Fairtrade Fortnight, Haringey 2013
Christian Ecology Link was invited to contribute to Fairtrade Fortnight by speaking at the Fairtrade Haringey event on Saturday 9th March 2013 held at Middle Lane Methodist Church, London N8.
I agreed to present on behalf of CEL, and prepared information to speak to (see below). Halfway through, I abandoned my notes, because I’m not convinced of the long-term effectiveness or equity of the didactic speaker-and-audience model of learning, and asked the assembled participants to form small discussion groups to consider the following questions, and to later feedback to the whole meeting :-
1. Do solutions that work to enhance food security in the developed, industrialised Global North also work in the developing Global South of the world ?
2. What impacts on food security and food sovereignty are likely to arise from the global economic shakedown ?
3. Which is likely to be the most significant influence on future food production :-
(a) the drain on energy resources caused by increasing demand for fossil fuels and agrochemicals;
(b) the stress on freshwater supplies, aggravated by the rainfall disturbances and droughts from climate change ?
Christian Ecology Link’s LOAF project is an appeal to churches and other organisations to make use of the LOAF principles when planning community meals. LOAF stands for, Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairly traded. Food sourced as locally as possible, grown and reared as sustainably and chemical-free as possible, paying due attention to animal welfare and biodiversity, and ensuring fair relationships between producers and consumers.
Intensive agriculture, with its emphasis on beef and dairy products, and monoculture plantations of staple crops, and abusive trading practices, particularly in the contracts between farmers and “middlemen” retailers, has shown itself to have many failings, and is at risk from peak fossil fuels, climate change and freshwater stress, the very damages it is contributing to. It may be cheap, but it’s shoddy and ruinous.
Christian Ecology Link support people in taking individual responsibility for their food, bearing witness to the future, making our choices count. We have an aim to build and nurture social ecology – we want to work democratically, rather than by the “information deficit model” – one group telling others what to do and believe, and how to behave. Instead of running a massive public relations campaign, we invite people to community LOAF meals, where alongside sharing food, we ask all taking part to share their thoughts on the principles of LOAF, to discuss the LOAF issues as part of the conversation over the meal. We have placemats to introduce the concepts, and short information leaflets that bring in some of the numbers and other facts.
We have been challenged over our meat-eating stance, but we believe that some animal food farming will remain sustainable, and so we emphasise animal welfare rather than dietary meat abstinence. According to studies by food academics, including Professor Tim Lang and Simon Fairlie, to maintain the balance of fats in the British diet, we need to continue with pig farming to answer the question “Can Britain Feed Itself ?”. The Zero Carbon Britain 2030 projection from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales expects us to continue with chicken and pig rearing in a sustainable smallholding approach.
If you would like to find out more, or take part in the LOAF project, I have some resources here, and there are more online.
I’d like now to offer a few personal observations, which I hope adds to the public conversation about the future of food.
The great thing about solutions to global food supply risks is that there is a strong commonality between Global North and Global South – the non-intensive, biodiverse, organic food systems that work for the developing world can also work in the developed world, as we have seen from the success of urban farming, for example. The risks to global food are also shared. Although the Global South may be impacted more by climate change in the short term, climate change is affecting us all, via the medium of food, as the Global North relies on the Global South for many of its commodities. And just as agricultural systems in the Global North will be feeling the pinch from peak fossil fuels sooner than the Global South, the developed world will find it harder to carry on with its subsidised “cash crop” aid programmes to the Global South.
There needs to be an evolution in the systems of global trade – so that trade in food results in mutual profit to both producer and consumer – and not just in terms of monetary redistribution. Raising the income levels of the poor – the “trickle down” and “float all the boats” solutions promoted by the World Trade Organisation and others, is not going to solve the stress on food supplies caused by climate change. There also needs to be a stronger emphasis on food sovereignty and security. We have to find ways to shake off the paradigms of corporate compromise and false promises – that started with the shortlived and patchy Green Revolution, and tomorrow could be re-framed in terms of selling potentially hazardous, costly GM food and energy crops to the Global South.
The world is undergoing an economic shakedown – only some sectors can grow from now on – the rest of the system of globalised trade must head for stability and more equality between producers and consumers. We should aim for a situation where there are no imbalances in the flows of commodities, and efficiency, so that food is not unnecessarily traded. The future economy must be more “steady-state”- remaining at or below carrying capacity – comprising “the lowest feasible flows of matter and energy from the first stage of production to the last stage of consumption” in the words of Herman Daly.
There are new truths emerging about food. There is increasing evidence that access to freshwater, caused by excessive, unsustainable mining of fossil water aquifers and climate change, is going to be the major limiting factor on progress in global agriculture. Tinkering with genes is not going to solve this problem. There are over 30 low income food-deficit countries, most of them in Africa, and more are at risk. Many of these economically deprived countries are also net importers of the energy and fuels needed for mechanised farming and agricultural chemicals. This worsening situation is not going to be fixed by the already-stretched aid agencies or agricultural business models of the Global North.
The 2009 report “Agriculture at the Crossroads”, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, or IAASTD, came to the conclusion that a radical shift in food production frameworks is needed to “enhance sustainability while maintaining productivity in ways that protect the natural resource base and ecological provisioning of agricultural systems”. This report did not headline a role for laboratory-created seeds with corporate intellectual property, massive combine-harvested farms in the Global South, or agrochemical company contributions.
I can see a time when farming becomes a desirable career option for school and college-leavers in Europe – not the kind of agriculture that has persisted since the Second World War, but a new kind of decentralised eco-agriculture, that has the goal of fair food production in the context of fair food trade : of new smallholder settlements in once-monocultured farms, of communities centred around market garden production, edible landscapes, agroforestry, allotment networks and local food schemes. A new framework for food that trades with the world when things cannot be grown at home, and trades with other parts of the country when the increasingly extreme weather knocks out certain harvests, but always trades fairly.
THE FAIR FOOD WORKSHOP
FOOD THAT IS – FAIR TO PEOPLE – FAIR TO ANIMALS – FAIR TO THE PLANET
“Our aim: to consider what we as consumers can do; what producers should do and what Governments should do to ensure Food is Fair.”
Saturday 9th March 2013, 1.15 – 4.30pm Middle Lane Methodist Church, N8 8NT
1.40 Introductions : Poppy Pickard, Fairtrade Haringey & Pamela Harling, Sustainable Haringey
1.50 Fair and Sustainable Cocoa Farming, Sophi Tranchell, Divine Chocolate with Mary Appiah & Esther Mintah Ephraim, farmers from Kuapo Kokoo (Ghana)
2.25 Land Grabbing & Small Scale Farmers, Vicki Hird, Friends of the Earth
3.00 Break, Stalls & DVD: Living Under One Sun (LUOS)
3.30 Local Growing Projects, Pamela Harling, Sustainable Haringey, Mark Adams & Joanne Barrett, LUOS, Hannah Roberson, Edible Landscapes London (PACT)
4.05 Local Foraging : Gemma Harris, Urban Harvest
4.15 LOAF, food campaign, Jo Abbess, Information Officer, CEL
4.25 Children Join Us for Round Up
We hope you enjoy the afternoon
The Children’s Workshop, with Tracey and Louise will run from 1.40 to 3pm and 3.30 to 4.25
Between 1.15 to 1.40 and 3.00 to 3.30, please browse the stalls, and sample fairtrade drinks or
fresh herb teas plus delicious fair trade snacks.
Stalls selling goods:
• Cascada, Fair Trade from South America
• Traidcraft and Divine
• Haringey Justice for Palestinians (HJFP), selling Zaytoun and Women’s handicrafts
• Fairtrade Haringey
• Sustainable Haringey
• Friends of the Earth
• Living Under One Sun, (LUOS)
• Christian Ecology Link (CEL) – LOAF Campaign
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Comments on "Fairtrade Fortnight, Haringey 2013"
One colleague has already kindly contributed on something that I omitted to flesh out when considering appropriate land use questions :- "I would argue for inclusion of grass-fed sheep and cattle in areas where grazing grass grows well, but vegetables and cereal crops do not." If anybody else has additional useful information, please add it here in replies.