motivate more farmers to adopt organic practices, policy support is needed.

Protection of Local Genetic Resources

Agricultural biodiversity is the result of careful selection and developments by farmers since the beginning of agriculture, but is currently under threat through industrial agriculture and intensive livestock production. The extension of industrial patenting and other intellectual property systems to plants and animals have led to a less diverse, but more competitive market, and are a significant cause for the loss of variety.

Traditional farmers do not benefit from the value they generate through the creation and maintenance of genetic agricultural resources. Consequently, they have little incentive to provide input for the global pool of genetic variety. At the international level, these problems have been addressed by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Article 5 recommends an integrated approach to the exploration, conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

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