Securing future food: towards ecological food provisionSecuring future food: towards ecological food provision
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This UK Food Group Briefing shows why it is necessary to make the radical shift towards ecological food provision in order to secure future food for the world’s predicted 9 billion people. The systems that currently feed most people in the world are smaller-scale and locally-sourced. They can be enhanced through the practices of small-scale food providers based on agroecology to meet current and future local and global demands for food but to achieve this research and trade policies and agricultural support measures urgently need to be reoriented. The demands and commitments of the small-scale food providers themselves to continue to develop their resilient, diverse food systems in the framework of food sovereignty are summarised.
The world’s food futures are in the balance. Not only in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where hunger is endemic in many countries, but in all regions, North and South, the sustainability of food supplies is threatened. The livelihoods of the small-scale food providers who produce, harvest and collect most of the food we eat, are being eliminated. And the productive, biodiverse environment and its natural wealth, which are used for food provision, are becoming increasingly degraded. It is generally accepted that the present food system, affected by speculative shortages and price spikes and the energy, climate and financial crises, is not sufficiently resilient to secure the world’s food supply for a growing population.
Approaches that promote the dichotomous and inequitable strategy of agricultural development, crudely characterised on the one hand, as a focus on industrial production methods in high potential areas and improving links to external markets while, on the other hand, providing social protection for the poorest, will not secure food for all now, nor for the predicted 9 billion in 2050.
Not only have most governments and international institutions failed to reduce hunger and poverty and build on the findings of international processes designed to find ways forward (e.g. the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development - IAASTD), but they have, instead, adopted and implemented policies that have exacerbated the problems.
There is an urgent need to change the power and economic structures and policies that have caused the current crises.
There is a way forward as outlined in this Briefing. This approach is to shift towards a more biodiverse, ecological and equitable system that places food for people at the centre of policy and practice. This system is the one practiced, to a greater or lesser extent, by the majority of food providers and is the system advocated by their social movements across the world. It is an approach that promotes food sovereignty.
Actions in the following areas, in support of a move towards ecological food provision in the framework of food sovereignty, include:
- Agroecology and implementing the IAASTD findings
- Inclusion, participation and an end to marginalisation
- Climate change resilience
- Food Sovereignty, trade reform and controlling corporations
Small-scale food providers have long asserted that their model of food provision can provide for current and future needs, given the chance. At their Forum for People’s Food Sovereignty Now! in November 2009 they repeated their commitment to provide the world’s food and resolved to:
- strengthen and promote their ecological model of food provision in the framework of food sovereignty;
- call for a reframing of research, using participatory methods, that will support their ecological model of food provision;
- strengthen their interconnecting rural - urban food webs, building alliances within a Complex Alimentarius that will link small-scale food providers, processors, scientists, institutions and consumers.
The need for this more enlightened and nuanced approach to agriculture and food provision is long overdue, in order to deal with both the increasing numbers of hungry people as well as the simultaneous challenges of climate change, depletion of fossil fuels, water shortages, rising obesity, increasing population and more, which affect us all and have special devastating impacts in sub-Saharan Africa.
The international community recognises these challenges and has committed to tackling them.
However, despite the accumulated evidence of the failures of industrialised approaches and the contrasting positive practices of small-scale food providers supported by the findings of IAASTD that chart a different, sustainable and equitable way forward, institutions and governments continue to invest in and roll out industrialised approaches, at all scales, promoting the proprietary technologies they depend on.
The scientific challenge now is to move away from this reductionist approach and towards ecological food provision, one that embraces complexity and diversity, sustainably using technologies that are freely available for the majority of food providers.
The political challenge is for governments to regulate and reduce the negative impacts of industrial food systems and defend, support and promote ecological food provision, using natural wealth that may not be commodified though there are increasing attempts to privatise it, and adopting policies within the food sovereignty framework in order to safeguard the world’s food supply.
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