Celebrating Patti Naylor’s Dedication & Service to CSIPM


Written by Lisa Griffith, NFFC’s National Outreach and Communications Coordinator

Iowa organic farmer and advocate Patti Naylor recently fulfilled her mandate as the North American focal point to the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security. Over the course of four years Patti volunteered hundreds of hours of her personal time and funds to join international telephone calls and to attend events in Rome to represent the concerns, demands and aspirations of the National Family Farm Coalition and other farmer, food and human rights advocacy organizations throughout North America. 

Patti Naylor, far left, at a La Via Campesina mobilization protesting WTO involvement in agriculture.

The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (aka, the Mechanism or CSIPM) for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) was formed in 2010 when, thanks to pressure from La Via Campesina and other international entities, the CFS realized that the most important contributors to food security and nutrition worldwide are those most affected by food insecurity and malnutrition. The CFS then invited civil society – grassroots organizations, nonprofits, academic institutions and other public entities that are not centered on profit, like the private sector – and Indigenous people to become official participants in the Committee on World Food Security. (At La Via Campesina’s 8th Conference in Bogota, members reconfirmed its commitmentto several UN spaces, including the CFS, to underscore the importance of the CFS at the United Nations. As a Via Campesina member, NFFC is dedicated to participating in this space). 

To ensure inclusivity and active involvement of civil society and Indigenous Peoples at national, regional and global levels, their participation is articulated through seventeen geographic sub-regional units and eleven sectoral constituencies. Each constituency and each sub-region is represented by a focal point, who serves as a member of the Coordination Committee. 

Representation of the structure of CSIPM. Graphic courtesy of CSIPM.

The focal point facilitates the flow of information and inputs “from Rome to Home and Home to Rome” regarding policies that advance the global recognition  of the right to food. Focal points also ensure the functioning of the CSIPM Secretariat. Unfortunately, the strength of the presence of members of grassroots organizations and Indigenous Peoples is often tempered by the barriers they experience, from reliable internet connection to their abilities to obtain visas. 

It is important to be represented by a focal point who is a member of a constituency or works directly with a constituency. When negotiating directly with governments of the 140 member states in the Committee on World Food Security, focal points gain legitimacy through their life experience as a farmer, fisher, youth or member of another constituency. Patti, with her husband George, has more than 40 years experience as an organic farmer and has spent decades advocating within the US family farm movement.

Patti said: “For me, the most valuable aspect of participating in the CSIPM was having the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of other participants, no matter their ethnic, religious or cultural background. We were all there to uplift food sovereignty as the solution to hunger, poverty and oppression worldwide.”

CSIPM representatives at the CFS 51st Plenary. Photo Courtesy of CSIPM.

Patti also led as the coordinator of the CSIPM data working group for two years, supporting strong governance models for data collection in the public interest. During this time, Patti, the working group and the Secretariat attempted to engage governments from the Global South member states, but many said they did not have the capacity. To the contrary, government representatives from the US and other dominant exporting countries were able to participate and typically had the largest voices in the room. Patti stated, “It was important to be part of the data working group because it’s an emerging issue in the US and therefore an emerging issue in all countries  due to our global economy. It’s especially problematic when countries in the global South are pressured to accept technologies like data-mining and GMOs that are produced in the global North, further corporatizing and industrializing agriculture.”

Patti stressed that the concerns and experiences of NFFC members are shared among the members of the CSIPM and the Committee on World Food Security. This space may be the only one in which representatives from governments throughout the world have an opportunity to learn the realities of farmers from the US or any other country. It may also be the one opportunity for farmers abroad to learn the challenges that US farmers face, without the typical  images of prosperous-looking farmers sitting on big shiny tractors, with cows grazing lazily in green pastures next to perfectly straight rows of GM soybeans. It may be the only opportunity for US farmers to sit near pastoralists, fisherpeople and agricultural workers from other countries to hear how US policies and corporate agribusinesses have affected their lives. 

The CSIPM is working on vital aspects of life – hunger, nutrition and food security. NFFC and other members of the CSIPM advocate food sovereignty – the right of people to control what they eat, who produces it, and how  – and understand that the US is part of a global food system and must be connected to farmers around the world. Farmers from the US should be engaged to understand the issues, to observe how these international spaces work and how to affect change that will affect farmers and other communities in the US and globally.

A quote from Patti about the importance of data governance. Graphic courtesy of CSIPM.

The next multi-year program of work will focus on implementing voluntary guidelines and policy recommendations. As an official from Cape Verde said, “…guidelines sit on a shelf.” Any progress requires a lot of follow-up, even in the U.S. (and perhaps, given the government’s resistance to food sovereignty and agroecology in this country, even more so). 

The National Family Farm Coalition is extremely grateful to Patti for her leadership in the role of North American focal point to the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism. While NFFC provided guidance for drafting policy proposals and reports, Patti carried the load well beyond our expectations. We hope that she can look back upon the experience proudly, knowing she has made an impact.