As part of the Food, Environment, and Society course, students attended the event "Putting Food Security and Nutrition at the Heart of Climate Action." The event showcased initiatives by both private sector and civil society organizations to tackle climate change, food security, and nutrition in an integrated way. It was interesting to see Via Campesina and Unilever on the podium, together with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The woman farmer representative of Via Campesina reiterated that small-scale agro-ecological farming is the solution to the current problems and that is where subsidies should go and not to industrial agriculture. Many interesting questions were posed to the panelists. One Indian farmer asked the New Zealand ambassador about the potential impact of the South-East Asia trade deal on small scale farmers. A thought provoking remark was made by the representative of the Institute of Agricultural Trade and Policy who urged to think about the future that we want rather than considering the growth projections to the year 2050 for agricultural production and urbanization as given, not to be questioned.
Additionally, as part of the Global Food Economy course, students attended the session "What data supports family farming? How data and information systems can empower family farmers, advance goals of the UN Decade for Family Farming and guide better policy." The panel addressed the need for global family farm data to answer the questions: What is the asset structure of family farms? What is their social make-up? How much are they producing? Do they have access to markets? And what kind of supports are provided to them by the State? Students learned about how the access and standardization of this family farm data could help ensure socially equitable food systems for everyone involved. However, it was difficult not to wonder whether or not it will be truly possible to have standardized data for all family farms across the world. In the session, students recognized the importance of having standardized data that every farmer could access and understand. However, in previous sessions the phrase "there is no one size fits all model for farming around the world" was presented, leaving students to wonder whether or not this standardized data will ever be achieved. It will be interesting to keep track of this to see whether or not progress will be made by the organizations involved.
Finally, as part of the Social and Cultural Dimensions of Food and Eating course, students attended two different sessions that focused on people-oriented initiatives to tackle current food system issues. The first, "Telling Stories of People-Centered Land Governance to Drive Change: Great storytelling can inspire changes to land policies & normative frameworks and how these link to the sustainable development agenda," focused on how organizations are helping peasant farmers and indigenous people to tell their stories in hopes to ensure that no one is left behind and that action is taken to eliminate poverty and hunger. While it was unfortunate that storytelling did not appear to be the main focus of the session, there were some points made on the importance of organizations allowing people to tell their own stories rather than telling the stories for them. This is important because it lets them be the face of their own words, and it allows them to present their case for themselves and highlight the critical issues they face because of the climate change they face despite their minimal contribution to it.
The second session, "Naming food: The intrinsic relation between indigenous food systems, traditional knowledge and language diversity," discussed the importance of reinforcing the sustainability of indigenous peoples’ food systems in the context of climate change by using traditional knowledge supported and transmitted by indigenous languages. Students learned that, since indigenous systems have had clear indications of sustainability and low-environmental impact, it would be beneficial to preserve these systems while also learning from them.
Overall, the M.A. Food Studies students' participation in the various sessions of the Committee on World Food Security allowed them to learn about current issues on food security and nutrition and how they are being tackled and discussed by a variety of organizations. Students also attended other sessions during the week and had the opportunity to network and meet people based on the interests developed during the courses. It was a great experience being exposed to the variety of organizations present at the CFS, including farmers’ and indigenous people’s associations.
Author: Amanda Wakefield