Article by Anna Leach – guardian.co.uk
“In the face of climate change, conflicts and disease, our panel suggest how to ensure access to nutritious food for all.”
Connect farming to better food
It’s important that agriculture and nutrition work better together. Across the entire agricultural chain there are opportunities to make food more nutritious: from seed choices and growing techniques to processing food and bringing products to market.
Support female farmers
Women produce more than half of all the food that is grown in the world yet receive less than 10% of credit offered to small-scale farmers, only 7% of agricultural extension services and own less than 1% of all land. The FAO estimates that if female farmers had the same access as men, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4%. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17%, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.
We are growing more and more thirsty crops, such as sugar cane, for either direct use or to feed to livestock. This is the primary issue we need to look at: 70% of available freshwater is used to grow food and we are not using it effectively.
Change eating habits
Diversifying diets is key for environmental reasons. The two biggest crops globally are sugar and soy. Neither of which we really need to grow. We don’t need to keep adding sugar to our food. We use soy to feed to animals. Currently in the developed world we eat more meat than ever before, way beyond what we need to a healthy diet.
Don’t blame population growth
We have enough resources for everyone if we choose to distribute things better. We already grow enough food for over 10 billion people, we just waste 30%, and feed large chunks to our cars, power stations and livestock. The problem is consumption. Nowhere is this more clear than in our food choices. We need to look to our plates and more to lower impact diets.
Grow food before fuel
Crops, the water used and the land they are grown on should not be used produce fuel before food. But I support using the inedible part of crops to produce fuel, that way we can get a double premium from one set of inputs. It should not result in more land being turned over to large scale agriculture at the expense of indigenous land rights and biodiversity.
Promote independent sustainable agriculture
Dependence on external inputs is one factor that increases food insecurity. Sustainable agriculture, by looking to use in-farm resources and replicate natural dynamics (for example reinforcing positive influence between crops, or crops-trees, or trees-livestock) creates a more reliable and resilient farm. It could take years in the worst cases, but a gradual transition to more sustainable agriculture is possible.
A climate-related disaster affects self production and availability of food in local markets, however people with a diversified income cope much better with food insecurity than those relying only on self production. On the other hand, as we have seen during the last two food crises that people relying on self production were more resilient.
Self-help groups and cooperatives are effective for securing greater food security at local level. NGOs have a role to play in helping share information with communities about appropriate technologies.
Make progress at climate talks
Climate change is already having a huge impact on global food chains and disrupting agricultural production. The global climate community has been very slow in dealing with this and even discussing agriculture and food security in the climate negotiations. We need a fair and legally binding deal on climate agreed at next year’s UN Climate talks in Paris.
Melinda Fones Sundell, senior adviser, Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative, Stockholm, Sweden, @SIANIAgri
Diversify and localise
There are two ideas which underpin food security: diversification and local empowerment. Farmers need diversified cropping patterns for income and environmental reasons; people need diversified diets for health reasons. The more local the production, processing and marketing is, the more secure the consumer.
Look after the soil
Large scale hydroponics (growing only in water) is not likely for the near future, so we are dependent on the soil for our crops. Many practitioners advocate the landscape approach where all biologically based activities are recognised as interdependent and planned to be sustainable.
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Read the full Q&A here.