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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There is no doubt that these are tough times folk and I find myself in a reflectived mood today. The wet weather here in Maidstone Kent, from where I am writing this from has not helped.

The G20 nations are due to meet in London next week and I understand that on their agenda are questions how to tackle the current economic down turn that has left many folk workless as well as homeless.

It was reported on the news this morning that this upcoming meeting has aroused some raw emotions from environmentalists, campaigners for more jobs, as well as those who blame the financial institutions for the current economic situations. And to that end several demonstrations are underway as folk strive to get their voices heard by the powers that be.

An hour ago, I was engaged in a conversation by a fellow guest here at the Ramada Hotel in Kent. After the initial general questions the converasation soon turned to the upcoming G20 meeting. She is especially interested in all issues to do with the envrionment, I must confess, apart from religion, this is a topic that I would rather not get drawn into. I find it emotive and frankly I don’t know much about it.

For instance this lady wnated to know from me if it is ok to buy peas and Mange tout brought into the UK from Kenya? She informed me that the folk in her network and family believe that the process by which the peas and Mange tout get here is bad for the environment. But she doesn’t agree with them since the production method is mostly by hand or hand held tools, which in her mind offsets any carbon emmissions.

I on the other hand believe that farmers in the developing world should have access to as many markets as possible as their best hope out of poverty is the ability to trade. This is not only sustainable but it ensures that other than waiting for handouts they are helping themselves out of poverty. The question then becomes one of which is more important, the climate, employment or justice?

This lady wanted and answer from me! We spoke at length about  AID to African countries. 

In particular Food AID.   Africa as a  continent made up of some of the poorest countries on earth most of which are dependent on all types of AID from donor countries. Some of  this AID doesn’t make sense at all when put in the context of ending poverty, climate change and human rights

This is a strange thing for me to say, you might think. But hear me out if you will. Some parts of Africa have got an awful lot of food much more than folk can consume whilst others have none at all.

 Imagine  this , what if some of this food was shipped to parts of the continent that need it as oppossed to flying peas, Maize, sugar etc form the USA to Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia etc? What impact would that have on climate change and poverty amongst African farmers?

The twist in the tale here is that AID in the form FOOD AID doesn’t always get to the people that need it. Here is an example of what I am talking about http://ethnicsupplies.blogspot.com/2008/09/food-distribution-in-uganda.html#links

Don’t get me wrong I am not against helping disadvantaged folk in the world. I am however concerned that this is sometimes done without due regard, and consequently a culture of dependency results. This happens in West too especially in the Housing provision area. This giving of FOOD AID can kill off local farmers markets completely.

Second clothing was the other topic for discusion. What about the second hand clothing charities send to out, the lady asked me? Sadly this too kills off local produce like cotton as demand for such textiles dies off, and as far as the environment is concerned, most developing countries may lack the technology to process artificial fabrics like Nylon, when they come to the end of their useful life!

I have seen goats/cows that have died as a result of eating these artificial fabrics as well as plastic bags. The sad thing about this is that where these goats and cows are all the assets folk have to sell to pay for children’s health care an education!!

As we parted company she asked if I have ever considered being  a Politician,. The answer came very quickly NO. I don’t mind working alongside politicians but I would not want to join them.

Thniking about the G20 generally and the issues at stake, the failure of the economy has no doubt hit the poorest the hardest regardless of where in the world they are, the sad thing as articulated by the Brazilian President this week, the current situation was not credited by developing countries.

My question then is , Where do we go from here on issues, climate change, worklesseness and justice? Have you got a viw either way if so please share it.

Will the G20 meeting have answers to these issues?