Sustainable urban farming: Cape Town community goes organic

by Lorne Philpot 2020-09-14 12:11 in Lifestyle, The South African

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Becoming more sustainable is key to the future of our planet. We need to rethink the way we are doing things. One community in Cape Town has taken a step forward, in producing its own organic fruit and vegetables.

Globally, the importance of sustainability in food production is being raised. People are becoming more aware of the need to eat produce which is organic, has fewer chemicals, and does not have a huge carbon footprint in terms of its packaging and transportation (from farm to table).

We should not need to rely on fruit and vegetables which have been grown en masse, and transported from miles away, to our cities. Fresh produce can be sustainably grown and sourced on our doorstep, in order to contribute towards a healthier planet, and our own health.

INVOLVING THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

Bo-Kaap Community Garden leader Abieda Charles stated that the Bo-Kaap community is actively involved in a sustainable food garden project.

Some members of the community donate seeds, seedlings, soils and compost which are needed for the project. Other members contribute by planting, harvesting and selling the produce.

The Bo-Kaap Community Garden sells its produce within the community but there is a policy of giving free fruit and vegetables to anyone in the community, who is in need.

PROVIDING EDUCATION PROGRAMMES FOR THE COMMUNITY

Growing organic fruit and vegetables is becoming increasingly important, for the health of the soil, the quality of the produce and for our own health. The project leaders aim to raise awareness in the community, of the need for organic food and sustainable farming practices.

One of the primary aims of the project is to educate people in how to grow their own food. The Bo-Kaap project leader said that the community garden runs programmes that educate the youth.

The youth can learn how to plant seeds and they can observe the germination process. There are programmes such as the “See how it grows” and “Art on the Garden Walls” projects, which raise awareness and inform the youth about cultivation.

HOPE IN THE FACE OF TOUGH TIMES

The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s prime tourist spots. Several people have lost jobs and their source of income as a result of the economic conditions caused by the national lockdown.

The Bo-Kaap Community Garden does not generate sufficient income to pay people for their labour, or to employ full-time staff. It does, however, aim to educate people on sustainable farming and food production.

The community garden project has been able to help needy members of the community by providing fresh organic fruit and vegetables. 

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Building back better on food and agriculture

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | QU Dongyu, Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

FAO has elaborated a comprehensive Response and Recovery Programme to overcome the impacts of Covid-19 through up-scaled and robust international collaboration

As the impacts of Covid-19 take their toll on human health and well-being around the world, the imperative of producing and ensuring access to healthy food for each and every one of us must not be overlooked. The food systems that must give daily sustenance to all humans on this planet are under threat by the pandemic.

If we want to avoid what could be the worst food crisis in modern history, we need robust and strategic international cooperation at an extraordinary scale.

QU Dongyu, Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

Even before the pandemic, global food systems and food security were strained by many factors, including pests, poverty, conflicts, and the impacts of climate change.  According to the latest FAO report on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, in 2019 close to 690 million – or nearly one in ten people in the world – were hungry. The Covid-19 pandemic could push an additional 130-million people worldwide into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. Furthermore, in 2019 three-billion people did not have access to healthy diets and suffered from other forms of malnutrition.

Due to the pandemic and related containment measures, we have already experienced disruptions in global food supply chains, labor shortages, and lost harvests. Now we are seeing a delayed planting season. Around 4.5-billion people depend on food systems for their jobs and livelihoods, working to produce, collect, store, process, transport, and distribute food to consumers, as well as to feed themselves and their families. The pandemic has put 35 percent of food system employment at risk, impacting women at an even higher rate.

The impacts of this reality are both immediate and far-reaching. Together we can – and must – limit Covid-19’s damaging effects on food security and nutrition. Simultaneously, we need to transform our food systems for a more resilient and equitable future. To build back better.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has actively supported countries and farmers to work on scalable and sustainable solutions to help ensure nutritious food for all. This forms the basis of the comprehensive FAO COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, which identifies seven priority areas for action. However, to catalyze and build upon these solutions, a business-as-usual approach will not suffice. The following three strategic shifts must guide our collective response.

First, we need better data for better decision-making

Timely and effective responses to the impact of Covid-19 depend upon knowing exactly where and when support is needed, as well as how that support can be implemented best. This means up-scaling work on data, information and analysis, and taking a bottom-up approach.

FAO is rapidly adapting and enhancing data collection methods at the country, regional and global levels, as data collection processes have been disrupted by physical distancing measures to contain the pandemic. For instance, FAO has recently released the FAO Data Lab to bring real-time data on food prices and sentiment analysis. We have also developed the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform which brings more than 1 million geospatial layers to help prioritize interventions within countries. These make visual datasets available to provide global early-warnings on possible hotspots that may be affected by adverse weather conditions, and how they evolve over time.

Second, we must dramatically increase the synergy of our collective actions.

The Covid-19 crisis calls for us not only to come together but to act in unison like never before. Pooling all available data, efforts, and resources for synergistic action will be paramount for a holistic response and recovery, as will collaboration on promoting economic inclusion, agricultural trade, sustainable and resilient food systems, preventing future animal-to-human disease outbreaks, and ensuring coordinated humanitarian action.

The pandemic is already generating an unprecedented impact on global and regional trade, with world merchandise trade in 2020 expected to fall by as much as 32 percent[1].

Unlike any other food or health crisis in modern times, the impacts of Covid-19 are causing supply and demand shocks at a national, regional and global level, leading to immediate and longer-term risks for food production and availability.

We need to ensure the compliance of trade requirements and improve efficiency in moving goods across borders. FAO aims to facilitate and increase international agricultural and food trade, with a focus on intraregional trade.

In addition, the prevention of future animal-to-human disease outbreaks requires coordination between stakeholders from all relevant sectors. This includes the health sector, as well national and local natural resource management and rural development, in order to address potential outbreaks in high-risk hotspots. To respond to these needs, FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have recently strengthened the Joint FAO/WHO Centre. This Centre hosts the Codex Alimentarius Commission and unites expertise on zoonotic diseases from FAO, WHO and other global partners and coordination mechanisms, to build national capacities to predict, prevent and control zoonotic threats.

An effective food and agricultural response to the pandemic also calls for joint humanitarian action, particularly to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable smallholder and family farmers. We must thoughtfully and adequately increase collaboration and partnerships among and between United Nations’ entities, the private sector, civil society and key local actors. It is only if we all work hand in hand for greater coherence and efficiency that we can we achieve success on the ground.

Third, we must accelerate innovation.

New investment strategies, digital technology and infrastructure innovation are essential to obtaining better data, increasing efficiency in food production and providing market access. In this regard, there are many solutions from the private sector that could be of great use to governments and international organizations, which can fine-tune their methods based on the private sector’s innovation-centric, results-oriented approach.

The prevention of food crises cannot wait until the health crisis is over, nor can we simply aim to return to the unacceptable levels of hunger and food insecurity witnessed before the pandemic. FAO is placing its convening power, real-time data, early warning systems and technical expertise at the world’s disposal. Together, we can help the most vulnerable, prevent further crises, increase resilience to shocks and accelerate the rebuilding of our food systems.

Together we can ensure a future in which everyone is well nourished. I invite you to join us and be part of the solution.


[1] World Trade Organization (WTO)

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Stopping Covid-19 related hunger before it’s too late

Marco V. Sánchez Cantillo Deputy-Director, Agricultural Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Many uncertainties haunt the world’s campaign to counter the Covid-19 pandemic, but one thing is now sure: Global economic activity will suffer greatly, with large-scale consequences for the incomes and welfare of all, but especially for the most vulnerable food import-dependent countries.

In the absence of timely and effective policy responses, this will exacerbate an already unwelcome increase in the number of people who don’t have enough to eat. 

Last year The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, the SDG2 monitoring report that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) produces in collaboration with other UN partners, warned that economic slowdowns and downturns helped explain rising undernourishment levels in 65 of the 77 countries that recorded such rises between 2011 and 2017. The International Monetary Fund has just slashed its global gross domestic product forecast by a huge 6.3 percentage points, making FAO’s analysis all the more relevant as part of a worldwide toolkit to prevent the health crisis from triggering starvation. 

In January, the IMF anticipated global GDP would expand by 3.3 percent, but in April, when much of the world was shutting down to contain contagion, it issued a new forecast of minus 3.0 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that is home to the world’s highest hunger rates and where the average age is around 20 years, must now brace for its first recession in a quarter of a century. 

Analyzing data of food supply since 1995, linked to FAO’s statistical development of the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator, and correlating them to past local economic trends in countries that are net food importers, we find that millions of people are likely to join the ranks of the hungry as a result of the Covid-19-triggered recession. 

That number will vary according to the severity of GDP growth contractions, ranging from 14.4 million to 80.3 million depending on the scenario, with the latter figure a truly devastating contraction of 10 percentage points in all 101 net food-importing countries’ GDP growth. 

The actual outcome could be worse if current inequalities in access to food are worsened – something that absolutely should not be allowed to happen. 

The world is not facing food shortages, which is why FAO has from the pandemic’s outset advocated that all countries must do their best to keep food supply chains alive. With the new estimates emerging from a strictly economic analysis – based on food supply and availability and not other central pillars of food security – FAO is emphasizing that all countries must also foster measures to protect people’s ability to access food that is locally, regionally and globally available. 

The nexus between undernourishment and economic performance was already driving the world away from the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030. FAO’s global PoU number has been rising since 2015, albeit slowly, ending decades of decline. It is now around where it was in 2010, and undernutrition affects one in nine people globally, with much higher rates in large swathes of Africa and Asia. 

Governments are rolling out unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus to conserve economic capital and support safety nets for the newly unemployed. Many countries lack the tools to deploy such liquidity injections and public spending commitments. The international community must facilitate their capacity to act, while these countries must exert fiscal responsibility and objectivity to reallocate their own resources along with assistance to the most urgent needs that the Covid-19 pandemic has created. Health is the first priority, but sufficient and healthy food is a central part of the health response to the pandemic. Inadequate action will also severely weaken vulnerable populations for years to come. This would make the prospect of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals all the more difficult.

So not only must efforts focus on keeping food supply chains alive, but it’s imperative to focus on food accessibility for all. Governments have an opportunity to tackle this issue head-on by targeting the required official stimulus packages to the poorest and undernourished. Tools such as cash and in-kind transfers, new credit lines, safety nets, food banks, keeping school-lunch programmes alive can be useful. 

Keep in mind that emphatically focusing on “have nots” will have a doubly positive effect, both helping those most in need and maximizing the impact of public resource outlays on maintaining the dynamism of demand. 

There could be a third positive effect as well: Minimising outright hunger in ways that avoid food insecurity and malnutrition will reduce the long-term scars inflicted by the recession, fostering more vitality and less dependence in the future. Indeed, insofar as possible stimulus measures that tackle the current menace to food access should be designed with a view to start building the resilience of food systems to safeguard them against economic slowdowns and downturns in the future.

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