The biggest Oxfam campaign ever launches tomorrow (but it's a secret)

June 1, 2011

The Killer Facts behind the GROW campaign

June 1, 2011

GROW: Oxfam’s new Global Campaign

June 1, 2011
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As promised, here’s the outline of the new 4 year Oxfam mega-campaign, GROW. The website is here, with the launch report ‘Growing a Grow logoBetter Future’ and lots of background papers and case studies.

The point of departure for Grow is that the survival and flourishing of humanity in this century will be determined by its success in rising to two historic challenges: ending hunger and learning to live within the planet’s ecological boundaries.

The warning signs of a gathering emergency are clear. We have entered an age of crisis: of food price spikes and oil price hikes; of scrambles for land and growing water stress; of climate change that Oxfam can already see affecting its programmes around the world. The threat that now faces us contrasts with steady, indeed historically unprecedented, development over the last 60 years. This constitutes a profound challenge to our existing models and understanding of development.

GROW has a simple message. Together we can avoid this grim future, but it will require decisive national and international action. We must simultaneously meet three challenges:

The sustainable production challenge
The food system must be transformed. By 2050, demand for food will increase by 70 per cent. This demand must be met despite flat-lining yields, increasing water scarcity and growing competition over land. At the same time agriculture must rapidly adapt to climate change if precipitous declines in productivity are to be avoided, and its carbon footprint must be slashed.

The equity challenge
In the developing world, nearly 1 billion of us go without enough to eat. Meanwhile an obesity epidemic is rapidly spreading from industrialized to emerging economies. Fair shares and social justice matter just as much as production. Moreover, how we grow the extra food required will matter as much as how much food is grown. Key to meeting the equity challenge is investing in small farmers. Hunger and poverty are concentrated in rural areas. Unlocking the potential of small producers represents our single biggest opportunity to increase food production, boost food security and reduce poverty and vulnerability. Background paper from Swati Naryan on India’s dismal performance on hunger here.

The resilience challenge
The food system is increasingly fragile. Oil price shocks are transmitted to food prices through input and transport costs. More frequent and serious weather events, a sign of climate change, are disrupting farming. But perhaps most shocking is the role of governments in triggering, rather than averting, food price crises. Policies of narrow self-interest and zero-sum competition such as land grabs, biofuel programmes and export bans make a bad situation worse.

We must radically change how we collectively manage risks and build resilience to shocks and volatility. But the institutions needed to protect the most vulnerable are often inadequate or entirely missing. Correcting this institutional deficit will mean building what the GROW campaign calls a ‘new prosperity’. This will require three big shifts.

CreceBuild a new global system to avert food crises
Governments must develop integrated strategies to build poor people’s resilience to hunger, by creating jobs, adapting to climate change, investing in disaster risk reduction, and extending social protection. Globally, we must regulate for resilience, building a system of food reserves, increasing market transparency, putting in place rules to tackle export restrictions and ending trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. The annual $20bn subsidy to biofuels must be overhauled. Finally, we must build and reform the international institutions we need to manage risks and respond to shocks. Food aid must be untied and, along with a new global climate fund, properly funded. Background paper from Alex Evans here.

Build a new agricultural future
Donors, international organisations and national governments must prioritise the needs of small-scale food producers in developing countries, where the major gains in productivity, sustainable intensification, poverty reduction and resilience can be achieved. This particularly applies to women farmers, who in many countries grow most of the food, yet are largely excluded from support from the agricultural system. Companies must embrace the opportunities provided by smallholder agriculture. Donors and international organisations must continue to raise agriculture spending within aid budgets (down from 20.4% of aid in 1983 to just 3.7% in 2006). Rich countries must end their trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. New global regulations are needed to govern investment in land to ensure it delivers social and environmental returns. And national governments must invest more in agriculture, while carefully regulating private investment in land and water to ensure secure access for women and men living in poverty. Background papers on agroforestry in Bolivia and improving food security in Nepal.

Build a new ecological future
National governments must intervene to speed up and direct the low carbon transition, for example by investing R&D in clean energy. There is a long way to go – currently global subsidies for renewable energy are just $57bn compared to $312bn for fossil fuels. They can create incentives through the use of subsidies and tax breaks to guide private capital to where it is needed. They can tax undesirables – such as greenhouse gas emissions – to direct economic activity towards desirable alternatives. And they can regulate: for example, to stop companies polluting or to encourage them to provide goods and services they otherwise would not. But ultimately our success or failure in building a new ecological future will depend on a global deal on climate change.

Achieving this new prosperity will take all the energy, ingenuity and determination that humankind can muster. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented, but so is the prize – a sustainable future, free of hunger. That future will have to be built from the top down and from the bottom up. From the top, ambitious leaders will drive success, overcoming the opposition of vested interests. Far-sighted corporate leaders will break ranks with damaging industry lobbies. From the bottom, networks of citizens, consumers, producers, communities and civil society organisations will demand change. Oxfam will work with these groups, and others like them, to build a growing global movement to end hunger and set a path towards a new prosperity.

Excited? I am, as is Alex Evans. And Lula – see below, who as president of Brazil, delivered extraordinary progress in reducing hunger. Join the campaign here (tell your friends) or start by signing the petition to the G20 leaders here.

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Coming up next: some top killer facts, and why on earth did we call it GROW?

5 comments

  1. Hi Duncan,

    Really interesting blog post. I’m looking forward to hearing more from the Grow campaign.

    The join the campaign link doesn’t seem to be working.

    Kind regards,

    Victoria Morris

    Duncan: Thanks Victoria, campaign link now fixed

  2. The GROW campaign seems like a great way to encourage global development while securing a more sustainable future. It shares a common goal of establishing a better world with our Be2021 campaign, an effort to establish a better world in the next decade.

    To find out more information about this campaign and to declare your vision for 2021, please visit http://www.be2021.org/.

    Thanks!
    Ian

  3. OXFAM morphs into a Paul Ehrlich clone: Claims world faces mass starvation

    Mass starvation! This is exactly what Oxfam warns us in their new report, “Growing a Better Future in a Resource Constrained World”.

    Oxfam’s future scenario of doom is a practical throwback to the 70s when Paul Ehrlich captured media headlines with his book Population Bomb where he warned of mass starvation deaths. Here’s an extract of the book:

    “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make….The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

    Has Oxfam caught the Ehrlich bug?

    Read more: http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2011/06/oxfam-morphs-into-paul-ehrlich-clone.html

    Duncan: Thanks Rajan, surprised more people haven’t said this, to be honest. We debated this long and hard, and I think there are a few major differences with the early 70s discourse. Firstly, it’s much more about consumption than population, and that means the solutions are very different too, focussing on issues like equity and how to reduce consumption in the rich countries. Secondly, the main reason the doomsters in the 1970s proved wrong was that the Green Revolution came to the rescue in terms of increasing food production. There is nothing on that scale on the horizon now and the falling rate of yield growth is what underlies a lot of the concerns over the next period (and GM has proved largely irrelevant to that). Finally, the evidence of climate change is now (at least to people who have some degree of trust in science – your post is way off on this) overwhelming. Given that, we have to adopt a kind of ‘Sen plus’ approach – hunger today is still mainly about justice and distribution, there is enough to go round etc, but unless big changes happen, that is not likely to stay the case. Remember the boy who cried wolf? In the end, the wolf came, killed his sheep, and in some versions of the story, ate the boy too……..

  4. Hi Duncan!

    I read your blog from time to time for its excellent views.

    Now for some reactions to your response:

    a. About consumption and different solutions, in the case of India at least, bumper yields have permitted the country luxury of introducing a food security bill – that targets the ultra poor. We couldn’t in the 70s even if we wanted to – we had to depend on PL 480 US food aid! We were starving then!

    b. Your second point about Green revolution, well in India, much of Green Revolution followed the capitalist strategy of betting on the strongest – so tightly confined to small areas where irrigated potential was maximum. India is a big country so large areas fell outside its pale though in the course of time more areas got covered. Presently a second Green Revolution is targeted in Eastern India – were productivity rates are a fraction of rest of the country. Just like 70s when we couldn’t see anything coming to our rescue, something will. It always did and this is how we Indians survived as one of the most ancient race!

    Interesting – you used the term falling rate of yield growth. According to AGW theory, there should be negative yield growth. Now that this has been falsified, the increasing use this bogey of falling rate of yield growth, I did a post that generated more 2,500 hits including leading agricultural centers all over the world among its visitors. It is entitled Increasing temperatures will take a toll on rice production in Asia: Rogue “Peer Review” (http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2010/08/increasing-temperatures-will-take-toll.html). A little part gives credit to OXFAM for promoting SRI in India. It would establish such research is of the dubious variety. I think I will do one for crops like maize and wheat too now.

    Lets differ on our view on evidence of climate change. But tell me, how come as CO2 has registered a record level, global temp trend are declining. 2011 will be one of the coldest years in the last 30 years.

    I too believe in climate change – but only of the natural cycle variety. According to my understanding – we have already entered a global cooling period and the years ahead, certainly after the maxima of the current solar cycle 24, we are going to see its acceleration.

    And if this prediction is correct, Duncan, this will be the biggest PR disaster for organizations like Oxfam – You adapt for warming when cooling is fast approaching. And you know life flourishes in warming times than in cold.

    While like any legendary story – there should be some that shows deviations from the popularly accepted story line. But if exceptions are selected, in statistics we call it cherry picking – to prove pre-conceived conclusions!

  5. Seems like the future is stock free. With no animals to feed, there is more food for humans.
    If only Oxfam supporters in the west would go vegan, there would be enough food for everyone, enough land for everyone, enough water for everyone, 20% less CO2 emissions, maybe fewer wars too….
    Who knows?

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