UNITED NATIONS, Jul 06 (IPS) – The world is facing increasing hunger and food insecurity, loss of biodiversity and the impacts of climate change. Experts are increasingly turning to agroecology for sustainable food production.
In three weeks, the United Nations will bring together farmers, scientists, policymakers and civil society for the last major event ahead of the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September.
Deemed “the peoples’ summit,” the July 26-28 event will be hosted by the Italian government and adopt a hybrid model, with some delegates on site in Rome and others online.
Its organizers say scientists will present the latest research on transforming global food systems, while policymakers are expected to discuss funding and action to tackle issues such as land degradation, conflict and climate change. , which exacerbate hunger and food insecurity around the world.
Earlier this year, the Global Food Crisis Network reported that acute hunger had peaked in five years. With the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, loss of biodiversity and half of the planet’s land classified as degraded, the group warned that urgent funding and action was needed to reverse the upward trend in food insecurity.
The general coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) Million Belay believes that agroecology has a special role to play in the eradication of hunger.
Belay, a member of the International Expert Group on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and the Barilla Foundation, studies the transformation of food systems in Ethiopia.
While AFSA will not be attending the United Nations Food Systems Summit, Africa’s largest civil society group has organized its own events, based on sustainability, indigenous knowledge and science.
Belay spoke to IPS about the importance of agroecology and how systems like the Barilla Foundation’s Food Pyramid can help target hunger at its root.
Excerpts from the interview follow:
Inter Press Service (IPS): Could we start with a brief introduction to the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa?
Million insurers (MB): The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa is a movement. It is pervasive – we have farmers, fishermen, ranchers, indigenous peoples, women’s and youth networks, civil society networks, consumer networks, and faith-based institutions.
Of the 55 African countries, our members work in at least 50 of them and we work with both hands. On the one hand, we are fighting the corporatization of Africa. We are fighting for our land, our seeds, our water and our lives. On the other hand, we offer a solution. Our solution is agroecology.
IPS: Faced with climate change, increasing food insecurity and hunger, there has been a push towards agroecology. How important is agroecology to tackling some of these critical issues of our time?
Mo: Agroecology is a response to many issues on many fronts.
The most important goal of a food system or agricultural production is to increase food production for our growing population, but nutrition is essential. We need to eat healthy food and this is an area that is very affected by climate change.
In addition, when we produce food, the food system should not impact the biosphere, which includes our climate, our diversity, our water and our land. Food production must also be respectful of our culture. We have a rich culture, which is the result of thousands of years of practices and traditions of our communities.
These are some of the important factors in the process of the food system.
The right to food is also very important. Everyone has the right to food.
So the question is, what type of system does this? Currently, unfortunately, the system is based on productivity, it is based on chemicals, ownership of seeds and ownership of our land. Agroecology comes with a totally different paradigm. He ticks all the right boxes. It is basically based on the knowledge of people and the practices of people, but it also has cutting edge science.
Agroecology is also a social movement. This is why we use it because at the center of agroecology is the right to food and human rights issues are intimately linked to climate change, for example. The climate has an impact on our diet. Climate has an impact on our water, our land and our lives. So much is happening because of the problem we didn’t create.
Agroecology deals with the soil, it deals with biodiversity which is important for resilience, because it is based on the diversity of crops and the diversity of practices.
I think what climate change also brings us is the unpredictability of the future. What type of farming is important in an unpredictable environment? You have no idea what will happen tomorrow. Agroecology makes it possible to respond to this type of concern.
IPS: The international community is preparing for the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). As a food systems researcher, what are your hopes for the summit?
Mo: We (AFSA) have already decided to organize a meeting outside of this top of the diet.
We do not agree with the summit process; how is it managed or controlled or how the agenda is organized. We are not satisfied and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa has written a letter to the Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit, Dr Agnes Kalibata, with a series of requests that have not been met.
However, we have launched our own food policy development process which involves dialogue at the national level in 24 of the countries. These are dialogues on food systems that we started even before the UNFSS.
Also, at the level of the African Union, we are trying to develop a food policy framework for Africa that is based on sustainability.
IPS: What is your role on the Barilla Foundation Advisory Board and how is the Foundation contributing to the transformation of the food system?
Mo: The majority of the board members are from Italy, but the issues they raise have a global impact. In addition to scientific studies, they organize annual global meetings where critical issues concerning the global food system are discussed.
The results of these global talks are very important to any part of the continent. My role is above all to bring the African perspective, an African point of view, in my writings and discussions.
What is important to note is that it is not only the African perspective, but also the contribution of civil society that is not reflected in so many other spaces.
IPS: The Barilla Foundation continues to invest time and resources in the development of sustainable food systems. Which food systems do you think have been successful?
Mo: The Foundation promotes a food pyramid. It’s a very interesting concept that’s in development. Previously it was based on the Mediterranean diet.
The food system indicators they develop are also noteworthy. In terms of a framework for the future, this pyramid and these indices are important for other regions. Other regions of the world can use these models to assess their own food systems.
After participating in one of the Foundation’s events, we organized our own event in Africa. We hosted the African Food System Summit last year. It was a very big activity and served as an example of what is happening in other parts of the globe.
What is really interesting is the composition of the board of directors. There are people who are aware of the evolution of politics in Europe. There are scientists, very high level scientists who are working on the impacts of a bad food system. There are university researchers who bring a different point of view and I bring the side of civil society and the social movement.
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