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Regional food systems

last modified Jan 16, 2015 10:11 AM

There are strong arguments in favour of regional food systems. There are fewer intermediaries involved, with lower transportation costs and less risky transactions. Producers and consumers can exert a greater degree of control.

As the articles in this issue show, regional food systems can contribute to increasing food security, while at the same time benefiting the environment and increasing the autonomy of farmers. Read about the "Food Circle" in Ecuador and about Brazil's PAA, or about the work of the Island Food Community in Micronesia.

Farming Matters | 27.3 | September 2011

Table of contents:

  • 3 - 3
    One of the main objectives of EcoBorborema, an organisation of family farmers in Brazil’s northern state of Paraiba, is helping with the commercialisation of their products, providing the local population with a wide range of healthy fruits and vegetables while ensuring farmers earn a higher income.
  • 5 - 5
    Preparations for Rio+20 are now in full swing.
  • 7 - 7
  • 8 - 9
    One of the greatest challenges facing the world is to ensure that everybody has access to adequate food that is healthy, safe and of high nutritional quality - and to do so in a manner that is environmentally sustainable. At present the current global food system is dramatically failing to deliver on this goal. It is estimated that a billion people go hungry or suffer from lack of vital micronutrients, while, at the other extreme, an even greater number of people are suffering from the effects of overweight and obesity as a consequence of eating unhealthy foods. The costs of treating the impacts of this double burden run into billions of dollars. Clearly, there is an urgent need for fundamental change.
  • 10 - 13
    This article looks at a system designed and implemented by members of an indigenous community in central Ecuador, which, by localising food production, distribution and consumption, ties together a series of efforts that provide a safeguard against the precarious nature of local employment and fluctuating food prices. Results so far show that this collective action is strengthening community cohesion, and demonstrate how initiatives based on the concept of food sovereignty can address some of the clear inequalities of our globalised food system.
  • 14 - 17
    Located in the western Pacific ocean, Pohnpei Island is the largest island of the state of Pohnpei, one of the four states that make up the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Although rich in biodiversity, in recent years there has been a steady decline in the use of traditional agriculture and local foods, and a subsequent rise in nutrition-related disorders, such as vitamin A deficiency, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Thanks to “Let’s Go Local”, a campaign launched in 2004 by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei, communities are gradually adopting healthier diets based on the richness of local foods. Lois Englberger, Acting Director and Research Advisor, and one of the founders of the organisation, explained to us what makes a community project successful.
  • 18 - 20
    With less than one percent of the world’s area, Nepal is home to a disproportionately large number of plant species. Yet large numbers of the population are food insecure, and hunger and malnutrition are prevalent. Statistics show that the situation has worsened during the past two decades. The worst-affected segments of the population are the tribal and nomadic communities, whose local agriculture and natural resource management systems are jeopardised by public and private programmes built around a high-external-input agriculture. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?
  • 21 - 21
    FAO’s new Director General won’t have an easy job, but still “we have hope”, says Francisco Caporal. Since FAO’s mandate is “to achieve food security for all and ensure that people have regular access to good quality food”, it would be great to see if José Graziano da Silva has read the reports of his future colleague at the UN, Olivier De Schutter, who recommends a profound shift in agricultural policies in order to ensure food security worldwide.
  • 22 - 22
    Our global food system is under enormous stress and there has never been a more urgent time for collective action to address food and nutrition security globally. New, sustainable approaches to improving the quality and variety of food produced and consumed around the world are needed, and nutrition must be front and centre as a major goal of agricultural systems.
  • 23 - 23
    Insects pollinate crops, are a source of food and other products and work as natural predators in the field. Yet insects often have a negative reputation in agriculture, with the words “insects” and “pests” often used interchangeably.
  • 24 - 26
    Getting produce to market at the right moment and in the best condition is the priority for producers. It is at this moment when the farmer can reap the rewards of months or years of hard work and investment. After having successfully negotiated weather conditions or animal health issues, getting the produce to market should be a smooth process. This, however, is far from true in many African countries where reaching the marketplace often presents the biggest challenge.
  • 27 - 27
    Following the motto “education for action”, the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) has developed several educational programmes that pursue a twofold objective. The first is to show how the economic globalisation process is detrimental for the natural environment. The second is to persuade people that, to quote Steven Gorelick, US Programme Director, “the current direction we are headed in is not inevitable, and there are ways to steer onto a different path that is healthier for both people and the planet”.
  • 28 - 29
    The Yorkshire village of Todmorden has taken local food to heart – and to the street. The planting of food crops at forty public locations throughout the village offer locals, and visitors, the chance to pick their own fresh fruit and vegetables, and it’s all free. From the local police station to the cemetery, from the health centre to the elderly care home (with raised garden beds at wheelchair height), in tubs on the street and in plots dug by the canal, Todmorden is embracing “local edible” with a passion.
  • 30 - 31
    Value chains, social inclusion and economic development / Growing a better future / Agriculture and food in crisis / Participatory research and on-farm management of agricultural biodiversity in Europe / A solution for food security and sovereignty / Save and grow
  • 32 - 33
    Regional food systems develop around the crops grown in a particular area. Yet other “ingredients” are also needed to help the different stakeholders connect to each other, whether these are other economic activities or alternative approaches. Here are just a few examples from different countries.
  • 34 - 36
    Brazil has designed and implemented several highly innovative policy instruments to enhance food security. Most of these fall under the “Fome Zero” or “Zero Hunger” strategy launched in 2003, under the presidency of Mr Lula da Silva. These have drastically reduced the number of undernourished people in the country. One of the most important elements of this strategy is the PAA, or the Food Acquisition Programme. This article explains why it is so highly regarded.
  • 37 - 37
    Peter Gubbels looks at the potential of food reserves. In the Sahel, increased food reserves and buffer stocks at the regional, national and local levels can be a valuable tool for improving access to food and for stabilising food prices. Purchasing locally produced foodstuffs when prices are low, and selling when prices are high, can keep prices in check, protect farmers’ incomes and mitigate the effect of steep price rises.
  • 38 - 39
    While only part of the world’s population is directly involved in producing food, we are all part of the world’s food systems. Whether in the rural areas or in an urban setting, in more or in less industrialised countries, we are all involved – as consumers. What choices do consumers have? Can we, as consumers, contribute towards regional – and more efficient – food systems? Network colleagues look at some of the issues to take into account.
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