Subsistence Farming in Africa

Post COVID-19, it’s time for a rural revolution!

Justin PlattBlog, COVID-19

We know that healthy food systems contribute to preventing and addressing infectious diseases, including COVID-19. However, is enough being done to ensure that all communities have access to adequate, safe and healthy food in a post-COVID 19 world? If anything, it seems that the magnitude of the pandemic has exposed the glaring limitations of the world’s industrial food systems; systems designed for efficiency rather than resilience; systems that therefore fail to nourish the majority of the world’s population adequately. 

According to the United Nations’ “The State of Food Security And Nutrition in the World 2020” report, at least 83 million to 132 million more people may go hungry this year as the pandemic highlights the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems. 

The report also said that “the nutritional status of the most vulnerable population groups is likely to deteriorate further due to the health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”.

These impacts include: 

  • Reduced access to high-value foods
  • Higher food prices (especially for nutritious, perishable foods) 
  • Higher consumption of ultra-processed foods

According to the report, healthy diets are at least five times more expensive than diets that meet basic dietary energy needs.

The world needs a food and health system transformation

Many people think of food safety as exposure to illness from either microbiological or chemical contamination. But there’s more to food safety than just food poisoning and contamination. The health impacts of our food systems and the role they play in shaping our health outcomes touch social, economic and environmental domains. Yet too often, today’s food systems result in harm to humans, animals and the environment. We need to shift to systems that do the opposite. 

Food safety is linked to all aspects of our food systems, including:

  • Fair and affordable access to food
  • Poverty and injustice
  • Weakened and compromised immune systems
  • Availability of culturally-relevant, appropriate food
  • Occupational hazards
  • Environmental contamination
  • Climate change

The issues mentioned above are all interconnected, pointing to systemic failures in our food systems in the way food is

  • Grown
  • Processed
  • Distributed
  • Marketed
  • Eaten
  • Disposed of

What does radical food system change look like?

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted issues of food safety and security. But what happens post-COVID 19? Do we go back to “normal”? A “normal” which means intensified agriculture and animal production, destruction of natural ecosystems, malnutrition and the associated rise of non-communicable diseases? 

An alternative is a ‘new normal’, with new ways for governments and businesses to start measuring success and agricultural productivity. Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic has given us a chance to rebuild our food systems. For example:

  • We need to take an integrated and inclusive approach (with human, ecological and animal health at the forefront) to: 
    • Food
    • Food safety
    • Environment
    • Trade
    • Agriculture
  • Governments need to develop new policies that build and maintain sustainable food systems. 
  • Agricultural subsidies should move away from harmful practices to incentivising sustainable, safe and healthy food production.
  • Financial support should be readily available to research needs directed towards public issues.
  • Different sectors of society (at sub-national, national and international levels) need to connect and collaborate to come up with food security solutions. 
  • We need to support the localisation or regionalisation of food systems. 
  • Shorter supply-chains need to be created to increase food access, build resiliency, support local economies and protect cultural traditions and livelihoods.

Food security is everyone’s business 

We all have a role to play in ensuring a safe, resilient and equitable future of food. At Zylem, we focus on sustainable farming methods and inputs that support long-term food security. 

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