Healthy food from vibrant communities in healthy biodiverse landscapes

Paper presented by Maarten at the XIX International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology in Canberra, Australia, February 4-8, 2013.


Producer awareness and consumer demand are leading to farming systems using less synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. Such systems improve resilience, food quality and landscape biodiversity. Required knowledge network invigorate communities.


Current modes of food provisioning have originated from cheap oil through industrialisation of food production and processing, and increasing food miles in globalised markets. It has lead to rural communities dying, increasing food wastes, ill-health of people, degrading soils, depleting water resources, diminishing landscape biodiversity, and exacerbates global warming. Science, institutions and governments though only tinker at the edges and treat symptoms rather than the cause of problems in these complex systems.

Consumer demand for ethical and ecological food is leading to changes in food provisioning through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture and urban farming; connecting rural with urban, local production with consumption. Food sovereignty can be achieved with a transformation in food production from industrial to agroecological, which minimises use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, and regenerates soils and landscapes.

Agroecological low-external input 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 communities. Such production systems produce healthy, nutrient dense food. Associated soil carbon sequestration, reduction in emissions and increased soil water retention help slow global warming.

Successful transition requires governments at all levels to create an enabling environment for production, trading and consumption of local food. Education of students, consumers and producers in preventative health of self, plants, animals and earth is critical. Science must develop a unified methodology to study holistically agroecosystems, with governments, producers and consumers connecting with scientists to solve problems encountered in local practices.


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