Decent rural employment for food security: A case for action
Promoting decent employment is essential to achieving food security and reducing poverty. Simply put, in order to be able to access food, poor people rely on the income from their labour, because it is often the only asset they have. This was explicitly acknowledged through the inclusion of target 1.B “Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people” in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 to “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”.
However, policy responses have rarely addressed the employment and hunger challenges in a coordinated manner. There has been growing attention to the importance of employment, as seen in the United Nations (UN) system’s response to the global and financial crisis. In 2009, the UN agreed on a Global Jobs Pact to boost employment, production, investment and aggregate demand, and promote decent work for all. Moreover, the UN System Wide Action Plan of the Second UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) set “full employment and decent work for all” as a main theme.
Likewise, a variety of initiatives have been taken to increase food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable, including increasing investment in agriculture, addressing food prices increases, and reducing producers’ and consumers’ vulnerability to food price shocks and to the effects of climate change. And yet, those initiatives have rarely taken up explicit employment objectives.
This Case for Action argues that improving policy coherence between employment and agricultural initiatives and investing more in the promotion of decent rural employment contribute highly to the interlinked challenges of fighting rural poverty and feeding a growing world population in a sustainable way. Even more importantly, decent work is a fully fledged human right, enshrined in international human rights law,to which each person is entitled as a means of personal development and socio-economic inclusion.
While the ILO leads the Global Employment and Decent Work Agenda, FAO has a crucial comparative advantage in promoting decent work in rural areas, specifically with respect to employment in agriculture, including livestock, forestry, fisheries and management of natural resources, as well as agroprocessing and retailing. Given its mandate to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy, FAO has a significant responsibility within this context. This Case for Action further clarifies the reasoning behind this statement and suggests entry points for increased synergies and inter-disciplinary collaboration.