Inside and outside the World Water Forum

Posted March 13, 2012 by Shiney Varghese   

I am in Marseille, France this week, home to some of the biggest water multinationals, to participate in two parallel events on water in a resource-constrained world. From March 12–17, the 6th World Water Forum brings together multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, governments, water professionals, water technologists, development organizations and of course the multinational corporations involved in water. Many development organizations participate in the event because the discussions here influence national and regional decisions that affect poor and marginal groups around the world.

On the outside, I will also be participating in the Alternative Water Forum, a parallel event for water advocates promoting water solutions that are inclusive, fair and rights based. IATP has been involved since 2002 in the planning of these alternative water events.

Much of our advocacy inside the WWC-organized forum has been in response to the refusal by the ministerial of the forum to recognize water as a right. In fact IATP’s campaign on the right to water began in response to the 2nd World Water Forum Ministerial Declaration in 2000, which said that “water is a need,” despite demands to have it recognized as a basic human right.

The issue has come a long way since then as a result of struggles around the world, and work by committed individuals in CSOs and governments at various levels. The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is now recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the World Health Assembly (resolutions A/RES/64/292, A/HRC/RES/15/9, A/HRC/RES/16/2, A/HRC/RES/18/1 and WHA 64/24).

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Fasting to lose the bonds of injustice

Posted March 9, 2012 by    

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) are in the fifth day of a 6-day fast to draw attention to the unfair treatment of farmworkers in Florida tomato fields. The target of the fast, supermarket retailer Publix, has refused to join the Fair Food Program. The program's demands include paying tomato pickers a penny more per pound. Retailers will also ensure safe and healthy work conditions and support ending child labor in the fields. Publix has refused to meet with CIW to discuss the Campaign for Fair Food.

Cheap labor is one ingredient that makes food retailing profitable for corporate America. The refusal to ensure safe work conditions and fair wages for farm workers is a core problem in a food system that claims to feed the world. Perhaps the claim should be adjusted, to reflect that farm laborers and their families are excluded from the world that industry claims to feed.

The plight of farm laborer is virtually missing from most mainstream conversations about food. It is as if food magically appears from farms located in far and distant places. Another twist of fate happens and food appears in the grocery aisles of supermarkets across America. The American public must begin to understand that the industrial food complex is not magical, but a series of complex interlocking relationships between multinational companies that are supported by an even more complex set of public policies that often pit consumers' health and wellbeing against corporate interests. Frequently, the interests of the general public, family farmers and poor people are forsaken in the name of profit. Caught in the web of corporate interests and federal policies, farmworkers are purposefully ignored.

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A bitter fight with labor in a sugar co-op

Posted February 29, 2012 by Dale Wiehoff   

Used under creative commons license from Wes Peck.

You’ve got to believe something has gotten into the water up in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota when a proud, farmer-ownedsugar cooperative is locking out the union. Sugar co-ops and their unions have together built a strong regional industry that is valuable to all concerned. The cooperative’s leadership is risking a great deal in its drive to break the union and for the union, the livelihood of its members hangs in the balance. 
Also hanging in the balance is one the few remaining New Deal style farm programs that not only doesn’t cost tax payers an arm and a leg, but has kept markets stable for manufacturers, consumers and trade with 40 some countries exporting sugar to the United States.
We might ask ourselves, why aren’t all farm programs like this? At one time they were, but after decades of unrelenting attacks from agribusiness, we are left with expensive and ill-conceived programs that don’t really meet our needs. Now even these poor excuses for a safety net are on the chopping block.

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Drawing a line in the water: India’s new draft national water policy

Posted February 28, 2012 by Andrew Ranallo   

Used under creative commons license from Tricia Wang 王圣捷.

India's draft national water policy could serve as a global precedent: Who will control water and how will it be allocated?

It’s all too easy, especially in the United States, to take water access for granted—turn on the tap, and fill up a glass—but across the world, lines are being drawn as governments and financially interested multi-national corporations ask the same question: Who will control the world’s water and how will it be allocated? India’s draft national water policy, released in January, is the latest example of a policy that, if passed as currently written, will continue to marginalize small-scale farmers and low-income communities, ultimately failing to reinforce water as a fundamental human right.

In a new report, IATP’s Shiney Varghese analyzes India’s draft policy and why, even though at first glance “it appears […] a holistic approach,” it comes up short—both in protecting people and the environment—and may set a dangerous precedent for water management worldwide. The People’s Campaign for the Right to Water has organized an e-petition, opposing “the very concept of water as an economic good” and India’s draft national water policy.

Read the new IATP paper, Corporatizing Water: India's Draft National Water Policy, for more, or see Shiney Varghese’s recent op-ed, “Turning off the tap on water as a human right” in India’s national daily, The Hindu. Take action by signing the Peoples Campaign for Right to Water e-petition.

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'Wir haben es satt' (We’ve had enough!)

Posted January 30, 2012 by Dale Wiehoff   

On January 23, over 20,000 people poured into the streets of Berlin to say that they have had enough of industrial agriculture. The demands made in Germany can be heard all over the world starting with fair treatment of farmers and consumers, safe food, an end to food speculation and a respect for nature and the welfare of animals.

Tomorrow, in New York City, the Occupy Wall Street movement is calling for protests to support 60 family farmers, small and family-owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations that are challenging Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed in federal court.

Like the Germans, it time for us to say, “We’ve had enough!” of Monsanto’s agriculture. From super weeds to pest resistance in corn, genetically modified seeds have failed. Now Monsanto is turning to even more dangerous products with new varieties that will only increase the amount of herbicides in the environment.

At the heart of industrial agriculture is a long running conflict between corporations and farmers on who will control food production. Occupy Wall Street has come out on the side of farmers and all who eat to say, “We’ve had enough!”

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Resolving the food crisis: Global leaders fail to make crucial reforms

Posted January 18, 2012 by Sophia Murphy   

Used under creative commons license from ILRI.

Rushing to buy bread as wheat runs short and food prices rise in Mozambique.

This piece by Sophia Murphy and Timothy A. Wise was originally published on the Triple Crisis blog.

The spikes in global food prices in 2007-08 served as a wake-up call to the global community on the inadequacies of our global food system.  Commodity prices doubled, the estimated number of hungry people topped one billion, and food riots spread through the developing world. A second price spike in 2010-11, which drove the global food import bill for 2011 to an estimated $1.3 trillion, showed that while global leaders may now be alert to the problems, our agricultural systems remain deeply flawed.

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Minnesota's Ag Commissioner: "It doesn’t get much better" than Farm to School

Posted December 9, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo   JoAnne Berkenkamp   

Farm to School means fresh choices in schools.

In his December Commissioner's Column, Minnesota's Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson touts the benefits the state sees from the strong and expanding Farm-to-School movement taking place thanks to organizations like IATP, the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, and of course state agencies like the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health. 

He writes:

Our students are enjoying fresh, wholesome, locally grown produce. Our farmers are enjoying a new, domestic market for their products. Our local communities are enjoying new business activity, and our state is enjoying greater agricultural literacy. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Read Commissioner Frederickson's full column and learn more about IATP's Farm to School work at

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The sound of food sovereignty in Durban

Posted December 8, 2011 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

Mamadou Goita of the West African farmers network ROPPA.


IATP’s Karen Hansen-Kuhn is blogging from the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
The launch of the African Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) began with rounds of joyous song, specifically a variant of a South African protest song:
My mother was a kitchen girl
My father was a garden boy
That’s why I’m a farmer now
That sentiment of decision and claiming one’s rights is at the heart of the concept of food sovereignty, and sets it apart from more limited ideas of food security. While both emphasize the importance of availability and access to food, food sovereignty is also grounded in local and national level decision-making on food systems. It is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, which integrates agricultural production with local ecosystems, building on local-level innovations and traditional knowledge.

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Occupy Wall Street's Farmers March

Posted December 7, 2011 by Dale Wiehoff   

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) held a Farmers March in Washington, D.C., on December 4 to highlight issues of corporate control of the food system. Farmers, community gardeners, food workers and activists spoke on issues such as fair prices for farmers, sustainable farming, local food and the growing specter of hunger in America.

Unregulated commodity speculation and corporate greed have contributed to a global food crisis that includes the 45 million Americans currently receiving food assistance. (See recent interview with with Jim Harkness, president of IATP.) And how are national political leaders responding to this crisis, which was created by the banks? With proposals to cut food assistance, which would only intensify food insecurity. In other parts of the world, the response to such policies has been food riots and national uprisings. As the peaceful and thoughtful OWS Farmers March demonstrated, we don't need to go down that road, but if we hope to avoid it, we had better act immediately to reform our corporate-controlled food system.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

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Feeding the world, or not

Posted December 5, 2011 by    

Used under creative commons license from dsearls.

Improving food security around the world is much more complicated than simply increasing grain production. 

In 1999, IATP released a ground-breaking report called Feeding the World that debunked the oft-claimed argument that increased U.S. grain exports decrease global hunger. In reality, the report revealed, grain exports went overwhelmingly to wealthy countries, and almost not at all to the nations struggling most with malnourishment.
Today we've released an update of that report that takes a fresh look at the myths and facts around the notion of feeding the world. We wanted to know how things have changed in the twelve years since the original Feeding the World was published, and specifically, if the increase in U.S. grain exports we've seen over the last decade have made a dent in alleviating global hunger.

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