Blog New project: fostering human rights in food systems

The Alliance is part of a multidisciplinary consortium recently awarded $3.8 million to launch the project “People-centered Food Systems: Fostering Human Rights-based Approaches”.

A multidisciplinary project consortium led by Dr. Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food & Agricultural Policy and Ethics at Johns Hopkins University, has received a $3.8 million grant to apply a human rights-based approach to food systems. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation will contribute half of the grant funding, with the remainder funded jointly by the consortium’s member organizations. The consortium includes Johns Hopkins University, CIAT on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Rikolto. The award supports the first phase of a ten-year project to strengthen the capacity of governments, peasants, and other people living in rural areas to adopt and incorporate human rights frameworks such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) into food policy and food systems action.

“Small-scale farmers produce more than 80% of the world’s food, but this diverse population suffers disproportionately from hunger, poverty, discrimination, violent conflict, and climate change. Human rights instruments like UNDROP represent a major step forward in protecting their human rights, but more work is needed to integrate them into food systems policy effectively,” says Dr. Fanzo.

The project, “People-centered Food Systems: Fostering Human Rights-based Approaches,” aims to characterize constraints globally and within countries for peasants and other rural dwellers to claim their rights to food security, adapt to and mitigate against climate change, and preserve the agrobiodiversity fundamental to their livelihoods. Led by Dr. Fanzo, the multidisciplinary project consortium includes academics, development practitioners, ethicists, and lawyers from Johns Hopkins University, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Rikolto. 

“The Human Rights approach has been very effective at advancing the development agenda on many different fronts, including access to water, health services or even access to food. But its potential to protect the rights of food systems actors is still something that has not been explored properly. This is the ambition of this project,”

notes Alliance scientist Chris Béné. “We are therefore extremely excited to be part of this project.”

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is one of the leading U.S. academic institutions focusing on teaching, scholarship and research. The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT is an international research for development organization that is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the largest international network on agricultural public research to service the global South. The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction is an international not-for-profit organization aimed at enabling communities, and those who work with them, to develop innovative yet practical solutions to poverty through a community-led development approach, and to share widely these lessons to encourage replication. Rikolto is an experienced market system & inclusive business facilitator, using innovative approaches in co-creation with a sector-wide range of partners to find more sustainable ways of accessing, distributing, and producing nutritious food, so no one is left behind.

The project team seeks to use advocacy, build capacity, and develop accountability tools to better integrate human rights frameworks within food system policy and action. Initial project activities will take place in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Honduras, and Uganda with the intention of scaling up the approach to other countries in later phases and producing global guidance on this issue.

Nataly Pinto, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at Rikolto, says, “Rikolto charts a clear and unifying path toward sustainable food systems by focusing on interventions like these to reshape the roles of multiple food system actors from the global to the local level. We are excited to be part of this joint effort together with JHU, CIAT on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to enable a human rights-based approach to food systems. Access to sufficient and healthy food is a right…not a privilege.”