Food Security 101
Part 4: What now?

By Ken Ross

So, you weren’t fooled by the questions in part 3 – you already knew who was in charge. In fact, you even managed to provide the photo attached (below) while they were caught in the act of ‘being in charge of food security’ in your community, area, region.


broken image


In reality, ‘it/they’ are the only entities you could trust to be in charge of such an important factor/facet of life (excruciatingly important in reality, if you have ever seen how people behave
when they think their food supply is under serious and immediate threat). Here we have then, an actual photo, of ‘the invisible hand of the market’, working seriously at the task of ensuring there is food security in the place where you live, plus, not just ensuring that you have 24/7 access to those UN recommended, adequate volumes of food, but food that is safe to consume, and food that meets your food preferences as well.


Oh! Is that hard to swallow? Is it so hard to believe that something as important as food security for a community/city/region/nation, might be left up to ‘the Free Market’? Why’s that? Surely, if there is a buck in it, someone will do the right thing, rise to the financial opportunity and solve the issue. Just like they always do. That’s what frees our central and local government politicians to get on with the more important stuff in life, like Racing or Footpaths – because knowing that the Free Market will sort things out and that they don’t have to worry about the food security of the people whose wellbeing they are responsible for, is hugely freeing. And anyway, if we are truthful about it, it’s highly probable they do have a teensy, weensy concern about it, because they do know, deep in their bowels, you can’t let things get totally out of hand. Too many hungry people in your rohe can be embarrassing on the world stage and having far too many hungry people can be outright dangerous. The trick is staying around the ‘just right’ level.

So, let’s take a moment to examine some basics. Humans have a range of needs to be fully, functioning ‘humans’, but most people would agree on three core needs as being immediately critical to life in most circumstances. Those three core needs are; adequate shelter, water and food. While shelter is beyond the scope of this discussion, the assumption is, you already have some. The security of the shelter may vary between readers, but you no doubt, have something. Similarly, in our temperate and reasonably wet climate, should things go pear shaped, most people should be able to find (fresh) water of some kind. It might not be flash, but filtering and boiling can do a lot for water. Food seems to be a little different. For most of us, our relationship with food spirals around what’s in the cupboard, what’s on the plate, and what I have to consider for the shopping this week - the constant need to resupply/restock, then consume – but there is seldom a need to worry about where the flour or bread might come from three months in advance. Of course, there are people in every community who struggle on a daily basis to put adequate food on a table, who worry and struggle in the moment, and in advance, but most of us are not ‘food insecure’ until something goes wrong.

In most households in Aotearoa/NZ, there will be an insurance policy for the dwelling – in case
something goes wrong. In many households, there will be insurance policies for vehicles and household contents – in case something goes wrong. Many, of those households will have insurance policies for the health,or even life, of some of the residents of the household – in case something goes wrong. Yet, most of those same households won’t have an emergency food store or a strategy for food security or even a single discussion about what to do about ‘food’ – should something go wrong. REALLY?

So here we are, in our happy, little free market economy, buzzing along nicely, surrounded by ‘food’, but no one actually knows if it is ‘food’ or not, where it comes from, where it
is going, what happens to it along the way or who is in charge at any point in the process, because we are happy to have it magic its way to our table, for the few pieces of silver we have to part with for the privilege. We are apparently, comfortable in all of thisin spite of the absurdities the world throws at us, such as its bizarre choices of leaders and decision makers, in the likes of Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. Closer to home, the thinking ability and decision-making prowess of our new lot in charge doesn’t engender confidence either.


Those of you who have persevered thus far may have noticed the veer left. I’m no longer banging on just about ‘foodsecurity’ – I’ve started to scratch away at a related concept – that of ‘food sovereignty’. Before we define ‘food sovereignty’, suffice it to say, if food security is the aim/goal, then the concept of ‘food sovereignty’ describes the pathway to achieving it. Food sovereignty will have been a ‘background theme’ for of all humanity since we have had the power of structured thought, but its expression on the world stage, and its definition, is attributed to the international farmers’ movement ‘‘La Via Campesina’’ and was, as a term, introduced in 1996 when La Via Campesina published its manifesto ‘‘Food Sovereignty: A future without hunger’’ during the NGO/CSO forum held parallel to the World Food Summit.

The following statement comes from the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty. 2007, and is known as the ‘Declaration of Nye´le´ni.’, from February 2007.


“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own
food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer driven agriculture, artisanal - fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations’’. (quoted by T Beuchelt & D Virchow).

The concept of food sovereignty is closely aligned to that of Food Security and the UN definition of the same. As outlined above, ‘food security’ is the goal and the concept of ‘food sovereignty’ provides the road map and methodologies for achieving the goal. While the outcome of ‘food security’ is likely to have strong similarities across communities, regions and cultures, the road maps and methodologies needed to achieve food sovereignty will be place specific and have greater variability. I deliberately live rurally. Any journey my community takes toward food sovereignty and security is likely to be quite different to that of an urban area in one of our larger cities. Can you see where this is going?