Worldwatch Focuses on Africa
Many thanks to The Nation and Food First for alerting readers to the need for increased funding in African agriculture. A main goal of our work is to put a much-needed spotlight on farmer organizations and NGOs in Africa, the very organizations and individuals that Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Gimenez and Annie Shattuck rightfully assert are essential to any real discussion of sustainable agriculture there [“Letters,” Oct. 19]. The culmination of this project will be the report “State of the World 2011,” with a focus on hunger. We are working directly with farmer organizations and groups on the ground in Africa as well as African journalists to tell the as yet untold stories of triumph in this region.
Patel et al. ask if money might have been better spent disseminating proven knowledge within Africa. That is exactly what we hope to do. Through Worldwatch’s worldwide network and its audience of government officials, policy-makers, journalists and NGOs, we will share the report with key stakeholders, including local farmers and policy-makers. We believe these stories will inspire action, and that innovations in sustainable agriculture will consequently be implemented on a larger scale.
We realize that this project will be standing on the shoulders of giants, including the International Agricultural Assessment of Science and Technology for Development, which was released last year. We envision the report as a continuation of this work, which will make IAASTD’s findings more accessible to a wider audience and offer concrete recommendations. Two key audiences for it will be the agricultural funding community, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and farmers and farmer groups.
Patel et al. expressed concern that the framing of this project could be skewed. Since its inception in 1974, Worldwatch has maintained a solid reputation as a broker of independent, unbiased research. We bring our unwavering objectivity and dedication to truth to the Nourishing the Planet project. Worldwatch comes to this project without any pre-drawn conclusions or expectations of what the findings will be. And although it is too early to share all our conclusions, there is strong opinion (and good evidence) that farmer-driven work–whether farmer-run seed banks, farmer-run marketing cooperatives or farmer-run research–can be instrumental in reducing poverty and hunger.
Project directors, “State of the World 2011″
More Letters on Our ‘Food for All’ Issue
Your food democracy issue was superb [“Food for All,” Sept. 21]. A recurring theme was the challenge of democratizing food growing and distribution in the face of competition from the “real” economy, with its subsidies and capital. We need to link the issue to the notion of alternative currencies, like Burlington Bread (other examples: Ithaca Hours, Bay Bucks, Berk Shares). Burlington Bread is a local currency used around Burlington, Vermont, and accepted by merchants and even the county, for taxes. As a local exchange medium, it allows people to earn wages and exchange them for food and services without depending on banks or Wall Street (see the Burlington Currency Project).