Prof. Fanzo Awarded $3.8 Million to Apply Human Rights-Based Approach to Food Systems

May 27, 2021

The Berman Institute of Bioethics’ Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food & Agricultural Policy and Ethics at Johns Hopkins University, has received a $3.8 million grant to apply a human rights-based approach to food systems. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation will contribute half of the grant funding, with the remainder funded jointly by the multidisciplinary project consortium’s member organizations. The consortium includes Johns Hopkins University, CIAT on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Rikolto. The award supports the first phase of a ten-year project to strengthen the capacity of governments, peasants, and other people living in rural areas to adopt and incorporate human rights frameworks such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) into food policy and food systems action.

The project, “People-centered Food Systems: Fostering Human Rights-based Approaches,” aims to characterize constraints globally and within countries for peasants and other rural dwellers to claim their rights to food security, adapt to and mitigate against climate change, and preserve the agrobiodiversity fundamental to their livelihoods. Led by Dr. Fanzo, the multidisciplinary project consortium includes academics, development practitioners, ethicists, and lawyers from its member organizations.

“Small-scale farmers produce more than 80% of the world’s food, but this diverse population suffers disproportionately from hunger, poverty, discrimination, violent conflict, and climate change. Human rights instruments like UNDROP represent a major step forward in protecting their human rights, but more work is needed to integrate them into food systems policy effectively,” says Dr. Fanzo.

Dr. Fanzo is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She also serves as the Director of Hopkins’ Global Food Policy and Ethics Program, and as Director of Food & Nutrition Security at the JHU Alliance for a Healthier World.  With twenty years of research and program experience working in the field in sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, and the United States, her area of expertise focuses on the impact of transitioning food systems on healthy, environmentally sustainable and equitable diets, and more broadly on the livelihoods of people living in resource-constrained places. Faculty joining Dr. Fanzo in this work from JHU include Drs. Leonard Rubenstein, Anne Barnhill, Swetha Manohar, Rebecca McLaren, and staff Science Writer Claire Davis.

The project team seeks to use advocacy, build capacity, and develop accountability tools to better integrate human rights frameworks within food system policy and action. Initial project activities will take place in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Honduras, and Uganda with the intention of scaling up the approach to other countries in later phases and producing global guidance on this issue.

Other members of the project consortium include CIAT on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Rikolto.  CIAT on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT is an international research for development organization that is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the largest international network on agricultural public research to service the global South. The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction is an international not-for-profit organization aimed at enabling communities, and those who work with them, to develop innovative yet practical solutions to poverty through a community-led development approach, and to share widely these lessons to encourage replication. Rikolto is an experienced market system & inclusive business facilitator, using innovative approaches in co-creation with a sector-wide range of partners to find more sustainable ways of accessing, distributing, and producing nutritious food, so no one is left behind.

Nataly Pinto, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at Rikolto, says, “Rikolto charts a clear and unifying path toward sustainable food systems by focusing on interventions like these to reshape the roles of multiple food system actors from the global to the local level. We are excited to be part of this joint effort together with JHU, CIAT on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to enable a human rights-based approach to food systems. Access to sufficient and healthy food is a right…not a privilege.”