Life was more sustainable when we grew our own food. Money was not needed to buy food. As long there was soil there was food. We recycled our food source by planting seeds obtained from left over fruits and vegetables in the ground and watered them until they became food again. We reared animals like chickens, goats etc. in our backyard and got our meat, milk and eggs from them. If they were looked after, we were looked after. Life was that simple. When and why did that all change?
The onslaught of agricultural industrialization and capitalism brought about the need to get people into industries, producing more and making more money. It took people away from their homes and away from the concept of growing their own food. The excellent marketing campaigns succeeded in propagating the idea that it is natural to buy all your food from the grocery store and that gardening/farming was difficult and complicated. It also made people believe that farming/gardening was not for the middle class or urban dwellers but for the poor and villagers. Sadly now, even the poor do not see gardening or farming as an option. Children of this age think that food comes from the grocery store with no connection to the land.
The separation of consumers from food producers (farmers) has been fundamental source of non-sustainability that has led to food insecurity. This separation has gotten wider and wider as decades go by and now with globalization and world trade it has become as wide as distance between continents. Food is grown and sold across continents. For example, bananas grown in the Caribbean are sold in Canada. In Nigeria, you find fruits from different parts of the world. Food is being transported long distances to get to the consumers.
This separation has numerous implications which are all detrimental to our health and bad for our environment. They include:
- Degradation of food quality from use of chemicals to preserve food to keep it looking fresh for long periods. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and other illnesses.
- The need to genetically modify our food to keep it fresh longer, which in the recent years have been shown to have disastrous effect on bees threatening food production.
- Food shortages have been experienced for diverse reasons that include fuel shortages or increase in fuel prices, limiting food supply and driving food prices up. This is rampant in developing countries.
- Availability of Food coming from across continents in large supply, threatens the local farmers existence. Most local farmers are small scale farmers and are unable to compete with the large-scale farmers, who are capitalists and profit driven. Many local farmers have sold their lands and moved into other professions. This heavily affects food security because the local farmers ensure food supply within communities irrespective of the situation happening externally.
- With the effects of climate change happening now, food supply is becoming increasingly challenging as access to food becomes increasingly difficult due to natural disaster such as earthquakes, floods, fires, heat waves etc. impeding movement and causing havoc on food production.
The need to investigate sustainable food production options that will lead to food availability within communities no matter the situation becomes paramount. The same marketing campaign that got the people away from growing their food should be done to get people back to it. For example:
- Backyard gardens should be promoted in every home. For homes without a backyard, pots should be used to grow food in balconies or on window sills.
- Apartment building/ Condos should be built to have roof gardens.
- Community garden should be encouraged
- Shrubs, flowers and green lawns in home designs can be replaced with orchards at the development stage in residential home construction.
- As we promote tree planting, we should promote planting indigenous trees that produce edible fruits. As we promote flower planting, we should promote planting indigenous edible flowers that also yield edible fruits.
- Alternative agricultural methods should be considered such as aquaponics and hydroponics systems, especially in areas where land has been degraded by extensive use of pesticides, poor farming practices, drought, and environmental degradation from industries.
- Small scale farmers should be empowered to keep their lands and grow food.
- We should also look at building food processing plants within farming communities to ensure that food produced does not go bad because of limited storage options and logistics
Education is needed urgently to help farmers meet the challenge climate change presents to their animals and crops/produce. Farmers all over the world based on location should have a forum to share knowledge of what is working and what is not because global warming is here to stay, more natural disasters are expected. One thing is for sure is that we cannot do nothing.