In this industrialized era that we now live, there is an obvious dwindling in social co-operation toward matters of food and nutrition. However negative that may sound, it seems almost natural. Consider when social relations and networks for food security and nutrition was at its most prevalent: in times and areas where subsistence farming was a way of life, and in times of disaster.
As it relates to subsistence farming, we should realise that no single household is going to be able to provide a full-course meal for themselves. it makes far more sense for families to specialise. Therefore, in a given community, perhaps one household specialised in rearing of livestock for meats and milk, and another household took charge in the growing of fruits and vegetables. It makes perfect sense for these two households to trade in such a manner that both families are adequately provided with nutritional foods. However, with most regions of the world tending toward an industrialsed, urbanised lifestyle, it is clear why social relations/networks is now a less potent factor in determining one's food security. Most farmers conduct their activities with intentions to sell their produce on the market, and while social relations could still land you being gifted with fuits, vegetables, and even meats, it is to a lesser extent and cannot be expected to provide sustainable food security.
As an example, I have close family members who own a farm. My relation with them earns me perhaps two handfuls of peppers, and a basket of fruit. These gifts, while appreciated, could hardly be considered "food security". It is simply a display of generosity, and without a farm of my own, I am in no position to reciprocate. This in itself is a challenge: What happens when a household has little or nothing to offer? Would it be acceptable in the networking of food to allow freeriders?
On the second point, let me begin by saying that there is no greater catalyst for human co-operation than disaster and tragedy. For example, in the event of a natural disaster, it seems an automatic reaction for immediate neighbours, neighbouring towns, and neighbouring countries to extend their hands to the victims of that tragedy. However, it is usually only to the point where those affected can get back onto their own feet and once again provide for themselves.
To recap, it is evident that social relations/networks in food security and nutrition are at their most important in two situations:
1. Necessity of trade/barter;
2. In times of dire need.
Bearing that in mind, and also an ever-growing urban lifestyle, the causes for the deterioration of social relations/netowrking in food security is plain to see. Will the remedy, however, be so blatantly apparent?
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.