The Decent Work for Equitable Food Systems Coalition has been formed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and CARE International to tackle poverty and inequality for food systems workers.
According to the Coalition, food systems workers are often the most underpaid, overexploited, and poorly protected workers of any sector.
“In general, agri-food workers face high levels of working poverty, chronic food insecurity, poor health and safety conditions, and a lack of labor and social protection. Despite playing such a vital role in feeding the world, they are the most likely to be unable to feed themselves and their families,” Mollie Brennan, IFAD Youth Specialist and lead of the Coalition’s secretariat, tells Food Tank.
The Coalition formed to address this contradiction and other injustices that food systems workers face. Their work is focused on five priority areas: labor and human rights, employment creation, living wages, social protection, and social dialogue.
“The Coalition hopes to play on the joint mandates of the organizations to make faster progress,” Christine Campeau, Global Advocacy Director for Food Systems at CARE tells Food Tank. “This means raising the profile of existing partnerships between the organizations; connecting the dots between regional IFAD, ILO and CARE offices to draw in expertise where necessary; highlighting the work our organizations already do in this sphere as separate entities; and developing new joint initiatives later down the line.”
The group is also tackling inequalities through their advocacy. “When food systems are being talked about, we want to ensure that livelihoods are front and center,” Brennan tells Food Tank.
The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs reports that 4.5 billion people depend on food systems for their livelihoods. But those who work in agriculture are among the poorest in the world, and two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor are agriculturalists, the Coalition reports. According to the ILO, 90 percent of employment in agriculture is informal, which leaves workers open to exploitation by landowners, bosses, and middlemen.
With more than half the world working on food systems, Campeau says that achieving decent work for food systems workers is a critical avenue for eliminating poverty more generally. “We cannot address extreme poverty worldwide until we address economic justice and equitable livelihoods for every farmer, fisherfolk and worker in food systems,” she tells Food Tank.
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Photo courtesy of IFAD