How can the Netherlands most effectively contribute to achieving sustainable food systems?

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      A review of Dutch food security policy is underway. By the end of this year, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs will send a joint food security policy paper to the Dutch Parliament. The Food & Business Knowledge Platform has launched an online consultation to ensure that the newest topics and debates on food security are included in the paper. The consultation is structured according to the five international targets of the Zero Hunger Challenge. Jeske van Seters adds her contribution to number 3 - ensuring 'all food systems are sustainable'

      "Markets matter"

      Productivity issues can unarguably have an important impact on smallholder income. However, I’d like to second some of the other contributors to this consultation who stress the importance of well-functioning markets. This implies that measures needed to increase smallholder income are not limited to investments in technology, irrigation, etc. Interventions that also merit attention are related to the functioning of markets for smallholders, such as increasing smallholders’ access to credit, affordable inputs (e.g. fertiliser), reliable price information, rural infrastructure and reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.

      What contributors so far have been silent about is the relevance of regional markets - i.e. trade across country borders - within a region. While one might think that only local markets matter for smallholders, many are engaged in regional value chains and there is great potential for regional market development to strengthen food security. This is recognised in the Dutch agenda for aid, trade and investment as laid down in ‘A World to Gain’, which emphasises that the Netherlands will opt more often for a regional approach as the best means to tackle problems such as food security. This will have to be reflected and further detailed in the Dutch food security policy.

      Regional markets for food security in Africa is one of the topics that the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) works on, with financial support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others. This involves policy-oriented research and facilitation of dialogue, amongst other things to:

      • Support Regional Economic Communities in Africa (e.g. COMESA, EAC, ECCAS, ECOWAS, SADC) to develop and implement their regional agricultural policy and related investment plan under the continental umbrella of the CAADP. Dutch support will need to be aligned to these African-owned policy frameworks;
      • Support regional farmers’ organisations representing smallholders (e.g. ROPPA in West Africa, PROPAC in Central Africa, EAFF in East Africa and SACAU in Southern Africa) to engage in regional policy processes;
      • Highlight political economy issues related to the functioning of regional agricultural input and output markets and corridors, to be taken into account by African stakeholders and development partners alike, for initiatives to be successful.

      Another element I miss in the discussion so far is the role of the European Union. The Minister has indicated in ‘A World to Gain’ that the Netherlands will work more often in a EU context in respect of International Public Goods such as food security. In development cooperation, this implies enhancing coordination of aid with other EU member states and EU delegations. It could also include an active contribution to inform the operation of the recent European Commission communication on the role of the private sector in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries, with a specific focus on agri-businesses.

      Beyond development cooperation, international food security is affected by EU policies in other areas such as trade, agriculture and research. The Dutch food security policy will be incomplete without a commitment and concrete proposals to take international food security considerations into account in the Netherlands’ positing in EU policy making.

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