Future for Smallholders at Rio+20? #FAFO12

This morning I attended (and tweeted from @jeffbrez) the Farmers’ Forum thematic working group on “Engaging Rio + 20.” The room was packed and the tension in the room I felt was equal parts optimism and frustration.

Frustration came from some who felt that the Rio+20 zero draft outcome document does not put a square focus on smallholders (see Food Security section paras 64-66). Some felt uncomfortable with the ramifications of a “green economy” focus that could turn ecosystem services and biodiversity into economic “goods” to be traded and speculated upon in open markets. There was frustration from some representatives about government focus on investment in urban infrastructure, despite the fact that a majority of people live in rural areas. Lack of reliable land tenure and insecure access to natural resources were mentioned as persisting obstacles to smallholder, family farming and indigenous peoples’ wellbeing.

On the positive side, the farmers’ organizations in the room felt that if they are strategic and coherent in their approach, that Rio+20 could be an opportunity to make progress on these frustrating points. The associations generally expressed appreciation for the Rome-based Agencies joint submission to the zero draft document, as well as to the Farmer’s Major Group submission. There was optimism that if consensus can be reached on how to engage in the process and exactly what the outcome objective should be, important progress for the rural poor was not out of reach.

One key hurdle to overcome will be connecting farmers organizations worldwide to enable their collective voice to be heard leading up to and at Rio+20. The associations may request IFAD to support their efforts to organize and navigate the dizzying mix of events and procedures. If they do I look forward to being a part of our partnership.