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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Towards a common understanding of Sustainable Food Systems

Anita Pinheiro
Anita PinheiroIndependent ResearcherIndia

This is an important effort to make a clear understanding on the concepts of sustainable food systems. I appreciate the efforts and hubmly present my comments to the draft are as follows:-

Emphasis on ‘profitability’ of sustainable food systems will completely undermine subsistence production systems and similar decentralized initiatives that is integrated with the local economy.

Resilience is a pre-requisite to sustainability and hence it cannot be used synonymous to sustainability. Although the draft has given a detailed account of resilient production systems, characteristics of a sustainable production system also needs to be given equal emphasis in the draft. It is important to distinguish what a sustainable production system will look like when it is compared with the conventional mode of monoculture production with intensive inputs-be it organic or chemicals.

House-lot food gardens needs to receive attention in the glossary. House-lot gardening is a traditional form of economically viable local production in the Global South that provides inexpensive source of nutritious food to the family from the private spaces of a house such as backyards, rooftops, and setback. The purpose of house-lot gardens are primarily subsistence production of fruits and vegetables for the consumption of family members. However, the on-going movements that taking place in the state of Kerala (India) shows that house-lot gardens could be drivers of larger change to address the lack of larger pieces of land, if supported with adequate policy and institutional support. Apart from supplementing the family with fresh vegetables, the house-lot gardens also facilitates recycling the household organic wastes at the source. Moreover, the emerging initiatives that provides platforms to sell exclusively home-grown surplus produce in Kerala shows the potential of home-grown production to develop into a cooperative local marketing system. The example of Kerala is mentioned here to emphasis that house-lot gardens can do much more to the sustainable local food system if is provided with adequate policy and institutional support. Hence, it needs be considered to mention in the glossary.

It would be good to define urban agriculture and peri-urban agriculture separately. There is considerable difference in the practices and socio-economic-environmental aspects of peri-urban agriculture and urban agriculture. Peri-urban agriculture is a commercial activity that is carried out on land whereas urban agriculture may not necessarily be a commercial activity and sometimes it doesn’t require land for production. The given definition in page 48 under the sub-heading ‘urban agriculture/urban gardening’ could be modified to incorporate urban house-lot gardens, rooftop gardens, vegetable and fruit gardening on the small private spaces of balcony, patio, and set back areas. It is also important to mention that urban agriculture could be of building-integrated capital-intensive production systems such as rooftop green houses and vertical gardens or low-budget house-lot vegetable gardening using the available spaces at rooftop, balcony and set back. In both these forms of urban agriculture, the importance is that it does not require any additional land for growing vegetable and fruit crops. There are efforts to bring environmental consciousness in capital intensive urban systems by adopting solar energy to power up the production. As the methods and practices of urban agriculture and peri-urban agriculture are different, it would be appreciated if the terms could be defined separate in the glossary.