Presentation by Maarten Stapper for the Sustainable Farming for a Sustainable City Forum at Richmond, NSW on 23 September, organised by NSW Farmers and the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance.
Both producers and consumers are becoming aware of negative impacts through food on personal health and the environment. They see a lack of transparency, sustainability and resilience in our mainstream food system and demand change. Consumer demand for ethical & ecological food, chemical-free, minimal processed, free-range, grass-fed and local, however, is leading to changes in food provisioning through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture and urban farming. Thus connecting rural with urban, and local production with consumption. Food sovereignty is then required for citizens, which entails the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods of their choosing.
Urban agroecological farming brings the experience of food production closest to consumers and creates healthy, green, productive environments with gardens in community, streets, backyards and schools. Food is produced and socio-economic activity is generated by replacing the non-edible grass-shrubs-trees ground covers which use resources. Thus producing fruits, vegetables and (small) animal products on vacant land, and above all, keeping fertile lands from urban expansion. Organic city wastes can be recycled, composted, so minerals and carbon can be returned to food production rather than landfills, atmosphere and oceans.
Current modes of food provisioning have originated from cheap oil through industrialisation of food production and processing, and the increasing food miles of globalised markets. It has lead to ever decreasing health of people, degrading soils, depleting water resources, diminishing biodiversity of landscapes and exacerbates global warming. Science, institutions and governments though keep following the current path with support of multinational corporations. They tinker at the edges and treat symptoms rather than the cause of problems in these complex systems.
Food sovereignty can be achieved with a transformation in food production from industrial to agroecological, which minimises use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. Agroecological farming has been endorsed by UN agencies as the way to feed the world. Strengths are the greater use of local resources, knowledge and skills with linkages in the community. Such production systems produce healthy food from regenerated soils as it restores the water cycle, mineral cycle and biodiversity of landscapes. Associated soil carbon sequestration, reduction in emissions and increased soil water retention slow global warming.
Successful transition requires governments at all levels to create an enabling environment for production, trading and consumption of local food by communities and small business. Education of students, consumers and producers in preventative health of self, plants, animals and earth is critical. Local solutions for global healing!