Crushing local solutions: will the COVID19 crisis continue to feed into hyper globalization and consumption?
On the International Day of Peasants Struggles, April 17, the call for supporting small-scale food producers and agricultural workers becomes more relevant than ever. Local, diverse, equitable and ecological food consumption has proven to be the pathway to ensure both human and planetary health. However, even in times of crisis such as the one we are currently facing, resilience can only be guaranteed if food systems are able to address the structural inequalities that have been nurtured by production models creating mirages of a “wide range and never-ending” choice of foods.
We are constantly being told that “we are all on the same boat”, and while we might be experiencing a change in our social relations and perceiving ourselves as part of a greater entity, the reality is that we are navigating the same turbulent tide, but with different sorts of boats.
A recent communiqué by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), which has taken stock of the past 100 days amid the global pandemic, stated that “In health systems and food systems, critical weaknesses, inequalities, and inequities have come to light […] COVID-19 is a wake-up call for food systems that must be heeded.”
In fact, today’s global food system has only contributed to the marginalization of millions of people in the name of “economic stability” while trespassing people’s food sovereignty. Today, the health crisis is a symptom of the dysfunctionalities of this system – a system that has led to 820 million human beings suffering from malnutrition and with worrying increasing trends in 2018. These numbers are far from being reduced, and even more so now with the pandemic affecting people’s accessibility to sufficient and nutritious food due to the loss of incomes, closure of certain infrastructure such as popular canteens or schools (where a great number of children receive their only daily meal), discrimination and marginalization. The Food and Agriculture Organization has indicated in one of its COVID’s related policy briefs that food security could be rapidly and dramatically affected.
To answer to such a ‘wake-up call’, the public interest must be at the heart of our future food systems, protecting the right to adequate food, with all its interdependent human rights, for everyone, while also ensuring planetary health. However, immediate answers to the crisis are placing once again ‘solutions’ that only contribute even further to the marginalization of large groups of people such as women, small-scale food producers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and workers along the current ‘food chain’ - from agricultural activities, often involving unprotected migrants, until food processing and distribution with an incrementation of the so-called informal work. FIAN has identified through its recent Preliminary Monitoring Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Human Right to Food and Nutrition, a number of the already existing drivers of this dysfunctional system, and that now are being pushed for by countries as narrative to overcome the emergent food crisis. These include the undermining of small-scale and agroecological food production by prioritizing agro-industrial food production and globalized food chains, but also, the threat to the distribution of such production through farmer’s markets due to the concentration of food retail in the hands of supermarkets and their massification of online platforms’ use.
The International Day of Peasant Struggle contributes to this ‘wake-up call’ and reminds us that how we address a crisis matters. This day should allow us to project a different path for our futures, one in which governments ensure that communities can have access to healthy, diverse, local, sustainable and equitable diets. Measures providing support to agroecological production and prioritizing short local circuits of food distribution through farmers’ markets and grocery stores will be key in strengthening the access to such diets.
Those who have, are and will always ensure the resilience of food systems in all its aspects (sufficiency, adequacy, fairness and ecological well-being) must be protected and valued to achieve the necessary transformation of our food systems.
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