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‘World Hunger Day’ 2019

Agroecology Needed to Address Hunger and Climate Crisis, Youth Play a Key Role

This year, the world witnessed how the youth have taken it upon themselves to act urgently and as one
to compel world leaders to take action on the worsening climate crisis that threatens their future and the
future of this planet. People’s movements across the globe have seized the momentum to expose how
corporate agriculture—characterized by chemical-intensive production, monocultures, loss of
biodiversity, land grabbing, and destruction of rainforests—contributes greatly to the climate crisis.
Youth-led voices from below have made it clear that nothing less than a paradigm shift is needed,
especially in something as basic and encompassing as how we produce and consume our food.

Today, October 16, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) celebrates its annual World Food Day
and calls for renewed efforts to achieve #ZeroHunger. But for majority of the world’s population, World
Hunger Day is closer to reality. The FAO’s latest estimates peg the number of people who suffer from
hunger at 820 million. It has also raised concerns over the rise of unhealthy diets “as a result of
globalization,” with one-fifth of deaths worldwide linked to unhealthy eating habits. “Nutritious foods
that constitute a healthy diet are not available or affordable for many people,” the FAO admits.

World hunger and unhealthy diets have been a result of structural poverty, and especially in the case of
those who directly produce food such as the millions of small-scale farmers in poor countries, the massive
destruction of agriculture and loss of food sovereignty under neoliberal globalization. Many are displaced
and forced to grow monocrops for export or become laborers in plantations run by large agribusinesses.
They are without their own land to grow food and barely make enough to feed their own families, much
less their communities. In such conditions of poverty, hunger and lack of livelihood opportunities, the
rural youth are forced to migrate to the cities and to other countries to seek better livelihoods and
employment opportunities, often in exploitative conditions of work with little social protection.

The imposition of hazardous pesticides and technologies such as genetically-modified crops—a push for
monopoly control by agrochemical transnational corporations with support of governments—has
poisoned innumerable food producers. Chemical-intensive agriculture is destroying biodiversity on a
massive scale. Pesticides are killing off pollinators and contaminating soil and water systems, while
“genetic” drift is contaminating crop biodiversity and adversely affecting farmers saving seeds. Nutritious
local crop varieties have disappeared or are fast disappearing. Today, only nine plant species account for
66% of total crop production, despite the fact that throughout history, more than 6,000 species have
been cultivated for food. All of these mean that the food that is available is increasingly of poor nutrition,
laden with toxic chemicals, and grown in a manner harmful to people and the environment.

Hunger is exacerbated by the climate crisis, as extreme weather events affect poor agricultural
communities the most. At the same time, profit-oriented agriculture is itself a big contributor to climate
change. It is estimated that 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions is due to the use of chemical fertilizers,
pesticides and animal wastes. This does not yet include the impact of the loss of carbon sinks due to the
burning down and conversion of forests, grass and wetlands for industrial agriculture. For instance, the
Amazon fires are caused mainly by big agribusiness interests that push for export crop and animal
production that is part of unsustainable global food supply systems. There is no question that the
dominant agricultural model will only lead to more land and resource grabs, hunger and food insecurity,
deaths and disease, as well as hasten the catastrophic increase of global temperatures.

In contrast, agroecology is an economically viable and socially just approach to sustainable agriculture
and food systems. It is grounded on ecological and social principles and the integration of science with
local and indigenous knowledge and practice, emphasising farming in harmony with natural cycles and
processes, and the political approach of food sovereignty — including the right to produce and access
nutritious and culturally appropriate food.

Agroecological practices by farmers have been around for centuries and have fed generations of people.
Today, agroecology is at the center of ongoing dialogues and innovations involving farmers, scientists,
and social movements. Even the FAO Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts
has recognised agroecology as an important transition pathway towards the sustainability of food
systems. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends agroecology
and diversification to increase the resilience of food systems to climate change.

Led by PAN Asia Pacific, this year’s #16DaysofGlobalAction on Agroecology was spearheaded by the youth
and participated in by more than 40 partner organisations and their networks in 20 countries in Asia,
Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. From October 1 to 16, 2019, various actions were taken
to raise awareness on and call for agroecology, reaching out to an estimated 600,000 people. The
#16DaysofGlobalAction is proof that agroecology is gaining momentum as a movement, from the
grassroots level up to the global level.

We call on governments to end policies that promote the systematic corporatisation of agriculture: this
includes the production and use of highly hazardous pesticides; commercialization of genetically-
engineered crops; land and resource grabbing in the guise of development; state violence against
environment and land rights defenders; among others. Local, national and international policymakers
must put into place support mechanisms meant to replace chemical-intensive agriculture with
agroecology, and enact policies that would ensure the people’s access to land and resources, and the
exercise of food sovereignty.

The youth, rooted in social movements of farmers, agricultural laborers, and other small food producers,
must play a key role in the struggle to promote agroecology and uphold food sovereignty. The world’s
youth is unmatched in its energy and vigor as part of a movement that strives to free food production
and consumption from the devastating grip of capital.

#YouthMarchOn for Agroecology and Food Sovereignty!