I recently attended an event on safe, nutritious and sufficient food, exploring the question – How can the world feed itself by 2030? This discussion brought together panellists from different sectors including academia, the private sector, civil society organisations and farmers. The range of arguments were as diverse as the panel itself, but one in particular resonated with me: The consumption and waste production in the first world as one of the main causes of the food crisis and environmental degradation.
I am aware as someone living in the UK that our levels of consumption here are having a huge impact. We use more resources and energy than necessary and this causes disruption in many of the world’s natural cycles. 97% of the world’s climate scientists believe that man-made climate change is occurring and that what we consume in regions like the UK, and the way we consume energy, has real consequences for some of the poorest communities in the world. We are connected to those farmers in Africa through our own consumption patterns.
It is a great achievement for a group of farmers in Uganda to sell their produce at a good price and at a larger scale, or for a cooperative of indigenous groups in Burundi to start their own seed bank. Together we know that change is possible and we celebrate such advances. However, solutions tackling food insecurity and poverty must be complementary in both developed and developing countries. The UK imports more food than it produces. A significant proportion of this food, coming from developing countries, goes to waste. Why are we consuming more than we really need? The food cycle, from the farmer to the table, is long and complex. Most of this cycle takes place in markets, away from the land where food is produced. We are able to make choices that influence this cycle.
Are you ready for a challenge? These are some easy steps you could try taking:
- Make your diet more sustainable: Eating locally sourced produce means less air-miles are used flying in expensive imports. Moreover, a shift to healthier, low-meat diets in the UK could prevent 45,000 early deaths each year.
- Buy a gift that changes lives: The cost of adapting to climate change is out of reach for many poor people in communities that rely on subsistence farming to feed their families. Some of our Extraordinary Gifts support families in finding sustainable solutions.
- Reduce food waste: Throwing good food away costs the average person in the UK around £200 a year, and the average family £700. Why don’t you use your creativity and resourcefulness to try new recipes? You could also look at ways to share your surplus of food with others – there are many local schemes like food banks and schemes to donate food to homelessness charities.
- Protect ecosystems. From oceans to beehives and farms. Humans, animals and plants can co-exist in harmony. Find out about what you could do locally to create healthy habitats for other species – You could set up a butterfly friendly spot in your own back garden or getting involved with organisations that clean up beaches or parkland.
- Advocate for sound public policies that allow citizens to make healthier choices: How about advocating for limiting the advertisement of unhealthy foods or for higher taxes on products that require more energy to be produced? You could also focus on promoting healthy practices in your own local community.