Agroecology, the UK Parliament and the Global South: A Collaborative Approach to Policy Change
Lead Organization: All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology for Sustainable Food and Farming (APPG)
Partner Organizations: The Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University; War on Want.
Location(s): UK Houses of Parliament and government departments
Award: $65,000 over 6 months (2017)
This project works to shift thinking at the highest levels of both the UK and Global South governments to influence policy to support agroecological solutions. It will help inform policy decision-making and strengthen grassroots movements to counter the expansion and consolidation of present unsustainable agricultural practices that exacerbate the impacts of climate change.
- An informed and engaged group of MPs/Peers able to ask the right questions, challenge the perceived wisdom and champion Agroecology;
- A wider understanding among parliamentarians about agroecology and its benefits, especially as a way of mitigating and adapting to climate change and as a powerful social movement for justice; and
- A policy development process that considers the impact on:
- Climate change: We believe that a key way of building the case for agroecology and getting the attention of policy makers is to promote agroecology as a way of both mitigating and adapting to climate change and to highlight the dangers of expanding and consolidating the present unsustainable practices.
- Small scale farmers: We will engage directly with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to review and challenge their policy for small farmers and encourage them to consider the needs of small scale family farms and their importance in the transition to sustainable food systems.
- Human rights: We will promote agroecology as a powerful social movement for justice. Policy makers need to be aware of the impact that agricultural intensification and the commodification of the food chain can have on human rights and consider the benefits of agroecology. We would like to ensure that full consideration is given to the importance of supporting marginalised groups and strengthening the work and voice of grassroots movements.
Challenges that the Collaborative faced(s)
The UK’s decision to leave the EU has plunged Westminster into a state of chaos and consequently it is proving very difficult to gain the attention and time of parliamentarians and Government departments who are inevitably focused on Brexit-related work. This was exacerbated by the unexpected requirement for Parliament to debate Brexit and Article 50 which has been the focus of parliamentary activity over the last few months. Finally the decision by the Conservative Party to call a General Election and the subsequent Dissolution of Parliament has meant that the APPG along with all other all parliamentary groups is not allowed to be active until 8 June 8 2017.
Brexit has also had an impact on the workload of our APPG officers (MPs and Peers), who have been called up from the back benches to sit on additional Select Committees and so on. We are therefore having to recruit new officers into the APPG to ensure that we can successfully complete our UK and international programmes of work.
- A launch at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 (ORFC), with a focus on climate change.
- A set of research and policy briefs to be publicised in parliament and in the media.
- A set of oral and written Parliamentary Questions with follow up questions, meetings and letters as necessary.
- To give a voice to the excluded, by bringing seven, mainly women, farmers from East and West Africa to parliament for a week of events and meetings with policy makers.
- A high level climate change event with a key note speech by Hilal Elver UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
At the ORFC, the panellists provided evidence on the growing consensus that the current agrifood system is a major contributor to climate change and how the current system prevents sustainable alternatives from thriving. They talked about the impact of land grabs and how countries like the UK have supported these actions; how small scale farmers are double victims, suffering the direct consequences of climate change while also being harmed by many of the ill-conceived mechanisms to address the problem; and highlighted other impediments that prevent agroecological practices from spreading such as making local seed systems illegal and failing to educate farmers in agroecology.
The panelists presented many reasons why we should support a switch to Agroecology, including: environmental benefits and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, resilience through diversity; increased productivity; lower cost; poverty reduction; and the strengthening of social relations and keeping community traditions alive.
Recommendations for policy makers included:
Stop all support for land grabs and promote access to land for small scale farmers
Promote local and small scale food systems and markets
Support local exchange of seeds and community seed banks
Encourage and support agroecological training
Ensure farmers’ perspectives are represented in decisions made through meaningful consultation and support to local farmers’ organisations.
Summary and social media reaction to session at Oxford Real Farming