agriculture, sustainability

Food security is jail and food sovereignty is freedom

The phrase from Michael Croft lit a new perspective in my world. While I had often used ‘food security’ to discuss how communities and their ability to access food through a value chain, ‘food sovereignty’ looks at putting food systems in the hands of communities – thus the latter is more sustainable because it makes communities stewards of the environment.

A lot of thought has gone towards the recommendations that were laid out in the Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper  which includes recommendations for financing to be more easily available to farmers and setting up a registry to track foreign agricultural land investments. Yet, we are living in an age where farming has become the least competitive, we rely heavily on seasonal workers for harvest and the value chain has brought down the profitability of farming communities.

However if 98 percent of our retail value chain is dominated by the four largest supermarkets, how can we return the balance in favour of food sovereignty? La Via Campesina as a movement returns farming to sustainability and while this has lots of positives, I feel we have gone past the irreparable damage that has been caused by many stakeholders involved in the food system. Through greed, we have destroyed the future of our agricultural industry.

Amory Starr discussed farmers markets and aritsan economics in the production of food as a way of reframing “food as a community and not as a commodity”. While this re-examines the role of consumers in creating a more sustainable outcome for food through demand, I don’t believe these nuances would have the ability to change the system. Let’s face the fact: a Saturday at Eveleigh Market or Sydney Sustainable Markets draws more lookers than buyers. Could we reverse the system and get the evening crush at a Coles or Woolworths to buy at these markets on a Saturday only? I doubt this.

I haven’t finished combing through the 116 page green paper and I am already sceptical that it would have far reaching ramifications on the future of Australia’s agricultural industry. Unless, we allow movements like La Via Campesina to flourish in Australia and let them regain power over our value chains.

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