ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security

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FOOD SECURITY, SOCIAL MOBILIZATION AND COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

A pluralistic approach is one of the guiding principles of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security and national Thematic Groups are encouraged to mobilize a broad-based membership by including key stakeholders from various sectors. It is hoped that this will lead to increased coordination and convergence in the common works towards fighting food insecurity.

The civil society sector, highly valued for its expertise and practical experience, is an important partner of the ACC Network. With a strong grassroots membership, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) are able to reflect the needs and interests at the local level for sustainable development.

As part of its efforts to encourage increased civil society participation, the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security is collaborating with SID (Society International for Development) to share information and experiences related to food security issues. We are pleased to share with our readers a report and initial findings resulting from a series of workshops on Food Security, Social Mobilization and Community Empowerment, organized by SID in cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP). We would also like to take the opportunity to encourage Thematic Group members in countries where additional Workshops are planned, to participate in the Workshops and liase with other partners who share the goal of food security.

SID-WFP PROJECT ON FOOD SECURITY AND SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS

Mobilization of civil society on food security policies and strategies

`Food Security, Social Mobilization and Community Empowerment' has been the title of an international campaign catalyzed by the Society for International Development (SID) with the support of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and in partnership with national NGOs in 30 countries of the South. After a first phase of research on a) local innovations against hunger; and b) impact of food aid on social structures, gender roles and social mobilization for sustainable livelihoods-- activities have clustered around organization of a series of national workshops exploring patterns of community empowerment in the search for food security.

As of September 2000, 32 workshops have been held in 26 countries1and more events are upcoming in Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and Malawi. Networking, partnership and trust created by social mobilization are core elements of the social capital which is necessary for sustainable livelihoods (SL). More than 2,500 people were engaged in the national processes promoted by the SID-WFP project, built on national workshops where farmers' groups, women's organizations, local and national NGOs discussed grassroots perspectives on food security and SL.

Beyond concerns of international solidarity, the project aimed to highlight how the search for food security is deeply rooted in national perspectives and policies for sustainable livelihoods. As food security is first and foremost a national issue, micro-macro linkages have to be carefully explored in order to bring community concerns into national policies and institutional mechanisms for food security. The project was built on the assumption that the call for food security can be a rallying flag for larger democratization processes, catalyzing civil society movements towards greater transparency and accountability, forging new alliances at the civil society and government-CSOs level, enhancing grassroots democracy processes, promoting local governments' capacity and responsible engagement in SL. Mobilization of civil society is therefore essential to encourage upstream policy design, holistic approaches and participatory decision-making, calling for a shift in power relations as the key governance issue towards positive sustainable livelihoods and food security outcomes.

Opening up spaces for debate

The series of events aimed to fulfil three levels of concern and engagement on food security issues, and namely:

Communities engaged in the project elaborated detailed guidelines for action in the attempt to impact future elaboration of local and national food security strategies. They were finally reviewed with local and national policy makers, representatives of international agencies and journalists. Reports from each national event were widely disseminated among interested constituencies and civil society networking was promoted both at the national and regional level. Within this framework, a meeting gathering all West African project partners in Ouagadougou resulted in the creation of a coordinating body for food security activities in the region.

Linking food security to democratization processes

Project activities and experiences have led to a nuanced view of the causes at the root of food insecurity. Focus on agricultural production, availability of stocks, technological upgrade and experts-down approaches to food security have been largely replaced by the community need to participate in their own development and shape it consistently with their vision and aspirations. The spotlight is now on the impact that social structures, gender roles, management of natural resources, civil society participation and political strategies have on people's food and livelihoods security. Most importantly, listening to grassroots calls for food security, one can clearly hear a call to democratize development.

Community concerns clustered around gender biased inheritance practices, discrimination of women and children in allocation of food at the household level, poor access to land and credit, cultural crisis affecting rural communities, inadequate food distribution and unfair access to market, seed patenting and changes in eating habits. Consistently, calls for progressive land reform, enhanced access of women to productive resources and education, participatory management of natural resources, adoption of bio-intensive farming, prevalence of ethic principles in food processing and marketing, acknowledgment of traditional knowledge as intellectual property of local communities and enhancement of farmers' dignity in society were among the strongest messages stemming from national processes around the world. Policy guidelines for action stemming from the debate certainly varied across different areas and conditions of distress. Nonetheless the need to strengthen civil society, facilitate share of information and enhance community participation in decision making were the key issues underlying all local requests for sustainable livelihoods and food security. Furthermore communities called for both horizontal networking and partnership with the government, which remains to be seen as a main actor in the food security domain. Therefore the search for food security ends up catalyzing calls for political democratization as a follow up to the pleas for social and economic democratization.

On the basis that self-organization of the poor at the community level counters powerlessness as the central source of poverty (UNDP, 2000), these gatherings not only aimed to open up spaces for grassroots communities to voice their concerns and suggestions for food security and SL, but also took forward social mobilization for more responsible governance and democratization at the local and national level. The success of the project can be measured not so much in the solution to the myriad problems of food insecurity but even more in the extent of community involvement and mobilization to solve what they perceived as their critical needs. One example was the establishment of a National Committee on Food Security as a result of the New Delhi workshop (26-27 June 2000), aiming to foster micro-macro linkages, and expanding people's space in decision making with a view to enhance food security and SL.

International advocacy, dissemination and follow up

Community concerns and project outcomes were presented at a special session on Responsible Governance for Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security held within the framework of Global Dialogue 2, Expo 2000. Participants included a number of SID project partners engaged in implementation of the Food Security and Sustainable Livelihoods project as well as representatives of UN agencies, among which Namanga Ngongi, WFP Deputy Executive Director, Naresh Singh, UNDP Principal Adviser and Shoaib Sultan Khan, UNDP Senior Adviser. Parallel to events organized on Expo fairground, some of the participants in the meeting also had the chance to be interviewed and live broadcasted by the German TV Open Channel Xpovision and Radio Flora, highlighting their approach to sustainable livelihoods and food security in accomplishment of their work at the UN, SID and national NGO level.

A special section of SID Development journal has been devoted to food security issues all throughout implementation of the project, reporting on field activities as well as fostering more general debate. In particular an outline of project outcomes authored by Elena Mancusi-Materi is forthcoming in Development 43.4, December 2000. Regular updates on activities and events have been included in Bridges newsletter distributed to the 3,000 individual and institutional SID members worldwide. Furthermore an updated Report will soon be available from SID Secretariat illustrating details of country processes and lessons learnt from the overall campaign.

Many paths are being explored for project follow up in cooperation with project partners and consistently with the special needs they identify at the local and national level. In most cases great interest is being expressed for creation of joint civil society and government committees on food security taking forward the process of dialogue and mobilization initiated by the workshops. Such bodies would aim to define food security priorities, impacting food security policy elaboration, decentralising food security decision-making and tightly linking food security to citizenship issues. They would work to open up spaces for catalyzation and co-ordination of local / national initiatives on food security; elaborate inclusive strategies for civil society mobilization towards enhanced democratization and community empowerment; lobby for enhanced feeding of SL concerns in policy-making; monitor progress in policy and practice on food security activities; disseminate information at the community level on regulations and practices affecting women's, men's and children's right to food security. Moreover networking, information and advocacy initiatives would be carried out also at the regional and international level, so as to complement the local / national focus of the project. The combination of different levels of activities is consistent with the SID Sustainable Livelihoods methodology, which bases its success on the particular structure of the SID network of members, chapters and partners.

For further information and project follow up please contact
Elena Mancusi-Materi,
Food Security and Sustainable Livelihoods Programme Coordinator, SID,
Via Panisperna 207,
00184 Rome, Italy.
Tel: +39 06 48 72 172;
Fax: +39 06 48 72 170;
Email: elenam@sidint.org


1 List of Food Security workshops and dates:

Bangladesh: Sylhet, 16 October 1999 and Dhaka, 11 November 1999.

Benin: Porto Novo, 18-19 November 1999.

Bolivia: Cochabamba, 23-24 March 2000.

Burkina Faso: Ouagadougou, 11-12 May 2000.

Cameroon: Buea, 9-10 December 1999.

Côte d' Ivoire: Abidjan, 9-10 March 2000.

El Salvador: Cacaopera, 18 November 1999 and San Salvador, 1 December 1999.

Ghana: Accra, 25-27 January 2000.

Haiti: Jean-Rabel, 11-13 June 2000 and Jacmel, 14-16 June 2000.

India: Bangalore, 17 March 2000, Patna, 29-30 April 2000 and New Delhi, 26-27 June 2000.

Kenya: Kisii, 4 May 2000.

Mozambique: Maputo, 21-22 July 2000.

Nepal: Udayapur, 27-28 November 1999.

Nicaragua: Somoto, 6-7 July 2000.

Niger: Sadoré, 17 November 1999.

Nigeria: Zaria, 3-4 November 1999.

Pakistan: Faisalabad, 26-27 March 2000.

Peru: Lima, 21-22 March 2000.

Senegal: Dakar, 14-15 September 2000.

South Africa: Stellenbosch, 11-12 April 2000.

Tanzania: Bagamoyo, 28-29 February 2000.

Tunisia: Tunis, 27 May 2000 and Kisra, 17 June 2000.

Uganda: Kampala, 13-14 April 2000.

Yemen: Sana'a, 20-21 February 2000.

Zambia: Lusaka, 19-20 June 2000.

Zimbabwe: Harare, 7-8 February 2000.

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