Shifting focus from Food Security to Food Sovereignty
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Shifting focus from Food Security to Food Sovereignty

Reconnecting Nature, Food & People

Post by RK News on Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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Dr. FAAZIL BASHIR RATHER

 

Food security without food sovereignty cannot be a reality. The future of the world depends on sustainable and regenerative food production systems. We produce enough food to feed the population of over 8 billion souls, yet as many as 828 million people don’t have enough food to eat every day. On global scale the prevalence of severe food insecurity has increased from 9.3 percent in 2019 to 11.7 percent in 2021. With seven years remaining to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, the world is moving in the wrong direction. It is estimated that nearly 670 million people (8 percent of the world population) will still be undernourished in 2030. The world is facing a food crisis of unprecedented proportions, the largest in modern history. From the pandemic to climate change to growing conflict, the crisis is getting out of hand exposing the structural weakness, underlying rigidities and flaws in our food system. With fingers crossed, world sees annual gathering at Davos as an opportunity wherein policy actors are expected to take bold and concrete steps for strengthening our failing food systems. There is an urgent need for a massive scale-up of investments in agriculture and long-term rural development from governments, investors and private players with the view to ensure nutritional security and food sovereignty.

 

From (IPCC) reports to COP27 to COP15, there is growing consensus and recognition of the central importance of food systems in delivering the SDGs, for tackling climate change, improving livelihoods and overcoming the silent pandemic of global malnutrition. Critics say that the entire supply chain from ‘farm to fork’ is monopolized by the industrial corporate system for the benefit of handful of giant companies. This concentration of power enables big businesses to wipe out competition, raise prices, hijack the R&D agenda, monopolize technologies and maximize profits. Today’s food systems have failed to make nutritious diets accessible or affordable to the poor. In consequence, the world is witnessing exacerbated acute hunger crisis and misery. Some commentators’ believe that the agribusiness model has cannibalized upon peasant agriculture and pastoralism. To change this narrative, it is urgent to recognize the vital importance of non-industrial food systems in this time of food, health and environmental crises. We need a fresh thinking and there is a need for transitioning to agroecology and regenerative approaches wherein food sovereignty can offer a way forward to a resilient and sustainable future. 

 

Food sovereignty is relatively new concept but the basic principles behind it align with many indigenous cultural practices that have already existed in communities since ages. It is about re-introducing traditional processes of food production and distribution. A term coined by the agroecological movement of 1990s, food sovereignty is defined by the global peasant movement ‘La Via Campesina’ as ‘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’. The concept recognizes ‘food’ as a basic human right and encourages transformation of food systems, demands need for agrarian reform and lays emphasis on democratic control over the food systems.

 

At its core, food sovereignty is centered on local sustainable food economies. Eradicating hunger is within reach. A solution to achieve this vital objective demands a project on food sovereignty radically different from the intensive agribusiness model. The idea is to empower local producers thereby allowing communities to have control over the way food is produced, traded and consumed. This transformation creates a food system that is designed specifically to help people and environment rather than to make profits for corporations and market institutions. Food producers, distributors and consumers are placed at the heart of food systems. Inclusivity is a cornerstone of food sovereignty’s framework, which focuses on food for people, values food producers, localizes food systems; puts control locally, builds knowledge and skills. The concept refers to the right of each community to maintain and develop its own capacity to produce its staple food. It promotes protection of natural resources, biodiversity and delivers climate justice.

 

Food Security is the goal while food sovereignty describes a way to reach there. In India, fortunately people are so connected to their food and the customary practice of growing and giving good food is considered as the highest dharma. The National Food Security Act (NFSA) is an important law that is supposed to guarantee the Right to Food to the last Indian citizen and is also expected to ensure food sovereignty in the country. Food security and food sovereignty requires that the State procure food grains from farmers at fair MSPs thereby ensuring equitable and just food distribution to the people. Further MGNREGA has delivered its role in ensuring food security to the rural communities by way of providing them much needed employment and improving the overall purchasing power leading to better access to basic amenities. Decentralized storage and distribution of food grains through PRIs may act as a real game changer and can pave way for ensuring unceasing food democracy.

 

We are at a critical inflection point. To avert the hunger catastrophe the world is presently facing, it’s time to collaborate and support Food Sovereignty, which has the potential to nourish the world and offers opportunities for returning power (and food) to peasants, rural and urban communities. Promoting locavorism and sustainable gastronomy shall provide a useful roadmap to support agroecology and food sovereignty. The concept of food sovereignty is complementary to food security, as it embodies the human dimension with an emphasis on reunification between people, food and nature. As the world becomes more fragile, building food sovereignty and security by strengthening local resilience, ensuring local production and establishing vibrant market institutions, promises global commitments to end hunger by 2030.

 

We should not wait another minute and it’s time to call for an immediate change and the situation demands a bold paradigm shift towards resilient and sustainable food systems. The next food system transformation has to be based on biodiversity and building on food sovereignty. This is just the beginning and now is the time to integrate food sovereignty into our policy frameworks. We are now in the final decade of working towards the United Nations SDGs and at the time of evaluating our progress towards Zero Hunger, it’s time to shift our focus from food security to food sovereignty.

 

 

(The Author is Veterinarian and Technical Officer (Poultry), Directorate of Animal Husbandry Kashmir. Email: drfaazilahd@gmail.com)

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