Sustainable Food: A return to the roots

Our food system is broken; it is unequal, unsustainable, unstable and in need of transformation. International organisations, governments, businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers all around the world are working towards cutting carbon emissions and waste, improving the nutritional value of food, innovating at the farming level and developing city-wide food policies.

Words

Anne-Sophie Garrigou

But we, the citizens and consumers, are a big part of this equation. It is up to us to make conscious decisions on a daily basis about the kind of production we want to support and the initiatives we want to encourage.

These local farming initiatives are revolutionising the food market in France and in India.

Copyrights: Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn

Promoting local and peasant agriculture in France

The AMAP (Association pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne) maintains and encourages small and local farming in France by creating a system based on the long term partnership between a producer and a consumer.

An AMAP usually consists of several local farmers (e.g. a vegetable producer, a cheese producer, a meat producer, etc.) and citizens. The first step is to sign a contract between the self-named ‘peasant’ farmer and the citizen stating the quantity, diversity, and price of the ‘food basket’ that will be prepared weekly. The price should be fair for both parties, and be paid by the consumer at the beginning of the contract so that the producer’s income is secure and the cost of production is covered. Local citizens and farmers meet once a week to exchange the latest news of the community and the ‘food-basket’. The consumer can’t choose what will be in the weekly package, a great way to try out different produce, and agrees to receive seasonal products available on the farm (don’t count on receiving tomatoes in December!), making it a unique experience and perfect way to understand the often tumultuous reality of farming life.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

India sows the seeds of revolt to preserve its biodiversity

In India, the seed marketplace if often manipulated by the middleman, making it impossible for local farmers to secure their harvest from one year to the next. Enter Sahaja Samrudha, or Bountiful Nature, a Mysuru-based startup fighting to ensure seed sovereignty for farmers by fixing pre-determined prices for their produce. Originally developed as a farmer initiated to exchange ideas, seeds and share knowledge on sustainable agriculture, the company now has 98 varieties of organic rare seeds of crops in its repertoire, and counts 480 members, including 58 seed producers or farmers, drawn from places such as Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Mandya, and Bengaluru Rural.

Conceived to protect cultivators’ collective interest, Sahaja Samrudha promotes open-pollinated seeds that are organically cultivated, patent-free and are in the public domain. The farmers can use them for free, instead of having to use the seeds coming from multinationals and Indian companies who only supply hybrid varieties that contribute to create monoculture, therefore, threaten India’s agricultural biodiversity. It’s a win for the producers, the consumer and the environment.