A gathering held by the Geneva Office of the BIC examined how knowledge generated by farmers can inform and strengthen international policies on food and agriculture.

A gathering held by the Geneva Office of the BIC examined how knowledge generated by farmers can inform and strengthen international policies on food and agriculture.

Agriculture: BIC underscores role of farmers in policymaking

October 5, 2021

BIC GENEVA — How is it that despite sufficient quantities of food being produced to feed the entire global population each year, food systems fall short of providing food security for all of humanity?

To examine this question, the Geneva Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) hosted a discussion during the United Nations global Food Systems Summit—the first major food summit since 1996 aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The event specifically looked at the need to put farmers at the heart of discussions on food production and included the Deputy to the UN Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, the Secretary of the Committee on World Food Security, the Director for Knowledge Management and Learning at CARE International, representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, as well as Bahá’í-inspired organizations with related experience.

“Growing evidence suggests that improvements in rural productive sectors depend heavily on farmers and people engaged in local agriculture—something that has become ever more apparent during the pandemic,” said Simin Fahandej, a representative of the Geneva Office, at the gathering.

Participants of the BIC gathering included the Deputy to the UN Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, the Secretary of the Committee on World Food Security, the Director for Knowledge Management and Learning at CARE International, representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, as well as Bahá’í-inspired organizations with related experience. Slideshow
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Participants of the BIC gathering included the Deputy to the UN Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, the Secretary of the Committee on World Food Security, the Director for Knowledge Management and Learning at CARE International, representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, as well as Bahá’í-inspired organizations with related experience.

She added: “Yet, their voice and experience are largely missing from high-level conversations on food systems and policy-making processes.

“The bulk of decisions on agricultural policy and food security are typically made far from the rural settings and local realities that shape how policies will be implemented in practice.”

Drawing on the Bahá’í teachings, Ms. Fahandej continued to explain that, in order to achieve change, new conceptions of the role of farmers in society are needed. “Imagine what new possibilities can emerge if we embrace farmers as ‘the first active agent in human society’ and allow questions regarding the economic development of communities to begin with the farmer?”

On this basis, panelists explored how knowledge generated at the local level about food production by farmers and communities can inform international policies on food and agriculture.

Ever Rivera, a representative of the Bahá’í-inspired organization FUNDAEC with extensive experience in the fields of education and agriculture, described how narrow and limited conceptions need to be replaced with a more profound understanding of human nature that sees the nobility of every human being and protects each one against prejudice and paternalism.

People engaged in different agricultural initiatives of Bahá’í communities in different countries. Slideshow
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People engaged in different agricultural initiatives of Bahá’í communities in different countries.

Mr. Rivera elaborated further, describing FUNDAEC’s approach to developing capacity in people to contribute to the well-being of their societies, particularly in supporting initiatives aimed at food self-sufficiency.

“FUNDAEC promotes approaches that draw on the profound traditional knowledge of farmers and on the best practices of modern science, enabling farmers to enhance food production processes and to develop community structures and new systems that support collective well-being.

“These include the establishment of small groups of farmers who collaborate and support one another, the development of a village storehouse accessible to all, and changes in agricultural practices and in the distribution of produce to eliminate unnecessary intermediaries in bringing agricultural products to market.”

Discussions at the gathering also addressed the harmful impact of certain major challenges of environmental degradation, such as soil erosion, large-scale deforestation, and water shortages. Dr. Martin Frick, the Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, stated that “all of these wrongs can be righted, with no other means more effective than through food systems. And you will only achieve that by addressing issues of human dignity… and power imbalances.”

The Geneva Office of the BIC plans to release a statement on themes related to agriculture and food security as it continues to hold gatherings exploring these issues.