GLOBAL VIEWS OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS: Asking the Right Questions
Keywords:Food Systems, Sustainability, Economics, Livelihoods
One of the greatest challenges facing humanity is to make sufficient, nutritious, culturally appropriate food accessible, available, and affordable to a growing urban population with limited purchasing power — while also sustaining the livelihoods of rural producers, who are themselves often poor and net food buyers. The problem is further complicated by conflicts, economic crises, and environmental change, which constantly reshape the geography of the planet. That is why on 3 December 2012, and in parallel with day 5 of the 18th conference of parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (CoP 18) taking place in Doha, Qatar, the "Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihood" session was organized by a group of international agencies to illustrate the organic linkage between people, environment, and food. During that day, hundreds of experts in agriculture, climate change, and livelihoods came together from diverse countries to discuss, among other topics, how to satisfy the growing food needs of the world's population while sustaining the livelihoods of those involved in the production, transformation, and trade of food. The meeting brought together representatives from the private sector and large corporations, along with technocrats. Even a few farmers were sighted on and around the podium. According to the official website, relevant blogs, and thousands of tweets, the event went extremely well; all participants underscored the importance of supporting agriculture and farming livelihoods in order to build resilience and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Seen from the global South, where Qatar is located, in spite of having one of the world's highest GDP per capita (International Monetary Fund, 2012) and the world's highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita (World Resources Institute, 2012), the need to adjust the world's food systems to allow food producers to construct a better livelihood is imperative. For small farmers in the South, who produce up to 70 percent of the world's food (FAO, 2011), life is often untenable: while they produce most of the food we eat, they seem to have little or no control over its price, which appears to be determined by trade and retail. And, as most have abandoned subsistence agriculture for specialization in the food system, most have to purchase the majority of the food they consume, which keeps them hostage to retail prices. This is why agrarian movements such as Via Campesina are growing, as they allow farmers to organize for collective bargaining. These organizations are increasingly represented at international forums, such as the negotiations on food security that take place regularly at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome....
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