Sustainable Food Systems

Large-scale industrial agriculture remains the most touted solution to global hunger in development discourse. However, an increasing number of reports and research, endorse agro-ecological approaches that prioritize smallholder crop production to successfully meet the challenges of climate change and hunger.

The Facts

The current development landscape is dominated by Green Revolution ideals—improved or genetically modified seeds used in capital-intensive large-scale agriculture schemes with a prominent role for pesticides and fertilizers. Rather than contributing to food security and sovereignty, these efforts lead to large tracts of monoculture that prioritize export crops, require increased mechanization, and depend on multinationals for chemicals and seeds.

Agro-ecology provides another path. It encompasses a wide-variety of practices, which are coherent with key principles of environment preservation, social fairness, and economic viability. Agroecology combines parameters of sound ecological management, like minimizing the use of toxics by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers' livelihoods. Agro-ecological systems like the Rice Intensification implemented along the Niger River in Mali, can double small farmers’ agricultural output. Supporting smallholder farmers, who already produce over 80 percent of the food consumed in many developing regions, is the quickest way to lift over one billion people out of poverty.

What we are doing about it

Adhering to a high investigative standard with consideration of local impact and international trends, The Oakland Institute documents and advocates for agro-ecological farming methods that empower local producers.

The Institute’s thirty-three case studies released in 2015 shed light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent. They demonstrate with facts and figures how an agricultural transformation respectful of the farmers and their environment can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while also fighting climate change and restoring soils and the environment.

Publications

Jadu'I: The Lost Watermelon of Jenin, Cover

Jadu'I

Jenin is a city located in the northern West Bank where Palestinian farmers used to grow the ba'al succulent watermelon known as Jadu'I. Under the occupation, the Jadu'I was nearly lost. But today, a new generation of agriculturalists are trying to revive it.
Canaan Palestine: Cover

Canaan Palestine

Caanan Palestine helps Palestinian farmers to grow organic crops and get fair trade certification. Improved market access and increased returns on their crops makes it possible for thousands of Palestinian farmers and their families to earn a better living. The project gives hope for the future of food producers living and working under Israeli occupation.

Voices From Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa

This report issues a direct challenge to Western-led plans for a genetically engineered revolution in African agriculture, particularly the recent misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African resistance and solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need.

The High Food Price Challenge: A Review of Responses to Combat Hunger

High food prices in 2007-2008 threatened the livelihoods and food security of billions of people worldwide for whom getting enough food to eat was already a daily struggle. All over the world, individuals, civil society groups, governments and international organizations took action to cope with the crisis triggered by skyrocketing food prices.

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How Food Became a Casualty of Biotechnology’s Promise

The first genetically engineered (GE) crops were approved for human consumption in the mid-1990’s. Now, millions of genetically modified meals later, the clamor over GE foods has become a fixture of food policy debate. The parties to the argument generally fall into one of two camps: those who support agricultural biotechnology as a solution to world hunger and the scarcity of environmental resources and those who warn that GE crops are...

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Blog

Image: Essential Workers. Copyright: Dignidad Rebelde

Ensure Basic Rights of the Working Poor on Cesar Chavez's Day

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 Andy Currier

Forced to continue working in conditions that place their lives at risk, the harsh realities these workers face in daily life are coming center stage.

A seed fair in Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Alexa Reynolds, ACF DR Congo

Emperor Has No New Clothes

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The EBA program was not created to help farmers. The Bank's claims to support farmers via the EBA is inherently contradictory to the own raison d'être of the program. The best way for the World Bank to assist farmers would be to disband the EBA program altogether.

Flooded fields near the Shire and Linkhubula rivers in Malawi. The area is still recovering from the flooding after Cyclone Idai hit the country. Credit: GovernmentZA (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Failure of Input Subsidies and a New Path Forward to Fight Hunger in Malawi

Thursday, January 23, 2020 Andy Currier

On October 15th 2019, Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhuma kicked off the 14th year of the country’s Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP). The program, which distributes vouchers to farmers that subsidize the cost of fertilizer and "improved" seed varieties, has been the dominant response to persistent food insecurity in the country.

Farmers prepare compost at a training at the Manor House Agricultural Center in Kenya. Copyright: MHAC

We Need Bold, Ambitious Action to Address the Climate Crisis – and Agroecology is the Answer

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 Elizabeth Fraser

With the clock ticking and the window for change narrowing each day that goes by, it is clear that we need a bold and ambitious campaign to invest in agroecological solutions that build robust, diverse, and resilient food systems in communities across the planet. The good news is, just as is evident in the Himalayas, such bold action won't just help us address climate change--it also has the potential to address systemic issues like poverty and...

Mariam Sow delivering the Declaration of Small Scale Food Producers' and Civil Society Organizations

A New Milestone Towards a Sustainable Food System – FAO Agroecology Symposium

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 Flora Sonkin

ROME, Italy—April 3-5, 2018, hallways of the FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) buzzed with over 700 representatives from government, civil society, private sector, and the UN agencies at the second agroecology symposium. Picking up momentum from the first symposium in 2014, and the subsequent regional meetings held in Latin America , Sub-Saharan Africa , Europe, Central Asia and Asia and the Pacific , the three-day Symposium...

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