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A Conversation with Dave Andrews

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

In this regular series, we profile advisors to the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we feature Dave Andrews, Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch.

Name: Dave Andrews

Affiliation: Food & Water Watch

Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Bio: Dave Andrews is Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch and a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, an international Catholic religious order of men. Dave has over 30 years of work on sustainable development, food and water issues, and public policy both nationally and internationally. He was the Executive Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference for 13 years. He has served on many Boards of Directors including the Organization for Competitive Markets, Heifer International, the Community Food Security Coalition, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. He has attended the last three World Trade Organization meetings, World Food Summits and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Can you describe your recent work and how it relates to Nourishing the Planet?: There are two major issues that have been the focus of my recent work. The first is the Global Food Security and Nutrition programs and the second is anti-trust efforts in agriculture. The global food security issue is one that has arisen from the recent food crisis and serving as I do on the steering committee for a Food Crisis Working Group as well as an Interfaith Working Group on the Food Crisis, two different efforts with a small amount of overlapping organizations, I am watching and writing regularly as these programs develop in Congress and in the State Department. Soon, I think the results will be announced but it has been a yearlong effort. My concern has been to try and influence the debate on behalf of Food & Water Watch, to keep the solutions proposed as sustainable as possible and to emphasize decision making power at the grass-roots level throughout the developing world. At the global level there is similar policy being articulated by the World Bank and by the United Nations. The World Bank has organized a trust fund for development, our work is to keep civil society in the process of decision-making, especially a farmer from the south. At the global level too, there is now a process for revising the Comprehensive Framework for Action (on the food crisis) with significant inclusion of civil society. My work has been to communicate and link US civil society efforts with global civil society. These are significant because the newly organized Committee on Food Security will be the major global actor dealing with the food crisis. These activities are time consuming, intense and involve detailed attentiveness. They are probably the most significant food and agriculture activities nationally and globally for the past 50 years and are meant to go into effect in the next 50 years.

Another serious effort at present is my involvement with the anti-trust work of the federal government. There is a historic effort by the Justice Department and the Department of Agriculture to explore anti-trust in agriculture. The series of workshops around the country are a first. I organized a reception to follow up the workshop held in Iowa and Food & Water Watch helped organize a highly attended pre-meeting which  educated the public about anti-trust in agriculture. I am currently helping to organize an independent effort in New York City soon as a teach-in on anti-trust. Soon there will be meetings on poultry in Alabama, beef in Colorado, and retail spread in Washington, DC. One issue I’m researching is the relevance of US anti-trust efforts in agriculture to European and other efforts and the relevance of anti-trust to development. Does the power of a few big companies and their influence impact development? That is a question that I’m currently exploring.

Can you describe the relationship between global agriculture policies and small-scale farmers? We have a global economy and in many ways are a global society. Most of the world’s work is agriculture and most of that is done by women. The small holder farmer is the focus of much of development work today, having been ignored by governments and foundations in development work for the past 30 years. In the light of climate change, gender considerations, and effective pro-poor policies there have developed several policy preferences, one I call productivist and the other I call holist. One focuses mainly on increasing production, the other looks at the ecology, economy and social concerns of agriculture in development. My emphasis has been on the latter sustainable approach, whether focused on anti-trust or global food security, it fully appears to me that an appreciation of complexity calls for a long-term, nuanced approach. That approach has been articulated in the 2008 International Assessment of Science and Technology in Development (IAASTD) report of the United Nations and funding through the World Bank. It fully appears to me that the way forward requires action at every level: global, national, and grassroots. It is a time of challenge and it is a time that requires us to be nimble in our policy advocacy.

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