Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Theme 2 Food for Cities Consultation: what works best?

Some very quick thoughts to contribute to this consultation on behalf of Urgenci, the global Community Supported Agriculture network:

The issue of eliminating food insecurity is intricately linked to the issue of who controls access to food production and distribution, which in turn are linked to climate change. This can be either a vicious circle, as is currently the case, with increased industrial monoculture and global food distribution, commodification and speculation on food, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The alternative is to build a virtuous circle; it is a community-empowered paradigm shift that involves genuine food sovereignty: local small-scale food production and short/direct distribution chains combined with decommodification, control over and access to land for growing food. This leads to positive knock-on effects, whereby Local Authorities preserve existing green belt from speculation, support access to land through schemes ranging from Community gardens to urban planning of rezoning (decontaminating) land from brown-field sites for urban agriculture, encouraging the use of public space for free horticultural spaces, legislation that facilitates community supported agriculture and solidarity purchasing groups where risks/benefits are shared. Grow-it-yourself trends are also an important part of the puzzle, and can involve roof-top, balcony and indoor gardening (sprouting seeds, an excellent source of protein etc). Community Supported Agriculture is one of the most relevant ways to establish these virtuous circles, irrespective of whether we are talking about rural or urban areas.

Local Authority involvement is the relevant level of decision-making in food growing, spatial planning and actions to both fight climate change and preserve/reclaim land for local agriculture in all areas, particularly in preserving it from speculation in urban and peri-urban districts. To this end, the Voluntary Guidelines on land tenure and governance adopted by the CFS constitute a powerful tool.

These latter alternatives are all low-impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (agro-ecology, organic, local..)

It is very important to take cultural differences into account. (For example in Africa Urgenci has been developing a different model from the common CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as known in Europe, N. America and Japan…). No one size fits all. What is important is the community empowerment, awareness-raising, capacity building as to the benefits of fresh local organic food, which is not necessarily an expensive alternative. It can also involve community food banks and local cooperative-owned processing units.

The key to much of this is trust. Many people go to supermarkets because they trust them. This is a recent sociological phenomenon, and is built around a lifestyle of convenience food/shopping rather than an understanding of nutritional values or seasonality. Historically we have trusted the farmer/family who grew our food. We knew where it came from (back garden, local suppliers etc). It is not necessary to elaborate here on these issues. What is important is to rebuild the knowledge of what food is, how it is grown, and for children to develop this awareness through (urban) school gardens. This sort of programme is generally very successful, irrespective of the continent or country.