Thierry Defense (SOS Faim Luxembourg): The need for sustainable agriculture
The NGO SOS Faim Luxembourg focuses on food sovereignty, family farming, microfinance and is active in Africa. Interview with Thierry Defense, its director.
Can you present SOS Faim Luxembourg in a few words?
Approved by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MAEE), SOS Faim is a development NGO, governed by a General Assembly which elects a governing board every two years. A team of eleven people, led by a director, proposes and implements its operational strategy. Founded in Luxembourg in 1993, SOS Faim supports sustainable agriculture and family farming, particularly through inclusive rural financing, to guarantee food sovereignty around the world, for all. Family farming systems have immense potential to meet the challenges of food security, social equity and environmental sustainability: they guarantee sustainable food, they produce 70% of the world’s food and employ 40% of its population. Supporting such systems is therefore a way of making a direct contribution to food security. We support family farming systems by enhancing their capacities and promoting a range of financial products and services - savings, loans, insurance, etc. - for those who are usually excluded from mainstream banking services. We also support production, processing and marketing to improve the agricultural performance of family farms.
“Family farming systems have immense potential to meet the challenges of food security, social equity and environmental sustainability”
What are the challenges of sustainable agriculture?
A production system which respects ecological, economic and social limitations and ensures the sustainability of production is the only way for humanity to overcome poverty, climate change and the depletion of natural resources. That’s the reason for sustainable agriculture, the only kind of agriculture which can protect biodiversity, water and soil needs. But it faces strong opposition from the agro-industry which purports to control the global food system. Nowadays, more food is produced than is necessary for global needs and yet nearly one billion people go hungry. The agro-industry has failed to feed the world; through its use of chemicals and mechanisation, it has wasted natural resources, whereas family farms provide more than 500 million of jobs worldwide and remain the main form of agriculture in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
What is SOS Faim Luxembourg’s agenda for 2018?
SOS Faim will turn 25 this year and our team will organise several activities to promote our work. At the same time, we are continuing to work with our African partners in five countries, focusing on a new project called Agri+: created and run by SOS Faim, the Agri+ scheme is an initiative to address family farms’ lack of access to finance. Agri+’s priority is the development of two financing tools: a guarantee fund and a credit line. The scheme also provides a training/follow-up programme, the aim of which is to strengthen the skills and strategic positioning of stakeholders involved in agricultural financing. Agri+ was created in close collaboration with the Co-operation Department of the MAEE and builds on the expertise developed by SOS Faim and its partners in the agricultural sector in West Africa. With a role to play not only in African countries but also in Luxembourg, we will be taking part in the Transition Days initiative (https://www.transitiondays.lu/) with the theme of “Our food, our future” at the beginning of March. Our second major event will take place on 19th November: den Alternativen Liewensmëttel Maart, which will promote sustainable food producers in Luxembourg.