Food and sustainability

Which kind of social system will feed the 9 billion?

Scientists, researchers and activists from all around the world gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, to discuss which global politics should be adopted in order to guarantee a fair and sustainable future for the planet we live in and for the forthcoming 9 billion of inhabitants. Global governance and politics, climate justice, agrarian and social justice: linkages and challenges: this was the title of the international colloquium that was held at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) on February 4-5, 2016 and organized by ISS, the Transnational Institute (TNI), Foodfirst Information & Action Network (FIAN), ICCO, Ecofair project, Hands on the Land Project, ICAS, LDPI, BICAS and by the Journal of Peasant Studies.

Time of crisis
Different kind of crisis, involving different sectors (food, energy, environment, climate and finance) leaded to huge agrarian and environmental transformations all over the world. Institutions and policy makers have still to find and develop a global governance model to adopt in order to face the crisis, fostered also by divergent and competing interests between the stakeholders.
The two days meeting tried to identify possible alternative models to restore social justice and to avoid the commercialization of every aspect of our lives, due to the global rush to control natural and fundamental resources. Even if phenomena like land grabbing and climate change are recognized worldwide, nonetheless market logics seems to have overwhelmed politics.

A new way of thinking
Experts like Raj Pathel, blogger and activist, and Olivier De Schutter, legal scholar specializing in economic and social rights; economists like Joan Martinez Alier and civil society organizations like the movement La Via Campesina all agreed on the need to apply a new way of thinking and new strategies. Food sovereignty (the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems), agroecology (the application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems) and sustainability were some of the fundamental concepts that emerged across the different topics, as the tutelage of the marginalized social classes and groups. Among them, the smallholder farmers, poorly recognized by policy makers but responsible of producing 70 per cent of the world’s food by using only the 30 per cent of the global resources.

The presentation of the Youth Manifesto
The Youth Manifesto of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Alumni was presented in The Hague during the lunch session on the first day of the Colloquium. The presentation stressed the importance of including all the food chain stakeholders in the dialogue and focused on the role of concrete actions to reduce the waste of food and to improve the sustainability of the whole system. The involvement of young people and researchers in shaping the changing process was also appreciated.
The Colloquium in The Hague accomplished its attempt to map what academic and activists are saying about such a complex situation and about policy models that should be adopted in the future. As it was often underlined during those two days, the worrying question is not only “who will feed the 9 billion?” but also “in which manner do we want to do it?”.

Michele Pedrotti
BCFN Foundation Alumni Association


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