BBC 2 is currently running a series of documentaries that are looking at the FUTURE OF FOOD fronted by former Fair Trade patron George Alagiah both here in the UK and the rest of the world generally.

The first episode looked at the issue food security and water in particular and showed the lengths to which  a Punjab based wheat farmer goes too to access water to irrigate the wheat that is headed to the west and the level of debt this has left him with whilst elsewhere in Punjab some have committed suicide as they could not cope with the level of debt they were in nor could they see a way out.

This week’s episode has left me (us) with some dilemmas. With European waters over fished and  dwindling supplies, we are heading further a field  to look for fish and one of the countries at the receiving end of our quest for fish is Senegal a relatively poor African country. Fish is a vital part of the diet of the coast villages in Senegal but with the  arrival of European fishing boats, these locals don’t stand a chance and one fisherman said "he simply wishes they would go away". The consequences of the Europeans fishing Senegalese waters has meant that fish in Senegal has become so expensive that most local people can’t afford it!

The story moves on to a farm in Kenya that grown green beans for UK supermarkets. I was having dinner whilst watching this part and on my plate was grilled Salmon, mangetout, grilled courgettes and tomatoes and I must admit to struggling to finish it.

The Kenyan story is very sad indeed. A country that grows and exports a lot of food to the UK but has to rely on UN FOOD AID to feed its people! Perfectly good beans being rejected because they have a bit of soil on them or are  the wrong shape!

The programme touched on the issue of Bio fuel. Yes we need to protect the environment and one way is to check our fuel consumption and the sources of fuel. But is it fair to take away farming land form rural people that use it for growing food and turn it into a field for bio fuel crops that neither people nor animals can eat?

What about feeding cattle on cereals/grains in order to fatten them whilst  some people can’t access this cereal for food? I sincerely don’t know what the answers to these questions are, but all I know is that we need to address these issues one way or another.

As George said we have some tough choices to make especially here in Europe. Our food choice is currently threatening  the food and water security of some of the poorest people in the world. It would appear too that we face unknown future in as far as our own food security is concerned unless we rethink how we farm and eat.

Is the way forward to "GROW" our own? Is the ethical thing to do to farm our own fish instead ot taking fish from those that need it the most? What about our shopping habits? Are supermarkets simply giving in to our demands of super perfect Kenyan green beans?

Have you got a view on any of the issues raised here? Please share it! I would urge to to watch George’s programmes on BBC 2 or iplayer

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It is the final day of the G8 meeting in L’Aquila Italy. The issue for discussion as I understand it is help for African farmers and reduction in Food AID to Africa and the overall aim is bring about food security and reduce poverty.

I am encouraged by proposals to increase grain storage, irrigation projects, availability of seeds and fertilisers as way forward to reducing world hunger and extreme poverty. This is all great stuff, but I can’t help but wonder how it will work out in practice

We know about farmer’s subsidies here in Europe and the US and we also know that there is an over production of food most of which ends up as FOOD AID in Africa.

We agree that in emergency situations this is necessary. What is questionable is whether this food actually gets to those that need it. You will recall the case of the Canadian Peas?
In addition Food Aid/dumping as it is called in some circles kills local industry remember the case of the Zambian farmer?

W e also know that some parts of Africa have too much food whilst others don’t. Do we know how we can get this food from parts of Africa that actually need this food?

What about the extreme weather conditions, floods, lack of rain leading to poor soil condition etc not to mention diseases that affect the plants such as the banana and coffee wilt in sub-Saharan Africa? How do we tackle climate change? One thing for sure those in the developing world appear to be the worst hit by extreme weather conditions leading to disease, loss of shelter, food security amongst other things.
These are all big issues that will require the commitment of all stakeholders in order to effect change.

My wish list,
• I would like to see initiatives that work directly with individuals on the ground
• I would like to see more skills sharing with people in the developing world, they understand their environment much more than we will ever do
• I would like to see a system that enables African farmers to sell their food to other African countries that can’t grow enough. This might be achieved through increased food storage facilities as well as grain storage
• I would like to see a reduction in Food Aid from Developed countries as I believe that food could be provided from parts of Africa that have too much food. That would give those countries the incentive to grow more food, create jobs etc

Your thoughts please?