The Human Right to Food and Sustainable Soil Management: Linking Voluntary Agricultural Sustainability Standards with Food Security

Part of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy book series (IYSLP, volume 2016)


Land degradation and deforestation worldwide threaten future food and non-food biomass provision. Induced mainly by unsustainable land use and management practices, land degradation may hinder the global shift towards green or bio-economies which requires increasing supplies of biomass. As a strong linkage exists between soil management, biomass production and food security, the need for sustainable land management practices and suitable governance mechanisms emerges. Rising concerns about sustainability have led to the development of voluntary certification standards to ensure that biomass is sustainably produced. So far, these voluntary standards have a strong ecological focus and include only selected social aspects. Food security and the linkage between the Human Right to adequate Food and soil management are hardly addressed though they are a key element of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and important for (export) production and processing in low- and middle-income countries. The Sustainable Development Goal 2—to end all forms of hunger by 2030—clearly includes sustainable soil management and agriculture. The unification of these two targets in one goal underlines the dependency of the realization of the Human Right to adequate Food on sustainable land management and land-use patterns.

In this chapter we first discuss how the Human Right to adequate Food, which is applicable in over 100 countries, is linked to sustainable management of soils and the implications of this linkage. Then we show how the Human Right to adequate Food can be ensured in local biomass production and in certification systems in food-insecure regions. We present a conceptual framework to integrate the Human Right to adequate Food in certified biomass production, processing and trade. Then we suggest food security criteria that ensure that this right is not violated by certified biomass operators, and can be easily integrated in existing voluntary sustainability standards for biomass. We develop 45 criteria classified in 17 themes relevant for the fulfilment of the Human Right to adequate Food. The criteria are applicable to all biomass types and uses and serve as a best-practice set to complement sustainability standards.


Agricultural investments Bioenergy Biomass Certification Food security Human Right to adequate Food Land use Private governance Soil management 



The chapter was developed within the project “Developing food and nutrition security criteria for biomass standards and certifications” (ESSZert), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL) based on the decision of the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (FKZ 22013714) and the project “Improving food security in Africa through increased system productivity of biomass-based value webs” (BiomassWeb), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) based on the decision of the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (FKZ 031A258A). Both funding sources are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Development Research (ZEF)University of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Policy DepartmentWelthungerhilfeBonnGermany

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