I would like to highlight the crucial importance of the Social Capital especially in traditional African societies. Social Capital encompasses the institutions, the relationships between people, the way societies are organized, the way societies face together external chocs, etc. See here a paper I wrote on the role of Social Capital in dealing with food insecurity in a changing climate - a case study of Maradi, Southern Niger.
Moussa Na Abou Mamouda
This was my first and it became a FIRST, thanks to each one of you.
In the past I have made contributions to on-line discussions, but this was the first time I initiated a topic and read through all the articles contributed to the discussion. The reason I remembered to log into http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/networks-for-FS at least four times each day was to read and learn from your rich and captivating experiences. I can already feel the new knowledge pushing me to the field to put into practice some of the great ideas we have shared. Thanks to your individual contributions, many of us have learnt something new about social relations, networks, food security and nutrition, including:
As I noted at the very beginning of our discussions, Mama was able to access the best ingredients to prepare the infant’s nutritious weaning food, thanks to her good social relations and networks, which she still works hard to sustain. Mama’s ability to relate with people both at the social and market levels is sometimes all it takes to achieve food and nutritional security.
I conclude by saying that `the market is one place through which to satisfy our food security and nutritional needs, but strong social relations and network is where the action starts.’
On my own behalf and that of fellow discussants, we say a big thank you, gracias, merci to the organizers and facilitators of the overall discussion list at FAO.
The food system is an important social, political and economic unifier in most rural settings in Ghana. Again, food festivals are held in many societies at the beginning of new harvesting season. Some of the festivals are: Yam festival, Deer hunting, draining of the Lagoon (“Bakatue”) for fish etc. All these festivals have specific names depending on the locality and the purpose. Aside being grateful to God for the food from the new harvest season and asking for rains and protection in the coming year, the festivals and seasons bring people together for socialization and networking around food (be it crops like maize, yam etc; animals such as fish, deer etc). Families also come together in preparing, sharing and eating of specific foods during celebrations of any of human life cycle like birth, puberty, marriage, death and its related ceremonies. It also builds a sense of belongingness, and common purpose for households and families to keep in touch. Families unite, eat, share information, settle disputes, and advise each other during such times.
In close societies, no-one goes hungry for lack of food. Food is freely shared and that reduces food poverty and vulnerability especially in rural areas and compound houses in urban areas. In effect, everyone is each other’s keeper. Nursing mothers and old ladies (grandmothers) who stay at home prepare food for children and the sick to ensure food availability or access at meal times. The women also ensure nutritional wellbeing of all household members. Household members and at times able-female community members take turns to provide for women who have delivered. Traditional foods served by these women are more nutritious and have medicinal purposes. The extended family structure acts as a support system by providing labour for farm activities and environmental sanitation to ensure access to nutritious food. Farmers produce all kinds of foods needed in any particular setting to ensure wellbeing of their households in particular and the community at large.
Presently, societal values have degenerated and the current situation is “each one for him and God for us all”. This may be due to a number of factors such as; over use of electronic and electrical gadgets such as TVs, radios, phones etc for communication and educational purposes. Others including globalization, liberalized policies, urbanization and probably population growth have affected the food system of societies. People are consuming fewer foods in their natural states and more processed foods with more inorganic chemicals affecting health. There is growing numbers of fast food outlets springing up all over the place, limited control over the use of agro-chemicals, less inter-cropping and mixed farming (almost all farms are into mono-cropping and large commercial farms with more use of synthetic agro –chemicals). Parents are too busy working or looking for money, and have less time to cook and spend fewer hours at home to the extent that they are not aware of what the households are consuming. Most working people are also eating from outside without knowing the nutritional value of the food. Urbanization has also contributed to the societal break down. Societal relations and networks have also broken down leaving more people to fend for themselves and their nucleus family.
It is not only national governments, private sector and civil society but traditional rulers and local authorities (in a decentralized system) can support to ensure food and nutritional security at the household levels by using food-based approaches. Extension services can be used for nutrition knowledge sharing and technology transfer, farmers can be encouraged to diversify production (crops and animals) and all households to consume diversified nutritious diets. Researchers may go into bio-fortification of main staple crops, and general population may be encouraged to consume fruits and vegetables in addition to the body protection and building foods. The multi-sectoral approach to food and nutrition is a must in all countries. Communities need good portable water, and personnel to provide extension services in agriculture and health education. To conclude, we all have a stake in ensuring household food and nutrition security.
Anna Antwi (PhD).
What roles do social relations and networks play in education, information sharing and policy formulation and implementation?
In the words of William Shakespeare:
All the worlds a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits, and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
Social roles and networks play different roles in society depending on the situation ("situation specificity”) and use.
Social relations and networks in Information Sharing
The sharing of information has transformed immensely from traditional methods which involved the use of “hear say” or ‘word of mouth’ to social medias and now social networks. Social network community fosters a more subjective and holistic disclosure of information. That is information and its dissemination is now readily available globally through the use of the internet. Gone are the days of having to sit in front of the television or the radio at a certain time to hear the news, or about job openings and new agricultural products. Information is now readily available as individuals, groups etc. seldom hesitates to post information received despite of its substance or relevance on Facebook, Twitter or any social media. Conversely the age of informal information sharing is not ruled out as individuals and farmers still learn about new products (seeds, fertilizer etc.) over a glass of drink at a corner shop as it is in the rural areas or on the public transportation system as they travel. In summation social relations and networks play an informal as well as a formal role in information sharing as information can now be accessed by a variety of means through formal and informal channels.
Social relations and networks in Policy formulation and Implementation
Policy formulation and its implementation requires more than having a goal to achieve. In formulating a policy it is important to have all the necessary information and it is in this sense that social relations and networks play apart. For instance in formulating a policy to allow farmers to access better seeds for planting; meetings must be carried out with famers in order to hear their views and negotiate with them so that a solution can be met. It is here that the benefits of decentralized management are seen as the top management must come to the bottom to better understand what is happening. Social networks can also aid in disseminating information to policy specialist about other countries that has implemented a similar policy and the process, success, failures they experienced. Social relations tend to bring that finishing effect to a policy as it is through interaction that we learn and are made aware of any situation as well as receive guidance and information about in this instance a policy that has been implemented or in its formulating stage.
Social relations and networks in Education
Education is defined as a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research. Therefore this transformation happens formally and informally once in the presence of individuals or even by themselves. Children for instance learn from playing with other children in the park (social interaction) or by chatting on the internet (social networks). The process of educating never stops once one is alive. That is to say a common conversation is educating as participants will leave each other learning something new or refreshing something that was already learnt. Farmers attending a workshop held by the ministry is a form of education as they will learn of new methods to deal with agriculture issues; also farmers conversing as they plan will learn about a new fertilizer another farmer is using on his yields or about the success a farmer in another part of the country has had using drip irrigation while surfing the internet. The roles of social networks and relations snow balls into each situation as while an individual may use social networks and relation to share information at the same time someone else in learning. Social relations are one of the first methods of learning, sharing and growing as without these an individual is left alone in the sense that we can never really live without socializing with others.
Social Relations and Observation of Rural Communities:
Cases Under Observation
As we would have identified in our preceding post, we believe that the Social Relations Dependence Paradigm can be largely successful if the conditions that had been highlighted are held. The following exemplifies our claim as we observe relations in rural areas of Guyana.
The social relationships forged in the rural areas with respect to food security are strong in the many ‘countryside’ or outlying communities of Guyana. Branching from many stories heard told by grandparents about their younger days being involved in farming, we can find very strong social dependencies. For instance in the far reaching communities in West Coast Berbice in rural Guyana, after spending most of the week tending to crops on the farm, Thursday afternoons were designated for many families as a time for reaping produce so that early Friday mornings they could be transported to one of the large community markets. The incidence of market days coincides with the paydays of the community’s largest employer-the Blairmont Sugar Estate- a social dependence evident here. Also, in many communities where rice cultivation was the major income earners, the formation of cooperatives to assist rice cultivators in acquiring collectively what they were incapable of acquiring individually. These rice cultivators were able to pool their resources together to obtain essential machinery such as Combine Harvesters, Tractor Ploughs and pumps for irrigation purposes.
Moving from Guyana’s coast to the interior villages where the recent ‘gold rush’ has taken place, many coastal dwellers have flocked interior communities in search of the precious metal- communities which were originally occupied by the Amerindians- Guyana’s indigenous people. These communities were usually involved in subsistence farming to cater for their own use, but with the influx of coastal dwellers, the issue of food security for the new immigrants was brought into question. From the experience of miners, the food security problem was averted when the Amerindians capitalized on the opportunity to transform their subsistence farming into income generating opportunities to cater for the food needs of miners in their vicinity.
Inherent in our cases are the conditions that we are outlined in our preceding post for this concept to bear fruit. It is noteworthy that these areas had/have not been subject to heavy competitive markets. With the devising of intensely competitive markets and modernization of the Berbice economy, one can observe that the level of social relations present has declined.
This post contributes a success story of how social relations in a close knitted rural community have helped to instill the importance of food security and good nutrition in its community members.
I, Dahvis Caldeira, grew up in the village located on the West Coast of Berbice, Guyana. Being a keen observer of the activities in my household and the neighbourhood, I can attest to the fact that social relations has played a significant part in enhancing the environment as we embrace change. My father is an active planter and at such we have a kitchen garden. I remember the days of sitting on the steps watching my father plant, mold and water his crops while having memorable, warm conversations with me. This was generally the trend for most of my neighbours as kitchen gardens are very dominant in my rural community. The garden had every little necessity, from Eschallot and Peppers to season food, to local main courses such as Pumpkins, Bora, and Pakchoi. The neighbours would share whatever was harvested as well as produce such as Cashew, Pineapple and Owarra received from relatives on the river side areas.
Over the years this practice has not necessarily changed, but the scale of farming has increased. I recall my father along with other villagers, who also had kitchen gardens, attending meetings held among themselves. One farmer, who has a bountiful supply of land by the seaside, generously offered his land temporarily for farming by the villagers. These villagers, however, are not full time farmers but had various occupations; the farming was done in the afternoons or early morning before they left for work. This neighborhood bond and to some extent an informal agreement of the offering of the land came about from acts of love, unity and cooperation shared by the majority of the community. The villagers refer to themselves as “Brothers”. This is in the sense that they attend the same church, have similar culture and is a part of a Brotherhood Union and knew each other for many years such that a common understanding as well as trust has developed. Following this agreement for the land to be offered, relevant actions such as fencing and dividing the land took place. Farming was then done both at home and the seaside. Some of the people, such as my neighbour who retired from his job, as well as those who lost their jobs, made farming their new occupation. As time progressed these farmers continued to pool their resources and bought a pump to access water from the sea as trenches dried up during Guyana’s last El Niño season.
This agreement, which started off with five persons, has now grown and found themselves members of a cooperative society which provided the village with the medium necessary to allow some of the village produce to be marketed. The extra land available was well utilized since there was an extension to include an active Tilapia and chicken farm. My neighbour is now in partnership with members from the Ministry of Agriculture and would be seen from time to time extending invitations to youths in the village, by word of mouth, encouraging them to attend leadership training or management sessions coordinating by the Ministry. This effort is well praised because the workshops held not only apply to agriculture but can be applied to any field.
My father who continues to plant at both locations uses his produce for the family while the remaining is shared or sometimes given to the others for sale, because he uses farming as a form of exercise to keep him fit as he approaches old age. Apart from agriculture and the sharing of produce, an enthusiastic farmer, who is privileged to have a daughter residing overseas, has donated a computer for use in the cooperative society. This enthusiast, in his remarks emphasized “This initiative was taken so that farmers can have adequate information as well as use the internet to learn about the different technology and methods available to deal with pest, as well as new seeds, fertilizers and also to address other issues and concerns to the community farmers.
What is your understanding of social relations and networks in food and nutritional security, and do you have examples of the role they play in the attainment of food and nutritional security?
As a result of the progress of regressive globalization and the increasing concentration of wealth in a few hands, the economic gap has widened between the rich and the poor which has often affected the survival of social groups. This inequality is one of the core elements of failure in the eradication of hunger and poverty.
Social relations are relationships between two or more people. In general, it involves the actions of a person or people, which solicits a reaction from the other person or people, and is the underpinning of a society and its social structure. Networking on the other hand, is the interaction with others to exchange information with a view to developing professional or social contacts.
Nutrition security goes beyond food security because it considers a community’s access to essential nutrients, not just calories. Fertilizers play a significant role in foods security by helping farmers in a given country, produce enough food domestically to meet the caloric needs of that country’s population. Yet, fertilizers also play an important role in nutrition security by facilitating access to a balanced diet that includes all of the essential nutrients that is primary, secondary and micronutrients. According to the International Fertilizer Industry Association, micronutrients fertilization programs should target Zinc, selenium and boron to ensure sufficient quantities of these nutrients in human diets. This is known as “farming for health”. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 800,000 deaths each year to zinc deficiency. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, also found that close to 50% of the soils in the world where cereal grains are grown are deficient in zinc. Fertilizers help increase the level of zinc found in food crops, and it is also key to fighting malnutrition and under-nutrition in human and animals.
Social relations and networking plays a pivotal role in rural communities across Guyana. Ideally the distance and lack of transportation, you find people willing to exchange with neighboring villages. Cattle farmers and poultry farmers give manure to agriculture farmers who in exchange give some of their produce (cash crops).This occurs when good relationships exist between neighbours and even villages. These are the types of relationships that can develop through social relation and networking because the need of each person is known before the exchange takes place.
It is through social relations and networking that many multilateral organizations such as the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and many regional associations such as Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) and the Caribbean and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) have made recommendations to governments to reduce the internal gap and dedicate more resources for human development. According to these organizations government should address basic food production systems with job creation, increase low salaries and subsidies for the marginalized and promote cheap prices of basic food for the urban poor. These recommendations are directly linked food security to the wider concept of human security.
Growing up everyone knows everyone. After migrating to Region four, an urban area. I was now engulfed in a community where everyone fights to survive. In this community people are not willing to help each other; instead it is a matter of survival of the fittestAccording to the WHO there are three pillars that determine food security: food availability, food access, and food use. The FAO adds a fourth pillar: the stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time. In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the “four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability. Just to give a brief idea as to what the different pillars of food security are. Food availability relates to the food supplied through production, distribution, and exchange. Food access refers to the affordability and allocation of food, as well as the preferences of individuals and households The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights noted that the causes of hunger and malnutrition are often not a scarcity of food but an inability to access available food, usually due to poverty. Poverty can limit access to food, and can also increase how vulnerable an individual or household is to food price spikes. Access depends on whether the household has enough income to purchase food at prevailing prices or has sufficient land and other resources to grow its own food. Households with enough resources can overcome unstable harvests and shortages and maintain their access to food. Food stability refers to the ability to obtain food over time. The final pillar of food security is food utilization, which refers to the metabolism of food by individuals.
Dear Issue raiser Eileen,
I am Pradip Kumar Nath , CAS & DM, NIRD, Hyderabad.
It is the extent of information that comes suo-moto that determines the level of Food & Nutrition Security.
Not to speak of Rural India, even Urban India has immensely benefited from the mobile connectivity and the Social media by the Net connectivity.
It is the connectivity which has diversified the food baskets even in the poor households.
It is surprising to find the the so-called Chocolates - international brands like Cadbury which have entered the remotest part of India.
And during my Field study of different research projects , I happened to learn that the Adivasi (Scheduled casted as designated by the Constitution of INDIA) know well what the chocolates give to their body and in what way that can be used.
I have the privilege of having a cup of tea mixed with Cadbury chocolates in the absence of SUGAR & Milk, in a remote village near Gadiras in Sukma District of Chatisgarh - INDIA.
It is not a question of what is the knowledge base- but the choice of products which have increased manifold due to increased level of Information at the disposal of Common man.
Next comes the Major Trail blazing Acts like -- the present Food Security Act in INDIA & the erstwhile MGNREGS- the biggest ever Self Employment Programme ever taken up in such a massive scale by any Government in the world.
Yes, the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) has brought about a sea change by pumping in a huge amount of money into the kitty of the Rural households in India.
Having equal wages to both man & women these wage wage-seekers have really been empowered to conquer the menace of Food & Nutrition Security.
Only big question will be how to ensure a sort of changes in food habits of Indians to switch over to a staple diet constituting items(food material) other than Rice & Wheat.
That is, how to go about a food package bereft of Rice & wheat.
It may not be possible to have self- sufficiency with Rice + Wheat combination as Staple diets.
Without adequately supplementing our dietary requirements with millets & other substitutes, it seems a gigantic task to go for self sufficiency ensuring food & Nutrition Security to a population of 1.23 billion.
The other is putting up the dietary packages with locally available seasonal fruits and the extensive increase in production of the same. Fruits like Mango, Banana, Papaya,Guava,Amla,Kedu, Jack Fruits, water Melons etc.
Pradip Kumar Nath,
Centre For Agrarian Studies & Disaster Mitigation, National Institute of Rural Development(NIRD),
Learning Never Comes to an End!
What did you learn learn from the 22 days' of discussions on the role of social relations and networks in food security and nutrition?
I have gained new knowledge from both the content of your input and the processes used: One of the many ideas I am taking away from the discussions is that active communication and open sharing (Kent's sharing-caring communities) results in strenthened networks and social relations. Drawing on the example of use of working groups (University of Guyana) to make contributions to the discussion, I learnt that active communication results in more sharing as one group's input on a particular issue acts as a catalyst, getting other groups in the network to generate new ideas, and the sharing continues. I foresee our networks growing as we continue to share information, innovative ideas and food items.
What lesson are you taking away from the discussions?
UGAgri Group 7’s previous post dealt with private intervention of producers and consumers, in advocating social relations to ensure food security and health. This post is a bit of an extension to that; here we incorporate the government’s and civil society’s contribution to the same.
Public policy intervention for food security either by state or non-state agencies to determine whether it is appropriate, two criteria at least must be met: 1) In strengthening survival mechanisms, not only of the most vulnerable families but also of their most vulnerable members by explicitly focusing on any interfamily inequality in the impact of contingencies. And, 2) In complementing rather than undermining people’s own efforts at dealing with contingencies, with people being seen as actors in the process of change rather than passive recipients of aid and relief. The Government of Guyana’s Grow Local Campaign encouraging households to keep kitchen gardens is one such way. Governments can be much more creative than this though in encouraging consumers to capitalise on community, familial and professional networks to help themselves secure their own food security in ways that aren’t defined by the government by individual preferences expressed collectively.
Regarding producers, governments should seek to influence the environment affecting the agricultural sector, encouraging linkages between producers at all stages of production. This kind of surplus supply not only stabilises supply but prices and improves conditions affecting food security. The Government of Guyana has encouraged producers to do same in several efforts such as the Grow More Campaign. The FAO has made a point of saying in their project document on building cooperatives to fuel rural development that the leaders of civil society are instrumental in organising groups in local communities and guiding self-help groups in taking collective action (pg.72). The NGO, Myrada in India taught small groups of farmers lessons on credit management. What the FAO has recognized as important, and too often is overlooked, is the confidence that managing their funds gives these members to achieve their objectives.
 Building Innovative Institutions for Food Security
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.