The Committee on World Food Security As a Locus of Social Innovation? Framing the Concept of "Connecting Smallholders to Markets".
Efforts to develop theoretical frameworks for understanding how sustainable agri-food networks develop need to consider the institutional, discursive and structural constraints that corporate-led global agri-food systems and the policies that empower them impose on embedded modalities of food provisioning. The contested political nature of the confrontation between the two approaches has to be recognized. In order to address such issues as knowledge production and circulation or the contradiction between adaptation to local situations and wide-scale diffusion it is necessary to explore the horizontal and vertical networking practiced by the proponents of sustainable food provision as well as the multiscalar nature of their strategies,.
The reformed UN Committee on World Food Security is an interesting observation point in this regard as the only global food policy forum in which organizations directly representing those most engaged in developing solutions to unsustainable food provision are full participants rather than observers. Since 2010 it has served as an arena for bringing about significant changes in the way in which discourse about food security is framed. The CFS has officially acknowledged that small-scale producers are the main investors in agriculture and produce some 70 % of the food consumed in the world, contradicting the normalizing discourse that large-scale industrial agriculture is the only hope for feeding the world’s growing population. It is now engaged in deconstructing The Market by recognizing that all markets are not the same and that not all are beneficial for small-scale producers and local economies, and by exploring the divergent visions of what is implied by the concept of “connecting smallholders to markets”. This paper will analyse the dynamics at work in and around this arena and draw lessons to contribute to the on-going debate on social innovation in food and agriculture.