This member participated in the following discussions
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.
The dominant notion of agri-food system emphasis on the calory requirement and the quantity of grains required to feed the growing population and hence demand for techno-managerial solutions for further intensification of production and incremental innovations. These incremental changes in the existing agri-food regime are in favor of large-scale farming systems and hardly address the concerns of smallholder farmers and resilience of marginal and small-scale food production systems. Moreover, the dominant agri-food regime has failed to ensure increased food and nutrition security with respect to the increase in food production. In this context, what we require are system level changes that acknowledge the multifunctionality of agriculture and de-linking agriculture from the notion of large-scale intensive production.
Decentralization of safe-to-eat food production is inevitable to address the increasing vulnerabilities elicited by the conventional mode of food production. Food production has to be concentrated in marginal and small-holders farms and it has to be further extended from farms to food and nutrition gardens in backyards, rooftops, and all other available spaces. Urban food production also needs to be adopted to ensure the resilience of urban systems and to minimise the export of wastes outside the urban setting. The ongoing interventions to ensure self-reliance on the production of safe-to-eat vegetables in Kerala (India) would be of importance in this context.
To address the vulnerabilities experienced due to dependent food economy and conventional agriculture, Kerala is in the making of a transition towards self-reliant and sustainable agri-food systems, especially in the case of vegetables. Adoption of food system localization and agroecological practices have become an agenda of the government and R&D. In order to facilitate this, the Vegetable Development Program (started in 2012) of the state government of Kerala explores every possible space for safe-to-eat food production that includes schools, government institutions, backyards and on rooftops of both rural and urban areas. The rural-urban continuum, high population density, and space constraints made it inevitable to consider food production in the urban setting as well. This is mainly carried out through the promotion of home-based nutrition gardens and also by providing portable composting units and/or biogas units to recycle the biodegradable kitchen wastes so as to use for vegetable gardening. Both the government and social actors play key roles to develop new technologies and practices for vegetable cultivation. New and improved technologies and methods of vegetable cultivation in the backyards and rooftops of rural and urban premises have received a place in the government policy as well as in the R &D agenda of Kerala. The main emphasis of both the actors is to develop solutions to overcome the spatial constraints of Kerala and to adopt agroecological methods of cultivation. The government subsidy schemes facilitate diffusion of grow-bags (with vegetable saplings) and protected cultivation technologies (polyhouse/greenhouse and rain shelter) amongst the rural and urban residents, along with drip-irrigation units for water conservation.
The bottom-up actions from the social actors take a complementary approach. Social media, particularly facebook (FB), has become a platform for the enactment of these activities. Interested people started different groups on facebook which aimed to promote different aspects of food system localization and agroecology including grassroots innovations. These groups are operated in Malayalam, the vernacular language of Kerala and the group member comprises of Keralites living in different parts of the globe. The objectives of these groups includes promotion of kitchen gardening, promotion of commercial farming adopting organic and agroecological practices, marketing of organically grown produce etc. Some of the activities prominent in these Facebook groups include sharing of seeds of local and traditional crops, conducting annual kitchen garden competitions, providing platform for sales of home-grown surplus produce, annual meets to further strengthening their activities etc. Apart from adopting some of these technologies (and also while rejecting some), they develop their own methods and technologies which are shared to each other through these facebook groups and thereby reinforce the government intervention by filling the gaps.
The ongoing transitions in the agri-food system of Kerala are entrusted upon extending food production from farms to gardens and replacing hazardous chemicals with locally available or locally developed measures. In this way, food production is becoming a routine of many of the households, schools, and government and private institutions. This does not only enhance the resilience of the entire locality to withstand the externalities of a dependent food economy but also helps to strengthen the local level production for local level consumption.
More details can be found at https://steps-centre.org/blog/kerala-making-transition-towards-healthy-h...