On the last day before the summerbreak of the Dutch parliament a debate was planned on agriculture in developing countries. This debate had been postponed twice.
After having lobbied exclusively on climate change the last four years, my work had been expanded to the exciting world of agriculture and food. I have no background in agriculture so I needed to learn a lot in a short time. The GROW report came very timely for me to make the connections between the need to invest in female farmers with small plots , land grabbing, rising food prices and climate change.
The Dutch government has been one of the most progressive ones in the last decades. Already a few years ago they saw the importance of investing in agriculture in developing countries and they now invest around 12% of ODA in it. The policy on agriculture in developing countries of 2008 included research, market access, and special food security programs.
But the new Dutch government has made a strong shift to the right. Left wing “hobbies” such as culture, development cooperation and strong protection of biodiversity are under threat. The new government sees great opportunities for big Dutch companies like Unilever and Campina and for Wageningen University to help deliver food security in the world.
I can see that companies can have a role in fighting hunger in developing countries. But it worries me to see that in the Dutch policies, like the one on innovations in the agro-food sector, no analysis has been made of the food security problem worldwide and then decided what different actors from the Netherlands can do best. No, the Dutch take the great potential of the Dutch agro-food sector as a starting point and save the world from there.
In my discussions with parliamentarians I’m happy to offer GROW as a thorough analysis. The reactions from very different political parties are mainly positive. The socialist party likes our focus on land grabbing, the Green Left party wants to know more about the role of women and the conservatives are interested in food prices and how to empower small farmers. All find something in the GROW-basket. It is then my task to show the links between all the different topics. That female small farmers in developing countries need to be strengthened to resist the effects of climate change and landgrabbing. That governments, like the Dutch, need to control companies that do landgrabbing and need to invest explicitely in small farmers through all channels and work towards lowering the blending targets for bio fuels in the European regulations.
After I had spoken to nearly all relevant political parties in the parliament it was decided to postpone the debate on agriculture in developing countries until October. The secretary of state promised the parliament a policypaper on foodsecurity. Does that mean that the other elements of the policy on agriculture in developing countries will be abandoned? Will October not be too late to discuss the role of the Dutch cooperations on foodsecurity and their interest in the ODA budget? It will give me an opportunity to influence the next debate and the promised policypaper.
The GROW report gives me a strong basis to build my next lobby on. Onwards, Forwards !
More about the campaign, see www.oxfamnovib.nl/grow (Dutch)