– Exploring the issues and responses to food insecurity in the developing world, Sat. 16th. Nov. 2013.
Over 100 were present and they took virtually all the good WDM materials made available, leaving just a couple of cards!
The main speaker Patrick Mulvany – Senior Policy advisor for Practical Action – was excellent, but two of the International NGOs leading workshops (OXFAM and ACTION AID) really added little to the aims of the conference and some of us thought they must radically change their approach if they were to positively support small holder farmers. I got the impression some of the NGO staff themselves have (private) concerns at the direction they are taking!
In contrast CAFOD was pretty good as it had a policy of listening and working in real long term partnerships with smallholder farmers that supported the concept of food sovereignty, which Patrick Mulvany was rightly promoting as the only sustainable way forward. At the plenary sessions some of the assembled folk seemed to fail to understand that the main problem was here – in the way we want cheap, poor quality food, from wherever, which we often waste. They were a little put out by the suggestion that they should work for change here and not concentrate on there and it is they/us that have to change not them.
Luckily the main speaker totally supported this view, just more politely, by emphasising how the smallholder farmers around the world were getting organised and fighting for their own food sovereignty away from big Corporate and Government control! He pointed out a growing amount of our aid money was supporting Corporatism to force/encourage small holder farmers to allow industrialisation of food production for our benefit and not theirs in the end.
On the current situation with most International NGO’s he suggested we must all read John Hillary – “Putting Politics back in” just published: http://progressivedevelopmentforum.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/putting-the-politics-back-in/
The main conclusion for me (supported I gather by an evaluation about to be published) was the IF campaign has only promoted Cameron and virtually nothing else of any use as far as smallholder farmers were concerned. People had been conned and I was pleased WDM had kept out of the IF campaign. It was typical of the conning of such good people who mean well by, for example, continuing to support more aid without seeing how it is currently often being adversely utilised. Many people were left thinking this even if emotionally they found it difficult to accept.