Diversification: a fresh story

 

As countries focus on policy making and intergovernmental measures to tackle climate change, food system diversity is emerging as a fresh new strategy to ensure food access.

 

A homogenized food system has gifted us with cost-efficient calories. Fair enough, but these low prices in most cases don’t take into account environmental and social externalities. Our cheap food system has cost us more than we thought and it hasn’t solved food insecurity issues.

 

The lack of access to food is the result of many complex events. Smallholder farmers are most vulnerable to market trends and environmental constraints that affect their yields. Diversifying our food will provide solutions that help small farmers and food markets adapt to a complicated scenario in food access and production.

 

So there are several challenges placed on the table for small farmers and food insecure regions. We worry about the calories and now also about adequate nutritional intake and balance. Our current diets rely on cash crops that aren’t the most nutrient efficient. This has significantly changed diets worldwide, reducing taste and access for many valuable crops.

 

Tackling food insecurity needs a fresh attitude.  Diversification is fresh enough but the idea has to be implemented in governance and in policies.

 

Brazil is on point

 

The side event “Genetic Diversity for Food Security and Nutrition” during CFS43 presented several case studies that analyzed the importance of diversifying our food systems. The outcomes presented by Larissa Maria Lima Costa and Daniela Moura de Oliveira Beltrame in Brazil are exemplary for the governance of food security.

 

The Brazilian national policies and programs show a very progressive governmental attitude. Genetic resources, food security, adaptation and mitigation, ecosystem services and cultural values are the fundamentals for these policies and programs. With a very social approach and within a real national context, they provide solutions that make a difference for the most vulnerable sectors of society.

 

Perhaps the most significant shift was the integration of agroecology at government level. Investments were done organizationally, resources were directed and agroecology became big in Brazil, changing millions of lives for the better.

 

The rebirth of agroecology provided a strategy for small farmers to produce in a more resilient way, environmentally and economically. Many endemic or traditional crops are now recovering from their diminished role in society. Nutrient-dense foods are coming back into the Brazilian diet. Markets are better linked with family agriculture, and public procurement has been a big part of that. Safer and fairer productive chains are supported by programs that technify and conserve diversified genetic resources.

 

This has been achieved through a cross sectoral approach. The National Plan for Organic Production and Agroecology (PLANAPO) has expanded the diversification of food systems through agroecology, strengthening food security. In the Brazilian context, its extremely diverse ecosystem provided great prime material to attack the triple burden of malnutrition. This strategy needs to replicated and integrated with current approaches.

 

The formalization of biodiversity in food security policies is a great step forward, although it will also bring new challenges.

 

Keep it coming

 

More efforts are needed like those of Brazil. It’s important to remind ourselves that Brazil is an agro-industrial leader, with a growing diverse grassroots movement. The FAO’s  Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture supports this kind of approach. Diversification brings resilience, alternatives and adapts anthropogenic processes to the biosphere and its resources. The diversification of our food system must continue; it must be a core principle in all our governmental policies and programs. This should include an increase in science-based knowledge from all aspects of our food system. Expertise must be integrated, to improve the wellbeing of food insecure sectors and to strengthen the source of 80% of our food:  the smallholder farmers.

 

We need to start by diversifying our discussions and approaches on fighting food insecurity. Governments should follow the Brazilian approach, and adapt solutions to their contexts.

 

Blogpost by (Miguel Ruiz Marchini) #CFS43 Social Reporter - (miguel.ruizmarchini@wur.nl)
Photocredit:CC BY-SA 3.0

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee of World Food Security (CFS)This post is written by one of our social reporters and represents the author’s views only.

26/10/2016 9:00

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