October 16, 2013

Right to Adequate and Nutritious Food: Role of Landscapes

By Kedar Mankad, EcoAgriculture Partners, Washington, DC.

This year, World Food Day and Blog Action Day fall on October 16th. World Food Day is focusing on “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”, while Blog Action day has narrowed in on the topic of Human Rights. These two themes, in fact, complement each other under the banner of the “right to food.” As such, we can consider how integrated landscape management (ILM) can and does contribute to the realization of this right to food, and fits into the broader framework of a rights-based approach.

Ensuring the right to food, as defined by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, implies that food is available, accessible, and adequate. Availability relates to whether people can purchase or produce sufficient food; Accessibility is both physical and financial to all citizens; and Adequacy is the requirement that food is both culturally and nutritionally appropriate. These rights are defined by the stakeholders, and participation of the population in the governing process to determine these rights is essential. States have three levels of obligation under this: to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights established.

If we look closely, we can see that there are some fundamental synergies between integrated landscape management and the right to food. Through broad stakeholder participation, negotiation around common objectives and strategies, and adaptive management based on shared learning, the outcomes that arise from managing land in this way help respect, protect, and fulfill the fundamental rights that the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) makes clear. 160 States are Parties and 70 are Signatories to this treaty, which was created in 1966 in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to ensure that States make strides to create conditions whereby all citizens will enjoy basic economic, social, and cultural rights. Article 11 of this treaty recognizes the right to adequate food and efficient development and utilization of natural resources. One issue, however, is the difficulty in moving from de jure to de facto realization of rights (i.e. on-paper to implementation). This is where ILM comes in.

ILM provides a practical pathway for states to help guarantee many of these fundamental rights in rural landscapes. By looking at an ecosystem from a landscape scale, a state can see that mere provision of food is not enough. For example, states can convene the multiple stakeholders in a watershed – industry, farmers, processors, and downstream users – to come to common solutions for common problems, whether they are water pollution from effluents, siltation from deforested land, loss of productive capacity from water scarcity, or decreased biodiversity from overfishing.

ILM also links closely with one of the main pathways by which nutrition is made accessible, through increasing dietary diversity. This could be from supplementation of consumption through harvest of non-timber forest products to increased fauna and biodiversity from healthier ecosystems. The rights-based approach is also meant to empower rural communities to produce food of their choosing, for own-consumption or for sale. Through increasing physical and financial accessibility, communities are able to grow foods that are culturally appropriate and which may also have alternative market interests. By ensuring adequacy, States that follow the rights based approach are pledging to create conditions whereby nutritionally appropriate food is cultivated and consumed.

Through ensuring provision of ecosystem services, ILM bolsters the de jure efforts of the human rights community in ensuring sustainable livelihoods for rural populations, and increase the capacity of States Parties to the ICESCR to take appropriate steps to fully realize these rights. Furthermore, through multi-stakeholder collaboration, there can be an iterative process of engagement that allows for management of these complex systems to adapt to changes on the ground. A more in-depth analysis is necessary to see how these communities of practice can learn from one another, but it is clear that there are shared goals and objectives that can be harnessed.

The closer we look, the more it seems that sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition are not possible without acknowledgement of fundamental human rights. However, respect of the rights is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. In order to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to food, it is clear that action must be mobilized beyond the farm level.

Read more:
Agroecology and the Right to Food – Olivier de Schutter

Image credit: FAO
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