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Category Archives: Activate Agric

Does motivation matter? – Food Security and Food Justice

Does motivation matter? – Food Security and Food Justice

This past July, PepsiCo released its latest Sustainability Report stating that it had made great strides towards its 2025 sustainability agenda entitled Performance with Purpose. While the agenda states three main categories for positive impact – products, planet, people – the press release identifies a fourth goal that may not be as altruistic as you would expect a sustainability agenda to be. PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO is quoted saying, “Today, it’s more important than ever before to advance sustainability and profitability at the same time, and I’m proud to say that’s what we’ve been doing for more than a decade”.

Profitability. For a company that says it wants to provide more nutritious products, reduce their environmental footprint, and support families, it seems a bit odd to make a point at the beginning of the press release about returning $6.5 billion to its shareholders in 2017. But that is the main purpose of companies, right? They need to make money for their shareholders. Now in some industries that may just be a fact of life. But when it comes to food (the ‘products’ portion of PepsiCo’s agenda), I’m a little uneasy about the idea of money, instead of people’s health, being the company’s priority. What kind of changes are (or are not) made to their products in order to make the company more money? Are these the best decisions for consumers?

The Traffic Light System

Food labels and packaging are one way we can see how the priority to make money leads to certain changes in food products. Packaging of foodstuffs can be designed in many different ways but overall it provides the user with information on the brand and purpose of the food, as well as nutritional details1. In the UK, the packaging and labelling of nutritional information takes place through the traffic light system. This involves using a colour coded system to indicate the relative health of a product based on the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar, and energy present in the product. The colours range from red to yellow to green, indicating a healthy, moderately healthy, and unhealthy amount of that nutrient, respectively.

This scheme was brought in as a result of a responsibility deal between the government and the food industry in order to tackle obesity and chronic diseases. The main hope was that consumers would change their behaviour, choosing to buy different products that appeared to be healthier (those with more green ‘lights’). If consumers were able to easily identify the healthier products then the labelling system would succeed in helping them choose the best food to improve their overall diet.

Producers’ Reactions

To no surprise, the food industry didn’t respond well when proposals for the traffic light system were first introduced in 2006. Companies didn’t like the idea of having to explicitly indicate on the front of their packaging whether a product was healthy or not. Too many red ‘lights’ could prevent consumers from choosing to buy certain products, lowering sales and the associated profits.

This is where the traffic light system presents a second function. In addition to encouraging consumer behaviour changes, the traffic light system also encourages company behaviour changes as they choose to refine their current products to be more healthy2/have more green ‘lights’. If companies have to label their products, they need to present food that is as healthy as possible – not to provide a healthier option for the sake of consumer health but to provide a product that will continue to sell well, making the company money.

Is this right?

So, should we accept that the health of some food is improved because companies want to make a profit? Is it appropriate that money is the incentive to make these improvements? In my ideal world, the answer would be no. Companies in the food industry wouldn’t be motivated by money, but instead motivated by the goal of better health for their customers. Unfortunately, many companies don’t make drastic changes to make their products healthier because eventually they could start to lose money. Due to the higher costs of healthier inputs (eg. replacing artificial dyes with natural colour sources), changes in production costs could be higher than the increase in sales they experience from offering a healthier option.

Now, if profits weren’t the bottom line then maybe some companies would look past this fact and take proactive steps to improve the health of their products…But I don’t believe this will become reality. We live in an economy driven by profit. It’s pretty unlikely that you could convince a company to voluntarily make significantly less money. Therefore, we may have to just take what we can get. So what if achieving a row of green dots on a product doesn’t come from pure intentions? Even if using the traffic light system benefits from the idea that companies will only change their products in the name of profit, shouldn’t we just be glad that changes are happening in the first place?

More information on PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose: http://www.pepsico.com/live/video/performance-with-purpose_ntvideo

References: 

MUT Food security Programme kicks-off next week – Mangosuthu University of Technology

MUT Food security Programme kicks-off next week – Mangosuthu University of Technology

MUT Food security Programme kicks-off next week

MUT alumni, Nkululeko Mthembu
MUT alumni, Nkululeko Mthembu

In a bid to help students fight food insecurity on campus, Mangosuthu University of Technology has started a Food Security Programme to provide the much needed help for many of our needy students.

The pantry space has already been identified and cleared for use. It will be filled with food items and clothing which will be donated by alumni and anyone who is willing to lend a hand.

“As someone who understands where most of our students come from, I believe that this is the first step of giving our students the dignity of being a student by tackling food insecurity”, said Ayanda Blose, Schools Liaison Assistant, Marketing and Communications Department.

Blose also explained that this is part of MUT’s plan to help students in need so that they can fully focus on their studies and not have to worry about where their next meal will come from, which is a serious but overlooked problem in many institutions.

“Our students are our assets and we want them to perform to the best of their abilities”, said Blose. “We are looking for more people and business to partner with us.”

The first alumnus to hear of this programme, Nkululeko Mthembu, got on board and will be bringing supplies for the pantry next week.

In a bid to help students fight food insecurity on campus, Mangosuthu University of Technology has started a Food Security Programme to provide the much needed help for many of our needy students.

The pantry space has already been identified and cleared for use. It will be filled with food items and clothing which will be donated by alumni and anyone who is willing to lend a hand.

“As someone who understands where most of our students come from, I believe that this is the first step of giving our students the dignity of being a student by tackling food insecurity”, said Ayanda Blose, Schools Liaison Assistant, Marketing and Communications Department.

Blose also explained that this is part of MUT’s plan to help students in need so that they can fully focus on their studies and not have to worry about where their next meal will come from, which is a serious but overlooked problem in many institutions.

“Our students are our assets and we want them to perform to the best of their abilities”, said Blose. “We are looking for more people and business to partner with us.”

The first alumnus to hear of this programme, Nkululeko Mthembu, got on board and will be bringing supplies for the pantry next week.

Food waste and consumers’ responsibility – Food Security and Food Justice

Food waste and consumers’ responsibility – Food Security and Food Justice

Household food waste is a sustainability challenge and also a threat to food security. Wasting food is indeed a huge “luxury” in a world where resources are finite and one in every nine people is hungry. The greenhouse gases released by food waste decomposing in landfill and throughout of its production is costing the world $411 billion worth of damage. All of the resources that went into growing, producing, processing, and transporting that food are also wasted, causing further negative environmental impacts for reasons that could have been avoided.

The problem of household food waste seems to have a lot more to do with the developed world than its less developed counterparts. On average, consumers in higher-income countries waste a lot more of the food that they bought, as compared to those in developing countries[1][2][3] (see graphs below). Of course there are vast differences between people in the same country, but it is estimated that over 7.3 million tonnes of food was wasted in the UK in 2015, of which 60% was actually avoidable.

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“In the developed world, food is more abundant but it costs much less. In a sense people don’t value food for what it represents.”

– Dr. Rosa S. Rolle (FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific)

This may sound like blaming the consumer, In developing countries where people often have to spend a large share of their income e.g. 30-50% on food (see graph below), they don’t exactly have the option to waste their hard-earn food.

WHY, THEN, DO CONSUMERS WASTE SO MUCH FOOD?

Despite the often reported “anxieties” and “guilt”, food wasting has become an ordinary, necessary even, part of domestic food practices[4][5][6][7][8].

A study back in 2007 by WRAP on consumers’ attitudes revealed that only 13% of consumers were particularly concerned by food waste and would take efforts to avoid throwing food away, whilst others were either passively concerned or entirely “disconnected” from the issue and don’t even bother to take any action to reduce food waste. Among those bothered by food waste, environmental concern is secondary at best as people would rather value their own time and money[9]. They also tended to believe that since food waste is biodegradable, it is even less of an environment issue than packaging waste.

Such indifference attitude may continue to exist as long as consumers in richer countries can “simply afford to waste food”. The abundance of food, numerous choices of brand and relatively cheap food costs, together with supermarkets’ sale strategies make consumers buy more food than they actually need, only to waste them once they get home[11].

As the supply chain now separates the food production and preparation from the consumption stage, it creates a “disconnection from food”[12]. Certain countries such as the U.S. or Australia are considered to have a “weak” food culture, placing little value on food and thus wasting more food than those with deeper food cultures and greater appreciation for food[14][15]. Those with hands-on experience in the process of growing and turning plants or animals into food have a stronger connection to it than those who only come into contact with food at supermarket shelves or on their restaurant tables, and thus much less likely to waste such food[16]. Similarly, older generations wasted much less food than the rest of the population because they may have experienced austerity or food rationing during the war and thus developed a strong feeling against wasting food[17].

Some consumers cite food safety concern as the reason why they waste food[18][19][20]. They rely strictly on external standards such as “Best before” date labels on the packaging and discard food without double-checking the food’s actual appearance or smell, thinking that such food is no longer safe to eat[21]. Not only so, many consumers confuse between different date labels “Sell by”, “Use by”, and “Display until” and throw food away although they may still be “perfectly good” to eat[22][23][24][25][26]. However, why would they even have close-to-expiry food to waste if they didn’t buy too much? Wouldn’t it an issue of poor food planning and management skills rather than food safety concerns?

Also, the majority of respondents in a study reported that they just leave the unwanted food in a corner to decay and procrastinate until the food become “undeniably inedible” to throw them away[27]. Procrastination allows them to ease the feeling of anxiety and guilt associated with wasting food[28]. Accordingly, food “not being used in time” results in more than half of food waste in the UK.

For more examples of unwise food practices that lead to food waste, please see table below:

ANYTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT?

There are a number of solutions aimed to help consumers (especially in the developed world) become more responsible in reducing food waste:

Campaigns:

Education/Training/Public Awareness Raising Initiatives:

Or, if all else fails,  maybe the cockroaches can help us this time? =)

[3] Hodges, R.J., Buzby, J.C., Bennett, B. (2010). Postharvest losses and waste in developed and less developed countries: opportunities to improve resource use. Journal of Agricultural Science 149 (S1), 37-45

[4] Munro, R. (1995). The disposal of the meal. In Food Choices, ed. D. Marshall, 313–326.London: Blackie Academic Publishers

[5] Evans, D. (2012). Beyond the Throwaway Society: Ordinary Domestic Practice and a Sociological Approach to Household Food Waste. Sociology46(1), 41–56

[6] Stefan, V., van Herpen, E., Tudoran, A.A., Lähteenmäki, L., (2013). Avoiding food waste by Romanian consumers: the importance of planning and shopping routines. Food Quality and Preference 28 (1), 375–381.

[7] Quested, T.E., Marsh, E., Stunell, D., Parry, A.D. (2013). Spaghetti soup: the complex world of food waste behaviours. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 79, 43–51.

[8] Gregson, N., Metcalfe, A., Crewe, L., 2007. Identity, mobility, and the throwaway society. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(4), 682-700.

[9] Watson, M., & Meah, A. (2013). Food, waste and safety: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of domestic provisioning. The Sociological Review, 60, 102-120.

[10] Stuart, T. (2009). Waste: uncovering the global food scandal. Penguin Books.

[11] Aschemann-Witzel, J., De Hooge, I., Amani, P., Bech-Larsen, T., & Oostindjer, M. (2015). Consumer-related food waste: causes and potential for action. Sustainability 7, 6457–6477.

[12] Dowler, E., Kneafsey, M., Cox, R. and Holloway, L. (2010). Doing Food Differently: Reconnecting Biological and Social Relationships through Care for Food. Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester.

[13] Kneafsey, M., Cox, R., Holloway, L., Dowler, E., Venn, L. and Tuomainen, H. (2009). Reconnecting consumers, Producers and Food. Exploring Alternatives. Oxford and New York: Berg.

[14] Bloom, J. (2010). American Wasteland, Da Capo Press: Cambridge, MA, USA

[15] Pollan, M. (2007). The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin: London, England

[16] Blichfeldt, B. S., Mikkelsen, M., & Gram, M. (2015). When it stops being food: the edibility, ideology, procrastination, objectification and internalization of household food waste. Food, Culture & Society18(1), 89-105.

[17] Quested, T. E., Marsh, E., Stunell, D., & Parry, A. D. (2013). Spaghetti soup: The complex world of food waste behaviours. Resources, Conservation and Recycling79, 43-51.

[18] Pearson, D., Minehan, M., Wakefield-Rann, R., 2013. Food waste in Australian households: why does it occur?, The Australasian-Pacific Journal of Regional Food Studies, 3, 118–132.

[19] Kriflik, L. S., & Yeatman, H. (2005). Food scares and sustainability: a consumer perspective. Health, Risk & Society, 7(1), 11-24.

[20] Watson, M., & Meah, A. (2012). Food, waste and safety: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of domestic provisioning. The Sociological Review60(2_suppl), 102-120.

[21] Blichfeldt, B. S., Mikkelsen, M., & Gram, M. (2015). When it stops being food: the edibility, ideology, procrastination, objectification and internalization of household food waste. Food, Culture & Society18(1), 89-105.

[22] Kosa, K.M., Cates, S.C., Karns, S., Godwin, S.L., Chambers, D. (2007). Consumer knowledge and use of open dates: results of a web-based survey. Journal of Food Protection, 70 (5), 1213–1219

[23] Watson, M., & Meah, A. (2012). Food, waste and safety: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of domestic provisioning. The Sociological Review60(2_suppl), 102-120.

[24] Block, L.G., Keller, P.A., Vallen, B., Williamson, S., Birau, M.M., Grinstein, A., Haws, K.L., LaBarge, M.C., Lamberton, C., Moore, E.S. and Moscato, E.M. (2016). The squander sequence: understanding food waste at each stage of the consumer decision-making process. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing35(2), 292-304.

[25] Newsome, R., Balestrini, C.G., Baum, M.D., Corby, J., Fisher, W., Goodburn, K., Labuza, T.P., Prince, G., Thesmar, H.S. and Yiannas, F., 2014. Applications and perceptions of date labeling of food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 13(4), 745-769.

[26] Labuza, T.P. & Gunders, D. (2013) Food dating and food waste. Food Technology, 67(12), 108.

[27] Blichfeldt, B. S., Mikkelsen, M., & Gram, M. (2015). When it stops being food: the edibility, ideology, procrastination, objectification and internalization of household food waste. Food, Culture & Society18(1), 89-105.

[28] Evans, D. (2012). Binning, Gifting and Recovery: The Conduits of Disposal in Household Food Consumption. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(6): 1123–37.

[29] Edwards, F. & Mercer, D. (2007) Gleaning from Gluttony: an Australian youth subculture confronts the ethics of waste, Australian Geographer, 38(3), 279-296

[30] Wilson, D.C. (1996). Stick or carrot? The use of policy measures to move waste management up the hierarchy. Waste Management & Research, 14(14), 385–398.

[32] Graham-Rowe, E., Jessop, D.C., Sparks, P. (2015). Predicting household food waste reduction using an extended theory of planned behavior. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 101, 194–202.

[34] Stefan, V., van Herpen, E., Tudoran, A.A., Lähteenmäki, L., (2013). Avoiding food waste by Romanian consumers: the importance of planning and shopping routines. Food Quality and Preference 28(1), 375–381.

[35] Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106, 110-123.

Convenience as Care: The Reframing of Convenience Foods – Food Security and Food Justice

Convenience as Care: The Reframing of Convenience Foods – Food Security and Food Justice

It has been argued that in the past few decades, too many foods have become cheaper, faster, and unhealthier with the help of biotechnology. In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity defined biotechnology as all technological applications that use living organisms, biological systems, or any by-product, to create or modify products or processes for specific use. Understandably, some consumers have argued against the use of technology in our food system, specifically convenience food, because of claims that it is not ‘natural,’ lacks care compared to fresh and homemade meals, and is a health risk to those who consume it. The argument over convenience food is not necessarily about natural vs. unnatural, but the real debate is concerned with the societal changes in modern family and work life. The current discourse of convenience foods is that of disdain because of the belief that the best way to feed one’s family is to spend the time and energy preparing meals at home. This needs to change to understand that convenience as care is a way of modern people meeting the needs of their lifestyle and family satisfaction.

 What are Convenience Foods?

When one thinks of convenience foods, the first thought is typically canned, frozen, ready-made meals, and many argue, the least nutritious food for consumption. However, history has shown that the definition of convenience food shifts depending on the particular time and place in a given society. For instance, one of the many current descriptions of convenience food includes the act of eating out, buying takeaway, is labour-saving, and either processed or semi-processed (i.e., snacks and beverages) (see Figure 1). Another definition details convenience foods as anything that makes the shopping, preparation, eating, and cleaning easier by saving time and effort for an individual.

Figure 1: Takeaway food. One of the modern methods in which people purchase convenience foods

 The Real Debate: Gender & Expression of Care Through Convenience Foods

The changes in current familial structures have also changed women’s domestic habits in which they have adapted how they take care of their family and home. The discourse over the moralisation of convenience foods needs to be reframed to understand that convenience foods are not inherently wrong when the needs and care of the family are taken care of through convenience items. Caring is a practice that requires time, resources, knowledge, and skill. Due to the social and cultural changes in our society, caring has become complex and often difficult for women to navigate because of a deficit in one or more of the detailed criteria and also because of women’s busy everyday lives. We need to work toward not criticising women who rely on convenience foods because convenience foods may not be as ‘natural’ or fresh as homemade items, but a level of care still goes into the decisions of women who may feel that the act of cooking is not important or the only way to take care of their families.

In the UK, 53% of women between the ages of 16 – 24 were in the labour market in 1971 compared to 67% in 2013. Interestingly, the percentage of men in the workforce has decreased from 92% in 1971 to 76% in 2013. This shift in the labour force has also meant a change in the gender roles of parents in the household. It is well known that older generations had gendered roles in which men were typically the ones with jobs and women were expected to take care of the kids and home. It has been historically shown that the act of caring and caregiving has been the responsibility of women. It was expected for the woman to show her role as a caregiver through the food prepared for the household which typically involved more time, fresh ingredients, and preparation. This preparation usually took longer compared to modern day cooking because of the rise of technologies, i.e., microwaves and fridges which did not become staple household items until the 1960s.

A study into the different lifestyles of consumers in Great Britain found that those between the ages of 55-75 had the least positive things to say about convenience foods and wholeheartedly believed that food should be made from scratch and prepared at home. The study also found that women between the ages of 45-54 and had a family at home, were the most stressed due to long work hours and were the most likely to favour convenience foods in order to save time and energy. What little time they believe they had, they felt that it was better spent on other things involving the family. These differences in sample groups show the shifts in how women have expressed their care through food over the decades. Older generations, in which domestic femininity was socially regulated through gender norms, often argue that homemade meals are the best way to show one’s care for the family. Modern women, who are still expected to live up to these gender norms, sometimes choose to express their care through convenience food items due to limitations they might have in their lives, i.e., finances, time, or lack of cooking knowledge. This act is coined as convenience as care. The moral approbation on convenience foods is too simplistic for the complex everyday social and cultural framework of many of today’s societies. Because of the way in which modern familial structure has shifted from the heteronormative structure of the past, the responsibility of care has now come to include men, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even same-sex couples.

Convenience as Care

Even though more women today have jobs compared to women of the past, there is still the expectation that the home and children are the primary responsibility of women. With the accumulation of stress from working long hours and duties at home, many women have adapted their role as caregivers by fulfilling their family’s unique food needs through convenience foods. For instance, some children are picky eaters who will only eat certain foods that cater to their specific tastes. Through the use of technology and convenience foods, parents are able to provide food for their picky eaters while also alleviating any stressors about preparing a specific meal to fit their child’s critical taste.

With the current complexities of everyday life, there should not be one absolute best  way to feed one’s family. The discourse of care should not be a moral debate between good food vs. bad food or the ‘proper’ way to feed one’s family but should be about the complexities of everyday life that one constantly juggles to fit their individual and family’s needs. Each person has a lifestyle that often requires them to struggle to determine what can be traded off to make their and their family’s life easier and more enjoyable. Some women are not immediately turned off by the health concerns of convenience food because it often alleviates pressures from their daily lives through its convenience. Due to individual and familial circumstances, the use of convenience foods can be justified as a way of expressing care (convenience as care), and this decision should not be judged by those who favour the healthy or homemade way of feeding their families.

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Commodity Fetishism and Food Security – Food Security and Food Justice

Commodity Fetishism and Food Security – Food Security and Food Justice

Commodities seem like trivial things at first, easy to understand. A coat, cup of coffee or mobile phone. We use them daily and do not have to really think about where they come from. They might appear as simple things that fall from the sky into our shopping baskets. This article explores the world of consumers, the meanings of fetish attached to certain commodities (especially those related to food) and aims to show how and why to remove the veil from seemingly exciting products we use on a daily basis.

Karl Marx described a commodity as a mysterious thing, a product of human labour consisting out of a series of complicated social relations, not so easy to untangle. He also coined the term commodity fetishism related to the fact that in reality, a commodity is always more than what it is. Commodities are crystallisations of social and material relationships, but consumers do not see it that way. Fetishism is what attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities. Think of chocolate, the way it is portrayed and what we associate with it. A mouth-watering treat with an exquisite taste. A perfect gift! But is that it?

Food-related commodities can shape a part of who we are. Foods express our identities, both individual and collective, for instance in reference to our class, culture and religion. Certain commodities may have a perceived status with their consumption, such as drinking tea is considered to be a ‘British thing‘ and consuming exotic fruit may relate to demonstrating our knowledge of foreign cuisines, thus being well-travelled which comes with other associations.

Removing the veil

So, why should we try to defetish commodities? Removing the veil can help consumers to better understand what they may identify with as well as it reveals different people and processes involved in the production of certain commodities. Connections consumers may not be even aware of. It can show environmental and social outcomes and the mutual relationship between consumers and producers. You may have recently seen Iceland’s ‘banned from TV‘ Christmas advert that has attracted attention of millions of people online. It nicely detetishes the commodity of palm oil which can be found in daily-use products such as bread, chocolate or shampoo. The advert illustrates an effort to increase consumer awareness of the environmental risks related to palm production.

To untangle complicated relationships and to ‘see the world in a grain of sand‘, a commodity chain analysis is useful. Imagine a commodity chain as an intricate network of labour and production processes, often found in different geographical areas, whose end result is a finished commodity. Think about creating the commodity of coffee, all the stages and different relationships (Image 2). Understanding relationships in the whole commodity chain can help to defetish commodities and unveil social, cultural, environmental or geographical connections. That can lead to shifting power between producers and consumers, and alternatively, it may contribute to social change. 

Fancy a cuppa?

Ethnographic research based on ‘follow the thing‘ approach is at heart of studying commodity chains (by tracing a commodity and its circulation through different contexts) and has been used to untangle relationships between those who produce tea in Sri Lanka and British consumers. By following the tea leaf to the teacup. The author, Wrathmell concludes that tea trade does not only connect different geographic spaces but also creates relationships which are essentially defined by an inequality of people, difference and disparity. She writes that drinking tea is not as simple as it was before the research. Stirring her tea creates a storm in the cup, the storm of people and processes of those connected to her right at that moment.

Links to food security

In the context of this article, if we think of food commodity chains as complicated, possibly fragile, networks consisting of various elements contributing to one final good, then once a linkage breaks, the whole system may be under risk. Stability and sustainability of these networks also determine the outcomes for associated concerns such as food security and food justice. Is the commodity chain contributing to a just and sustainable system? Does it add to or deprives the dimensions of food security, i.e. food availability, access, utilisation and stability?

While tea is one the world’s most popular drinks, people producing it often struggle as they lack power in the tea supply chain that is controlled by large corporations. Companies may benefit from commodity fetishism driving the consumption society and capitalist dominance. Attention towards commodity chains and the understanding of different outcomes at various stages can be useful for shifting consumer perceptions of what is considered ordinary. Efforts of zooming in reality of certain commodities represent movements such as Fairtrade, that aim to support local sustainability and better conditions for farm workers in less economically developed countries. That also contributes to their food security, for example, by better resistance to seasonal hunger through stable incomes and improved access to food through crop diversification and infrastructure building schemes. Fairtrade’s ability to reach more consumers is, however, limited by the prevalence of commodity fetishism and the ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ mentality.

In the consumer society where production is distant from consumption, people tend to fetishise commodities and see them as things with an independent existence and life on its own. Revealing the hidden complexities and relationships through the focus on commodity chain analysis can be the first step towards change. That is in shifting power dynamics within the commodity chain and perhaps turning perceptions of some consumers. These changes can consequently contribute to improved food security and food justice. Although there is a gap between the values and actions of consumers, making reality more transparent can be the right direction for a better tomorrow.

Food Security: Osun farmers, stakeholders hold special confab

Food Security: Osun farmers, stakeholders hold special confab

Government initiatives to help the farmers resulted in the sustained growth of the state economy with attendant creation of jobs, wealth and food security.

Clement Adeyi, Osogbo

Osun State farmers and stakeholders gathered recently to discuss the way forward on agricultural development aimed at efficient food production and security. The move was to boost the state’s economy through agriculture and increase capacity for poverty alleviation.

Why Nigerians should access investment opportunities in agriculture

The event, tagged: “Osun Alagbinla” was designed to engage the stakeholders in educating the farmers on the basic proactive measures they need to take in ensuring adequate food production and security. It was also intended to commend farmers for their laudable contributions to the agricultural economy of the state.

It was organised by the Office of Economic Development and Partnerships (OEDP) and Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in collaboration with All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN). The event took place at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Research and Training Farm, Ago-Owu, in Ayedaade Local Government.

The stakeholders unveiled different blueprints aimed at improving the agricultural values with a view to galvanising support for farmers for more commitments to farming activities. Director General of OEDP, Dr. Charles Akinola, represented by the Coordinating Director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olubukola Aluko, told the farmers: “The state government will consolidate on the agricultural land expansion programme with additional target of 20,000 hectares for farm settlements in each of its federal constituencies to encourage and boost agriculture in the state.

“The new farm settlements would focus on integrated agricultural development on crops such as maize, cassava, rice, tomatoes, vegetables, yams, plantains, cocoa and oil palm as well as livestock, fisheries and comprehensive farm service centres where farmers will have access to farm inputs, extension services, information and market intelligence services, produce storage and other support services.”

Akinola added that the farm settlements in the urban centres would incorporate Green House and vertical farming for growing vegetables, chillies, pepper and others. Government also assured the farmers of adequate support to enhance agriculture value chain in order to ensure food production and security.

Governor Gboyega Oyetola represented by his deputy, Mr. Benedict Alabi, said government had been supporting farmers through various innovative interventions with a view to making Osun the main hub of agriculture in the South West. He lauded the enthusiasm with which farmers embraced the strategic partnership between government and IITA.

He disclosed that government had released 205.5 hectares of land in Ago Owu to IITA for the purpose of conducting researches and setting up demonstration farms for best farming practices: “The innovative partnership had enhanced the farming methods being used by our hardworking farmers and consequently improves their yields and its attendant inflow of income.”

The governor noted that Osun was an agrarian economy with farmers constituting over 70% of the population: “Government would ensure that farmers enjoy access to agricultural inputs capable of enhancing their productivity. To do this, our administration is determined to build on the achievements of the past administration through implementation of programmes that would promote a better livelihood of our hardworking farmers to ensure food production and security.”

He said one of the programmes was the implementation of Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (OREAP) through which some innovative initiatives had been implemented. He claimed that farmers in the state had been enjoying access to agricultural loans, roads, fertilizer, support services among others through the government/farmer-friendly initiatives.

Oyetola said the government initiatives to help the farmers had resulted in the sustained growth of the state economy with attendant creation of jobs and wealth as well as enhanced food security. He said some of the initiatives included the implementation of the private sector-led Farm Input Supply programme, the establishment of the Osun Agricultural Land Holding Authority (the Land Bank), the revitalization of all the existing farm settlements in the state, massive construction of Farm-to-Market Roads in different parts of the state under the Rural Access Mobility Projects (RAMP) and Osun Broilers Outgrowers Production Scheme (O’BOPS).

While sensitising the farmers on the ways to run their farms to avoid losses and make huge profits, an agricultural expert, Professor Peter Akpopodion, said: “For you to be a successful farmer, you need to go for quality and favourite seeds, good soil, ensure that your farm is very clean and neat, make sure your farm is of good size and then you need modern farming skills.”

A farmer, Mrs. Christiana Ogunsanya, lamented poor motivation: “Farming is a very challenging business especially for the women folks. That is why we need adequate motivation to do more. It is difficult to go to banks and get loans because they will ask for collateral and give different conditions that are difficult to meet.

“We want government to assist us with interest-free loans through micro credit and finance banks to be able to buy good seeds, farm implements and to pay for transport to convey our farm produce to the markets in towns within Osun State and the neighbouring towns. To be able to embark on mechanised farming we need funds to buy the tools, fertilizer and to pay for human resources that work on the farms.

“If government can assist us with funds or loans, then only the sky can be our limit in the efforts towards food production and security that government is talking about.”

Another farmer, Mr. Moruf Babalola, said: “The Fulani herdsmen problem is discouraging. When they take their cattle to some farms where there are no green grasses, they harvest cassava and yams for them to eat just like that. They take them to maize and vegetable farms where they graze on the produce. This is very painful because we lose a lot and if you dare complain, they attack you.

“Government needs to find a way of helping us by discouraging this. Government has to provide security on the farms if farmers must continue to engage in the farming activities in the interest of the campaign for food production and security.

“If the Fulani herdsmen challenges continue like this it will be difficult to achieve the food production and security purpose.

That is why government must consider it as a matter of urgency to address the issue by first of all discouraging them from entering our farms.”

Mr. Abidemi Deremi lamented the non-availability of network service in the farm settlements: “We have our families in the towns and whenever we are in the farm, we cannot communicate with our relations because there is no GSM network in the farms. The produce buyers would want to call us before coming to the farms, but they can’t reach us and this usually creates communication gap to the extent that in most cases, we miss good businesses as a result of non-availability of GSM network.

“We have phones but they become useless when we are in the farms. We want the government to assist us to facilitate the installation of telecommunication facilities in our farm settlement so as to remove the communication barrier.”

Manager of the Bank of Industry (BoI), Mr. Isacc Faniyi Ojo, while speaking on providing financial support for the farmers, commended those that have refunded the loans that they took initially to enable another set of farmers to get loans.

Head, Administration and Commercial Services Department, Osun Agric Land Bank (OALB), Mr. Wole Ajewole, explained the operations of the establishment and urged famers to key into them to enable government actualise its plans for them.

He disclosed that the OALB had been searching for lands in all the nooks and crannies of the state for the new farm settlements. He, however, called for the support of farmers and stakeholders in the agriculture sector in the state for the successful implementation of the programmes of government for the benefit of the farmers.

Farmers responsible for Nigeria’s population explosion, says Lokpobiri

The post Food Security: Osun farmers, stakeholders hold special confab appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

“We Can’t Eat The Birds And The Bees. We Need To Consider Food Security”. What Does Brexit Mean For Our Farmers?

“We Can’t Eat The Birds And The Bees. We Need To Consider Food Security”. What Does Brexit Mean For Our Farmers?

A few months ago, The Landworkers’ Alliance, a grassroots union representing farmers and land-based workers, organised a Good Food March in London, running from Parliament Square to the Bargehouse on the South Bank. The event was in light of a revision to the Agricultural Bill that will take over from the current Common Agricultural Policy. This is a policy governing agriculture in Europe, which will cease to exist when the government decide on how Brexit will be implemented.

But what does that mean for our food and the people who grow it? To find out, Abi Aspen Glencross goes straight to the horse’s mouth and asks our farmers what they think. In the first interview of the series, she talks to Oscar Harding from Duchess Farms who produces Farmdrop’s incredible cold-pressed rapeseed oil.  

Duchess-Farms

“We are passionate, but passion can waiver if it’s not profitable” – Oscar Harding, Duchess Farms

But first, what is the Common Agricultural Policy?

The current Common Agricultural Policy is a financial subsidy for farmers in Europe. It’s paid out in two tiers.

Tier One is a ‘basic payment scheme’ where farmers are paid based on the area of land they own and nothing else. Not on how much they produce or the quality of their produce.

Tier Two is a ‘greening’ subsidy, which is an environmental payment scheme that pays farmers to leave a margin around their fields, dedicating five percent of their land to wildlife. This means that farms are incentivised with an element of environmental farming. Nevertheless, larger farms that grow only monocrops still receive more money than smaller ones, and there is no incentive to produce quality, nutritious food with low chemical use.

What is proposed for the new agricultural bill?

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, has proposed a Green Brexit. This says that farmers will be paid for ecosystem services (meaning, healthier land and water), increased productivity and there’ll be provisions for Research & Development. This doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well… almost. The biggest concern is the lack of discussion around how we’re actually producing food. While there’s a lot of talk around land management and the environment, very little has been mentioned about .  

The Good Food March was a response to this void. It was a call for high animal welfare standards, a food system that promotes more fruit and veg for public health, more organic farming and fair food prices for all.  

So what do Britain’s farmers think?

Oscar Harding
Duchess Farms, Hertfordshire

Oscar at his farm in Hertfordshire

Duchess Farm specs:
Conventional with parts practicing organic.
Rapeseed, feed wheat, heritage wheat, Dexter cows.

How does the current Common Agricultural Policy affect you?
Not too much as a whole farm because we have a diverse income. The CAP is more relevant, however, when it comes to our arable crops. Much of the subsidy money that arable farmers receive from the EU has to go into chemical inputs. We’re reducing this as we move towards more organic practices with the heritage grains we’re now growing. Still, subsidies help to keep food prices low, and without them, the cost of food would spike.

Currently five percent of arable land has to be left to wildlife and not farmed. This is tricky for smaller-scale, arable farmers because that five percent is possible income. It means that many small farmers have to intensively farm the rest to make enough profit.

What do you think the new Farm Bill will look like?
It’s great to put emphasis on the environment, but it seems more focussed on non-food producing areas. It’s great to focus on the birds and the bees, however we can’t eat the birds and the bees… we need to consider food security and how food is grown. There seems to be no mention of that in the farm bill talks.

How would you like the bill to look?
We revise subsidies so they are based on how you farm, incentivising low-input farming and producing good-quality food. It would have advice and aid in sustainable farming to change the current norm. Also, subsidies would be more widely available and accessible to ancillary rural businesses to promote the rural economy as a whole. Not just specific to crop-growing as they do now. This would incentivise more to go into farming who are not from a farming background.

What does the future look like for you?
We work with the mantra ‘conservation through commerce’. This means that we make money by farming well, which feeds into better farming. Our oil is slow cold-pressed, we are growing heritage varieties of wheat through organic practice. We have also diversified the farm a lot. We are passionate, but passion can waiver if it’s not profitable. Still, we can’t worry too much about the future of policy, we’ve got to make our own way. We are very lucky that there is a demand for our product, and we are in a great area. Others aren’t so lucky and may need more regional support.

Stay tuned for more in the Brexit series, for insights and thoughts from Britain’s smaller-scale farmers. 

Need a reason to support our local farmers? Here are 4 insane facts that reveal the damage done by factory farming. 

The post “We Can’t Eat The Birds And The Bees. We Need To Consider Food Security”. What Does Brexit Mean For Our Farmers? appeared first on Farmdrop Blog.

Source

https://www.farmdrop.com/blog/what-does-brexit-mean-for-our-farmers/

Band Aid’s Representations of Famine – Food Security and Food Justice

Band Aid’s Representations of Famine – Food Security and Food Justice

“It’s Christmastime, there’s no need to be afraid…”

On Christmas Day, these words heralded a festive playlist staple: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. I sang along – until some lyrics made me pause: “Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow; do they know it’s Christmastime at all?”. As the song continued, I realised for years I had no context, just a vague impression of starving people far away. Why was the song written? How does it represent famine in Africa? And what impact has that representation had?

Band Aid: A fundraising success in response to crisis

Famines are extreme situations of food insecurity characterised by high mortality. Causes are complex, including combinations of droughts, warfare, and political situations such as misguided land management policies.

Ethiopia has a long history of famines. In 1984, droughts compounded by civil conflict and delay in international assistance resulted in a famine that caused up to a million deaths and had long-term consequences for survivors, especially children, whose growth was stunted by 5cm.

In response to news coverage of people suffering, Bob Geldof led a group of prominent musicians to form Band Aid and release “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, which spent 5 weeks at No. 1. The celebrities used their influence to invite the audience to join in their sadness and outrage. The action of buying the record created good feeling and a sense of community. It sold 3 million copies, raising awareness of the famine and funds for humanitarian relief.

Music Video for “Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (BandAIdVEVO, 2011)

Problematic pictures: Enduring stereotypes

Band Aid relied on graphic images of starving Africans to shock the audience. This fundraising practice was already established by NGOs, but while effective at generating donation, it avoids engagement with underlying causes of hunger and poverty.

Combined with these images, the lyrics create a contrast between ‘us’ and ‘them’, echoing colonial views of Africa as inferior, barren and helpless. Locating the source of the problem in Africa removes the need for the audience to question the West’s role in Africa’s underdevelopment. Referring to a place with no rivers ignores the presence of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, depicting famine as a purely natural disaster. The fate of Africans is portrayed as divorced from those of the audience; famine simply exists and the audience should be thankful they are not the sufferers. This narrative of natural disaster obscures the complex, political nature of the emergency. Rather than pressure on political leaders, the call to action comprises only buying the record.

The continued success of Band Aid’s song, as it is replayed every year at Christmas, contributes to enduring stereotypes about famine and Africa. These already existed, but Band Aid’s huge audience and visualised nature consolidated the view of Africans as objects of pity to be saved. Research by VSO found that a one-dimensional view of developing countries, centred on drought and famine, endured, with UK as ‘powerful giver’ and African countries as ‘helpless recipients’. This is problematic as it is hard for people to identify with others when they view them as a mass of victims rather than individuals, and minimises their ability to engage with global issues.

The difficulty of presenting a more political perspective is seen with “Starvation”, the only famine charity single to feature African artists. Proceeds went to War on Want, an activist organisation that saw famine as man-made. Lacking the prominence and coverage of Band Aid, the song peaked at number 33.

Music video for “Starvation” (mrtibs, 2015)

Beyond pity: Changing representations

 The Radi-Aid project calls out the use of negative stereotypes in charity adverts and advocates for campaigns that avoid single stories, provide context and portray people with dignity. Their research in aid-receiving African countries shows that while people recognised the use of negative images are deliberate tactics to show problems and raise funds, they called for more diversity of age and race and images that show Africans as part of the solution. Dignity was emphasised, with participants feeling strongly that images depicting death, bloodshed and nudity – as seen in Band Aid’s video – should never be used.

Radi-Aid created a checklist for charities, in order to move away from images solely based on creating feelings of pity. Over the past few years, a positive trend has been seen towards adverts that provide context for issues, are realistic about the charities role and the way donations can help, and portray people with dignity.

Yes, they know it’s Christmas: Food insecurity in Ethiopia today

Ethiopia is ranked 93 out of 119 in the 2018 Global Hunger Index. 21% of the population is undernourished, with high rates of chronic childhood malnutrition. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network’s projections show some stressed and some crisis areas, highlighting poor seasonal rainfall in pastoral areas and sustained ethnic clashes as causes. The FAO expect livelihood needs to rise and food insecurity rates to worsen.

In face of such pressing challenges, why care about representation? Because how we see other people and understand complex challenges matters. It has implications for how we react, as seeing a wider political context enables us to recognise the structural inequalities behind food crises . Recognising the suffering of others with not just pity, but a politics of justice  begins to breaks down the ‘us’ and ‘them’ division, see others as equals, and focuses on long-term solutions.

So while in Ethiopia the large Orthodox population celebrated of January, I tidied up my own Christmas decorations. Perhaps it’s time to leave “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the cupboard for good.

Masdar City’s steel urban allotments could help solve food security crisis  – The National

Masdar City’s steel urban allotments could help solve food security crisis  – The National

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City is piloting a project that could see urban communities growing their own food in an allotment, but with a very modern day twist.

A pilot future farming facility built from recycled shipping containers could solve the region’s food production crisis by allowing communities to grow produce, despite the harsh desert climate.

Masdar City, which was built to be one of the world’s most sustainable communities, is collaborating with Madar Farms, who try to find sustainable solutions to the GCC’s food security issues, to develop vertical farming inside shipping containers. They are equipped with hydroponic systems that can operate using minimal water.

“With the world’s population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, efficient and sustainable production and distribution of food is becoming increasingly important,” said Yousef Baselaib, executive director of Masdar City.

“This is particularly true for countries with arid climates and harsh environmental conditions like ours.”

The 1.5 acre plots inside each 12-metre container have the capability to grow crops using less than 40 litres of water a day.

The crops are constantly monitored by the latest technology within a sealed environment, shortening the growing cycle.

Temperature and carbon dioxide levels can be regulated via a mobile phone app, with an automated nutrient delivery system to produce the best possible results.

“We have begun investing in technologies and partnerships focused on sustainable agriculture with the aim of commercialising farming techniques,” said Mr Baselaib.

“These systems can be applied to urban areas to encourage people in the UAE to eat home grown produce.”

Read more:

Food security and sustainable farming will be one of the key focuses of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), which begins on Saturday.

The technology and methods used by Madar Farms use approximately 95 per cent less water and land than conventional farming, making the company one of the most efficient and sustainable growers in the GCC.

The initiative joins other similar schemes such as one run by Agricool in Sustainable City in Dubai, where they are growing fresh strawberries for the local community in hydroponic grow room inside shipping containers.

Masdar City first engineered ideas of productive landscapes in 2008 to address food security issues.

Since then, community gardening plots have been developed to allow for plant research, agricultural education and to encourage people to grow their own food.

Masdar’s agricultural strategy hopes to encourage traditional farming methods and the growth of indigenous plants.

An eco-villa has been built in the eco-friendly city to show how green living could be used in the home on a wider scale.

“The villa is an example of Masdar’s commitment to sustainability and is a pilot project conceived as a template for affordable, energy- and water-efficient residential villas,” said Mr Baselaib.

By this month, they also hope to have implemented home farming technologies and they will be showcasing the project at ADSW.

The eco-villa uses about 72 per cent less power and 35 per cent less water than a typical villa in Abu Dhabi, displacing an estimated 63 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

During ADSW, Masdar will also show other projects focused on vegetable and livestock farming, water harvesting and recycling, waste recycling and how to use energy for cooking.

Less than 1 per cent of the region is arable and permanent crop land, and more than 40 per cent of the UAE’s food is imported.

Importing that volume of food will cost more than US$100 billion (Dh367b) by 2030.

More than 40 per cent of natural water sources have been lost in the past 20 years through overuse and despite water scarcity, 84 per cent of water is used for agriculture and irrigation, which contributes less than 1 per cent to GDP.

That has left conventional farming unsustainable in the UAE, forcing the development of alternative models.

Masdar has paired up with the UAE Office for Future Food Security to rubber stamp its commitment to addressing the most important environmental issues likely to impact the nation.

Other sustainable farming methods are being developed in a Central Park project, using vertical farming techniques, solar-powered greenhouses, a self-contained farmers’ market and edible maze.

“Tackling the challenge of food security is a priority for Masdar and one that we are addressing in a holistic manner by looking at solutions in energy, food and water,” said Mr Baselaib.

Updated: January 11, 2019 11:07 AM

Source

https://www.thenational.ae/uae/environment/masdar-city-s-steel-urban-allotments-could-help-solve-food-security-crisis-1.811838

Local food, more environmentally sustainable? – Food Security and Food Justice

Local food, more environmentally sustainable? – Food Security and Food Justice

 

There is a Tesco just five minutes walking from my flat, which is very popular for students. Food are packaged well so it is more convenient for consumers to pick and take away. An interesting discovery is most of the fruits and vegetables are imported from foreign countries, for instance, avocado from Peru, oranges from Morocco, e.t..Consuming imported food is common  in the UK.

It is not just a phenomenon in the UK but a global trend. Nowadays, due to the development of technique and the expansion of supermarket and capital, it’s easier for consumers to obtain food which are imported from other countries. It’s common for people to buy food in a supermarket which is closer to home, easy to park, food well packaged, one-stop shopping. Local market seems not as popular as before. According to a report from The Guardian, more than half of the food in the UK is imported from overseas, increasing the environmental burden of poorer countries.

Compared with the long chain food, local food (defined as geographical area of 20-100 km radius) consumption has less environmental impact. That’s a key element in favor of short supply chains. Data shows that conventional food distribution creates 5 to 17 times more CO2 than local and regionally produced food.

Why local food is more environmentally sustainable?

Food Production

First, in general, local food means a less demand of production and a better land protection. Industrial agriculture, the main imported food source controlled by large companies, often means artificial chemicals intensive, more water waste, more serious soil pollution, as well as more greenhouse gases emission. For instance, the using of chemical fertilizer increases global warming emission and oxygen-deprived ‘dead zone‘ has expanded in some water areas by an increase in nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus). Besides, herbicides and insecticides have bad impact to animals and even the ecological system. In terms of animal production, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), based on a high-calorie, dramatical grain consumption and use of antibiotics and hormones to gain weight, also lead to an environmental problem. All of the impact could be reduced in a local food system.

Food transportation

Second, locally-based food waste less energy on transportation and storage compared with the long-time transportation. Local food means shorter food miles and chains. From farm to market, there is less cost on the way. Long-distance food transportation contributes significant amount of global warming emission, data shows, in the US food system, diesel fuel use accounts for one quarter of the total energy consumption due to the food shipped and half of fruits sold in the United States is imported. What’s more, refrigerated system, used for keeping food fresh during long-time transportation, is another point related to carbon emission. By contrast, local food, which means a shorter supply chain, leads to less carbon footprint in the stage of transportation.

However, Is local food always environmentally sustainable? I’m afraid this may not always be the case.

On local farms, fruits and vegetables out of season have a great carbon footprint. A typical example is apple. Apples in the UK are harvested in autumn while in New Zealand the harvest time is in March and April. So, if people in the UK want to eat apples in spring, which option is more environmentally sustainable, local apples stored or the ones imported? That’s a question, depending on the balance of carbon footprint, and nutrition loss is also a factor taken into consideration.

Another interesting case is lettuce. Researchers found that, for British consumers in winter, greenhouse gases emissions of lettuce grown in local glasshouse, which needs fossil fuel to generate heat, are greater than emissions of lettuce grown outside in Spain and trucked to the UK. So, the better choice is to eat seasonal local food to make sure that emissions in both stages (production and transportation) are the least.

Additionally, it is important to note that local food doesn’t mean no artificial chemicals and no carbon footprint. Local farmers could also use conventional farming methods. From this perspective, it has negative effect on environment more or less.

It’s said food waste and food packaging in local markets increase carbon emissions. But it seems limited compared to long chain food.

Local food on the rise

Local market is growing in recent years promoted by local food movement. In 2014, there were 8268 markets in the United States listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, growing by 76 percent since 2008.

Some products in Tesco are labelled local produced such as milk and flour. It’s wise to have a look at the produce place shown on the label or get more information from the shoppers.

Overall, choosing local food is a more environmentally sustainable way and lifestyle. But we still need to pay attention to some points, such as food out of season. For myself, I prefer to buy food in local market with more local food and less packaging, where obviously is more environmentally sustainable.

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