Seven principles for ending hunger:

Protection of local agricultural systems


Fifth principle: Protection of local agricultural systems

Protection of local agricultural systems

There is a great variation of the level of protection of different types of agriculture in the world. Some producers, particularly in the rich OECD countries benefit from huge subsidies - around USD one billion per day - and from sophisticated and effective agricultural services, while others have to manage with virtually no subsidy and without support.

It is in those neglected agricultural systems that most of the people who are in a situation of chronic hunger are found. The little surpluses that these producers may generate are often in competition with subsidised imported commodities and sometimes even with unjustified food aid.

If there is a will to ensure that these farmers live decently from their work, they need to be protected from unfair competition:

  1. A tax on excessively cheap imports should be fixed at a level that will compensate for subsidies paid to producers in exporting countries (there is data available that allow setting the level of such a compensatory tax). This tax will generate financial resources that can be reinvested in agricultural development, in particular in agricultural research but also in agricultural and social services. It is clear that consumers will be penalised in the short term, but developing local agriculture, its production and productivity, should lead to a decrease of the price of locally produced commodities and the development of local value chains that will contribute to creating employment and value added that will also benefit consumers and urban dwellers. This tax should progressively be dismantled as subsidies are dismantled in exporting countries. The political feasibility of this option, like most of the principles proposed here will depend on the implementation of the first principle i.e. organisation of those who suffer from hunger to increase their political weight.

  2. For those rural people engaged in the production of export agricultural commodities, protection will require challenging the principles and modalities of international trade. It will be necessary to apply fair trade principles, namely: (i) payment of a fair price that covers costs of production and allows the farmers to meet their basic needs and have some capacity to save and invest; (ii) respect of the fundamental principles and rights at work as defined by the ILO; (iii) trade relations based on medium or long term contractual arrangements; (iv) the respect for the environment and (v) the simplification of value chains to increase the part of the price paid by the consumer that goes to the producer.

Protecting as suggested here these local agricultural systems will go a long way towards achieving food sovereignty [read]

These actions seem to be difficult to implement in the context of the balance of power existing currently at national and international level. Nevertheless, they appear to be indispensable if the objective of eradicating hunger is really to be achieved.

Materne Maetz

(October 2013)


Last update:    October 2013

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