"Until five years ago, we didn't know about the circular economy, but today our waste generates environmentally neutral products that also offer a return,” says José Luis Barrinat, manager of a cooperative that brings together some 550 small farmers in Monje, Argentina.
It is an uncommon occurrence to see farms with flourishing healthy crops in Kenya’s semi-arid Makueni County. But in Kithiani village, Justus Kimeu’s two-acre piece of land stands out from the rest. After embracing the regenerative agriculture (RA) technique, the 52-year-old farmer is looking forward to a bumper harvest of maize as all his neighbours count their losses following this year’s failed season.
Producers and consumers seem helpless as food all over the world comes under fast growing corporate control. Such changes have also been worsening environmental collapse, social dislocation and the human condition.
The COVID-19 pandemic, protracted conflicts and climate change have created an untenable situation for the most vulnerable, with 155 million people across 55 territories suffering from severe food insecurity, sending acute hunger figures to a 5-year high.
Global youth advocates have been told that they play a crucial role in ensuring that the world produces and consumes food with greater attention to nutrition, food security, equality and sustainability.
As the United Nations prepares to host the inaugural Global Food Systems Summit in September, the organisation is hosting a series of dialogues to correct flaws in the way food is grown, processed, packaged and marketed, hoping to tackle growing world hunger, water scarcity and climate change.
"Rainfall is fundamental; the streams and rivers we have would not suffice for irrigation, even if they were the Amazon River," said Dirceu Dezem, referring to the amount of water required for the extensive crops in Brazil’s midwest.
More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, food and nutrition security continues to show its fragility.
As the United Nations prepares for its solutions-based Global Food Systems Summit in September, officials say resolving issues around water scarcity, pollution and wastage is crucial transforming food production and consumption.
Sylvain Kakule Kadjibwami lost the use of his legs during one of those ambushes that bloodlessly bleed North Kivu. “When I was shot, I thought it was the end of my life, but when I shared it with other disabled people, I discovered that life is still possible,” he said. Now it is Covid-19 that risks destroying the dreams of Sylvain, a small trader from Goma, a city whose roads are volcanic rock-ridden screes where pick-ups trudge. Those who walk face the risk of falling at every step. However, for those who cannot, the same roads can become traps where it is not only war that kills but also a stigma fostering misery and disease.
Watatakalu Yawalapiti is 40 years old. She was born in the Amakapuku village, surrounded by a large preserved forest in the heart of Brazil. She spent part of her childhood on the white sands and clear waters of the Tuatuari river. At other times, she would sit in a circle listening to her great-grandfather telling stories, like the one about how the white man would arrive with a huge blade and cut down the trees as one shaves one's body hair.
Since the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched in 2006, yields have barely risen, while rural poverty remains endemic, and would have increased more if not for out-migration.
After Joseph Mandu lost his job because of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, he would still wake every morning and leave his home in the City Carton slum in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. But instead of heading to the restaurant he worked at as a pool-table attendant, he would walk around City Carton searching for odd jobs to earn an income so he could pay for the food his family needed to survive.
On 12 January this year, somewhere in the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi, 24 year old Dalit activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested by the Haryana police for protesting outside a factory. During the lockdown in 2020, Nodeep joined a local workers’ rights organization called Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS) in the Kundli Industrial Area in Haryana. In January Nodeep was accused of allegedly manhandling management and staff of an industrial area during a protest and also assaulting the police team.
A score of coastal communities in El Salvador are staking their bets on sustainable development as a form of life that does not overexploit natural resources diminished by years of government neglect and a lack of environmental awareness, using instruments ranging from ecological cookstoves to mangrove reforestation.
With the two extremes of global hunger and obesity on the increase, a new report suggests a radical reset for food and nutrition to ensure the long-term sustainability of livelihoods and the environment.
Following an extensive scientific review, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) is preparing to launch a new food systems model which incorporates nutrition and climate.
"Biogas is worth gold to us, we can no longer live without it," Claudete Volkswey, a poultry farmer in the municipality of Toledo, in the southwestern state of Paraná, Brazil, said enthusiastically about the new source of energy that has allowed her to get a good night’s sleep again, because she no longer has to get up to stoke the fire every two hours.
From small towns to big cities, sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest urban growth rate in the world. The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050 with the youth representing 60% of the overall population.
The UN Department of Global Communication, for example, projects that for the next 15 years urban growth is set to double for several African cities: Dar es Salaam will reach over 13 million inhabitants and Kampala will exceed seven million.
The battle for the future of food has grown contentious, and José Graziano da Silva has become a lightning rod for criticism. In 2014, as Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he presided over the institution’s first International Agroecology Symposium, opening what he called “a new window in the Cathedral of the Green Revolution.” The FAO has since then formalized support for “Scaling Up Agroecology” while continuing to promote the kinds of chemical-intensive agriculture associated with the Green Revolution.
Last year, Jaxine Scott was off work as a caregiver at a primary school as a result of the pandemic. One day, she noticed a green shoot emerging from some garlic in her fridge. She decided to plant it, and to her surprise, it thrived. “I thought ‘It looks like I have a green thumb, let me plant something else,’” Scott says. She now has a backyard garden, including cucumber, pumpkin, melon, callaloo, cantaloupe, pak choy and tomatoes. “It makes me feel good,” she says. “I can help my family members and neighbours. It has saved me money. I’m not going to stop, I’m going to continue,” she says.
Small agricultural loans, disbursed through mobile phones and targeting specific farming activities at different phases of production, have more than doubled food productivity among thousands of smallholder farmers in southern and central parts of Tanzania over the past three years, improving their livelihoods.