Rome, Italy.  The group of world-wide experts on sustainable food systems (IPES-Food) held their 4th meeting in Rome, Italy October 16-17 in conjunction with the FAO Committee on Food Security meeting and World Food Day. More than 24 members of IPES-Food gathered including CAN’s Board Chair, Steve Gliessman and two new members: CAN-affiliated researcher Laura Trujillo from Veracruz, Mexico and Million Belay, director of the Alliance for Food Security of Africa, a continental network supporting small-scale farmers. Million participated in CAN’s International Agroecology Shortcourse held in Santa Cruz, California, this past July. The group met to further their work to develop and influence global food policy for more environmentally sound food systems that support healthy food for everyone while making small-scale farming viable. More than 70% of farmers world wide are small-scale. These farmers are often not able to grow enough food to feed their families year-round.

The meeting coincided with World Food Day. To honor the importance of the efforts of many people and organizations working to end hunger, IPES-Food sponsored an open forum with panelists from around the world. Representing IPES-Food were Olivier de Schutter, former UN rapporteur for the Right to Food and Cecilia Rocha, an expert on food and nutrition policy. Joining them on the panel were representatives from an international group for indigenous rights; Via Campesina, the international farmer/campesino movement; a representative from people’s movements for farmer and food rights in India, and a representative from small-scale fishers in Africa.

Panelists emphasized that the core issues are less about production and more about the need to focus on well-being and our connection to nature, and that there is a need for world policy from local to global levels to address this. Examples were cited from Brazil where food security policies include the government purchasing food for school lunch programs from family farmers, supporting both the farmers and providing good nutrition for the children. From India the story was shared of how the issue of everyone’s “right to food” was taken to India’s Supreme Court. In 2013 India’s Supreme Court ruled that the right to life guaranteed under the country’s constitution also includes the right to safe food. The effort to bring this case to the Supreme Court was led by food justice movement organizations in India.

A key point to the discussion was the concern of young people not following in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to farming and fishing. The average age of farmers in the United States and Europe is 58-60. In rural communities world wide, young people are leaving their villages in search of better opportunities. The question was asked: How do we create opportunities for young people so they have the choice of staying in their communities?

The work of IPES-Food is based in the concepts of agroecology: creating a global food system based on regional culture and food needs that protects the environment. We are excited to have CAN affiliates actively participating in this work.