Ottobre 16, 2015

EXPO 2015 and the global fight for food security

EXPO 2015 and the global fight for food security

In July, an entire week has been devoted to explore food-related sustainable practices at Expo Milan 2015. More than 600 participants have been involved. Contributors have presented an incredible amount of ideas and projects concerning food security. The ambition is to move from there towards better cooperation, research and innovation on food security, the much needed legacy of Expo 2015.


The event have demonstrated a transformation in the vocabulary and in the practice of development project in this field. Food security and food sovereignty have evolved from “fighting hunger” as an emergency (namely food-aid) to become key mechanisms in economic and social development. So far, as the agenda built on Millennium Development Goals shows, poverty and hunger have been the central targets. Several projects, therefore, followed that main direction, addressing basic food-aid and farming infrastructure.


Recently, new ideas and economic models with a strong impact on policy makers and intellectual have emerged. Circular economy, sustainable food, integrated food chain, private-public partnerships, organic agriculture and slow food are argument of discussion inside and outside the development community. These emerging trends, combined with the rising concern about environment and sustainability, have brought food security and food sovereignty at the center of the coming UN development regime, the Sustainable Development Goals.


Drawing upon my personal experience in this field, I can witness a renewed interest and innovative application of these ideas in the development industry.  Several NGOs, for instance, have shifted their approach in terms of food security.


‘Since the Nineties’, Gianni Milesi – president of the Italian Ngo CESVI – explained, ‘we have started to see our planet as our home, for us and for the future generations. In order to do so, CESVi has invested in programs to fight hunger sustainably, adopting a multidisciplinary approach, which includes agriculture, natural resource management, water, sanitation, human rights and women’s emancipation’. In this context, he added, ‘Expo definitely has been a great occasion to share this message’. Alike, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation has invested heavily in food related projects with an innovative approach.


In FOOD4, moreover, La Stampa has reaffirmed the importance of these issues by investigating the most interesting food-security projects. Projects such as “Filiere Agricole in Oromia, Etiopia” aim at establishing an integrated supply chain. By engaging with small-scale farmers, the project produces more sustainably and sells processed higher quality food. In Ethiopia, IAO has developed the whole food chain. It has implanted durum wheat crops as a more resilient alternative to wheat up to producing pasta (a very popular dish for middle class Ethiopian) locally. This is an important step, if we consider that Ethiopia imports most of the pasta from Turkey. ‘If we help developing economies to set up this type of agricultural supply chain and industrial production, in sustainable manner, we can help a lot of small farmers’,  as Tiberio Chiari, manager of the Oromia project, explained. ‘It is also relevant to offer crops that favor biodiversity and resilience to pathogens and climate change, so the food supply chain is strong and stable’. Thanks to this project, now Ethiopia produces 15,000 tons of durum wheat that supply fifteen pasta factories.


Another interesting trend seems to be sustainable production. Often, financial market price imbalance, aggressive farming, extensive use of chemicals and energy-intensive agriculture processes cause food insecurity. Therefore, sustainability becomes a key ambition, not only from an environmental perspective (low-carbon, water-conservative, bio diverse agriculture), but also from the point of view of social justice and intergenerational equality. Food system should not affect the land once for all. Productivity must be guaranteed also for future generations.


Many have analyzed the impact of global market on local food security. The FAO project “Sistema Agroalimentare Integrato Quinoa/Camelidi” aims at preserving the integrated farming system of quinoa and lama. Quinoa agricultural waste can be used to feed lamas, while llamas manure can provide nutrients to impoverished soils. Since people tend to move from the city to the countryside in order to cultivate quinoa without adequate experience in agriculture, soils tend to degrade and impoverish. As if this were not enough, desertification across the Andean plateau is also a source of deep concern among practitioners and researchers. ‘It is fundamental that development organizations work where global market can have distorting effects on food production due to market prices’, explains Rómulo Caro, FAO project manager. ‘This can guarantee stability also for the future’.


From 2016, the UN will follow a renewed agenda. Recent contributions at the General Assembly in September have shown that food policies will be a focal point of development action in the next future. For this reason, EXPO 2015 has been a defining moment, an occasion to exchange ideas and to build some fundamental pillars: the Carta di Milano and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. Regulatory strategies that may help to guarantee food security across the world. Guidelines that put on the right track the work of UN agencies, government and NGOs in the next years.

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About Emanuele Bompan

Emanuele Bompan

Emanuele Bompan is a geographer and journalist and has been involved in environmental reporting, cooperation and development and international politics since 2008. He has worked with La Stampa, BioEcoGeo, Sole24Ore, Reuters, Nuova Ecologia, LEFT, Vanity Fair and MAX. He studied geography and communication at Bologna, Los Angeles, Madison, and Washington DC. In 2010, he won the prestigious Middlebury Fellowship for Environmental Journalism, an award for environmental journalists, and in 2013 and 2014 the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme (IDR) for innovation in journalism connected with cooperation and development. He specialises in climate talks, environmental disasters, energy markets, food safety and sustainable development.

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