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I have spent most of my carrier working on food security and nutrition (that is from a micro entry point) in an institutional context which privileged national and global policies and saw international trade as an important dimension of food security. It is revealing that I realized only late in my carrier that only 11% of the food consumed in the world came from international trade, and that somehow the tail was wagging the dog.
As we were trying to understand why people were malnourished and food insecure in specific areas, again and again we faced 1/ changes in diets related to globalization and reduced use of and consideration for traditional foods and 2/increased precarity of livelihoods as local farmers were encouraged to "take advantage of the opportunities of globalisation"and concentrate on commodities which would meet the needs of mass distribution. Food products were not food anymore but a means to generate income, and the environmental impact, in particular on biodiversity didn't come into the picture. Socio-economic differences, indebtedness and poverty increased and people migrated away from their areas in search of jobs. Societies break up, rural areas die progressively and consumers health is undermined by inappropriate diets.
Another interesting dimension related to trade is that of food standards. It was never clear to me why a unique set of food safety standards would be required, since some foods have to travel for months exposed to heat and humidity while others were commercialised locally in very different specific contexts. One clear impact has been that smallholder farmers in many areas were not able to access the market any longer and that production was concentrated in the hands of those who could afford to garantee these standards. Recent developments include institution of food fortification standards that exclude non-fortified foods, and sustainability is now the new item on the agenda.
I am increasingly convinced that sustainable development and resilience can only be achieved if we re-localise policy making, build on existing experience, making the best use of local natural resources and engaging all actors in the process. It is not acceptable that promotion of local foods to protect and create jobs, maintain culture and environment, and contribute to more healthy diets is seen as a violation of the principle of free circulation of goods. This of course does not mean replacing one approach with the other but finding the right combination in specific contexts and ensuring micro-macro linkages through real dialogue. Trade certainly has a role to play in food security but should be held accountable for its social, environmental and health impact.
As Carlo Petrini said at the 7/2 event "Le idee di Expo verso la Carta di Milano", free market cannot apply to food.
I am not sure that anybody adheres any longer that markets should be free of any control are a contribution to public good. But it should not apply to food.
I come from a farming family in a fertile area of southern France. My great grandfather was a wealthy farmer. At that time, life revolved around the local market. When I was a child (in the sixties), the family farm still had a tractor, cows, poultry, rabbits, orchards and vineyards (for home consumption). My uncle, who remained a farmer until he retired, was “encouraged” to shift to irrigated maize monoculture, and became dependent on the prices on the international market. His children moved out of agriculture to get unskilled jobs in the neighbourhood. You still eat well at home, but an increasing share of processed foods from the local hypermarket and my cousin is obese. No money to fix the house which badly needs repairs, and no creek to swim in any longer. Is this what we want to promote?
But as farmers’ children leave the land, young university graduates who have a hard time finding employment are now looking towards farming with a view to make a living and change lifestyles. NGOs are helping them access land, credit and training (see http://www.terredeliens.org/la-fondation
Consumers interest in shorter food chains which provide local foods and the boom of organic foods are generating opportunities for alternative food systems, which look much more like traditional farming, integrate vegetal and animal production and are aimed at local markets. My nephews (who have pharmaceutical degrees for which there is no jobs and are not interested in working in the local Intermarché) have become skilled agriculture labourers and go from contract to contract. They can stay in the village they grew in, maintain the lifestyle they want and meet women who share similar values. Agriculture is multifunctional and not all about income.
When I read CSA, I thought YESS! Community Supported Agriculture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community-supported_agriculture is an interesting approach (several contributions mentioned the importance of rural-urban linkages). ... until I checked the website and realized that CSA is also Climate Smart Agriculture :-). Institutional purchasing of local production (for school canteens, hospitals, etc…) has proven extremely effective in re-activating local food production
Eco-tourism is indeed an interesting option (as well as more generally Payment for Environmental Services). Farmers should be valorized as guardians of biodiversity and culture.
What about landless people in rural areas who play an important role in family farming (and are often ex-farmers themselves)? The importance of food processing has been mentioned by several contributors: it can add value to farm production, create jobs and income, provide convenience food and allow consumption of nutrient-rich foods offseason.
What role can schools and universities play in promoting agricultural careers to youth? Start looking at, supporting and learning from what seems to work locally. And move beyond the value chain approach towards a food systems approach, which will require a multidisciplinary perspective, looking at economic, social and environmental dimensions. Agriculture started as a means to better feed people and enhancing food security. We need to overcome the present disconnect between production and consumption.
School and university curricula and material should also be reviewed not to discourage children and students from rural lifestyles and farming, and should valorize local cultures.
What approaches are most successful in promoting the equality of female farmers?Several contributions have addressed this issue. The problem of time-allocation in households who face rapid lifestyle changes is key. Women play a key role in both the productive and reproductive (i.e. domestic) sphere, and it will be essential to ensure that they have the time to shift to a more appropriate combination of tasks. Labour-saving technologies (including availability of convenience foods) are essential but social organization and time allocation within the household and within the community will be equally important, and may create off-farm employment (e.g. organization of child-care centres, community kitchens…).
What measures can development organizations and governments take to make rural areas more appealing for future farmers? A key dimension is that of social services: parents want decent health care and schools for their children, but it also important to look at leisure activities.
The question which is rarely asked is what food production would enable farming families to have a sustainable livelihoods and consumers to eat better? Sustainable diets are needed for health, sustainable management of the environment and local biodiversity and social equity. Farming families are best placed to build upon local knowledge and culture and supply local markets year round with the variety of seasonal foods needed for a healthy and active life.
I would agree that decision-making is not only based on evidence and that it is also important to engage decision-makers both on an individual basis and within a peer group.
1/ They need to understand what food security and nutrition mean concretely. A few concrete examples:
- establish a direct contact with people suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition. In my experience visiting nutrition rehabilitation services and asking people what went wrong, when, why and how their family is affected is very effective. The voice of the poor needs to reach policy-makers
- participatory nutrition workshops (see Agreeing on causes of malnutrition for joint action http://foodsecuritycluster.net/sites/default/files/FAO%20Joint%20Plannin...) get participants to agree on a common vision of the causes of malnutrition of relevant population groups and to revisit their own strategies and activities in a different perspective
- it is also important to clarify what we mean by "evidence". It is important that we generate practice-based evidence (this should be a priority in knowledge management) if we want to reach decision makers. If they see food security and nutrition can be improved in a sustainable and affordable way and how, and that they can do it, they are likely to respond. Too often policy-makers are confronted with abstract concepts and figures and standard and costly solutions, and discard or postpone the issue as too complicated or not feasible.
Another motivation is clearly peer pressure.
- if others get engaged (...and access resources) why not me?
- and of course global resolutions.
Actually this is valid not only for policy-makers but for any professional, politician or institution: 1/ who do no not see that food security or nutrition is any of their business or 2/ who have a very narrow perception of the problem and its solution.