Only a decade ago it was widely thought that tropical forests and intact natural environments threatened humans by harbouring the viruses and pathogens that lead to new diseases in humans like Ebola, HIV and dengue. Today, a number of researchers think it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases like COVID-19 to arise. These viruses have profound health and economic impacts in rich and poor countries alike and there is a growing awareness that the well-being of humans, other living things and entire ecosystems are closely interconnected.
In this session we look at how changes in farming practice - in particular growing monocultures at scale and an increasing reliance on corporate plant breeding at the expense of genetic diversity, have helped create the conditions for these new diseases to emerge. And we ask what can be done to protect us from future pandemics.
As the UK exits the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, foundations associated with the Farming the Future collective have been exploring new ways to deploy investment capital from their endowments to supplement their grantmaking in order to help finance a more rapid transition to agroecology. As part of this, the New Economics Foundation and Croatan Institute have been working collaboratively on a new initiative called “Redirecting Finance,” to explore obstacles and opportunities associated with bank financing and private lending to regenerative, agroecological farms and enterprises in the broader value chain that work with them. This session brings together various leaders involved in this inquiry from banking and philanthropy.
The new crop of farm support schemes – from Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) to productivity and Animal health and welfare are all getting finalised and piloted after some delay. The ELMS will be piloted in England in 2021 and so details should be available on what Defra will be paying for, who is eligible, how the payments and scheme will work on the ground, and how ‘whole farm’ the scheme will be. Do they live up to what we need for an agro-ecological transition? If not what can we do and how? We will hear from DEFRA on the current state of play and from farming organisations about what is good, what may be still missing from the suite of measures., and how we can influence the final schemes.
There will be a Q&A, so get questions ready. Participants will be polled during the session to inform policy makers on what ORFC delegates think so far.
There are many efforts made to promote better nutrition in Africa, with the hope that it will improve health concerns ranging from chronic malnutrition that causes mental and physical impairment, to non-communicable diseases to cancer. However the focus of these efforts is often very narrow and addresses the symptoms rather than the cause. They do not look at the underlying problems in industrial farming and the widespread use of chemicals to grow food and then to process them.
AFSA has recently published a mini Barefoot Guide on Nutrition entitled: Surviving Covid-19: the neglected remedy. This presents an agroecological approach to nutrition, which celebrates the many traditional cuisines across the continent, all of which provide the basis for good nutrition. It also recognises the importance of diversity both in how food is grown and what is eaten and links the health of the soil to the health of the stomach, helping us to understand that a diversity of microbes is the basis to good health in both areas.
The foundation of any agroecological food system is secure land title, especially for farmers and pastoralists displaced from ancestral lands and vulnerable to land grabs. This session will explore land rights and access to land for agroecological producers. We will explore indigenous and peasant experiences, especially from the perspective of youth interested in pursuing a farming livelihood. The session will feature a moderated conversation between La Via Campesina and the International Indian Treaty Council, two leading global agroecology and land rights networks.
Grasslands are an essential habitat. They are home to thousands of species, many of which are threatened and endangered. Grasslands also help to sequester carbon, reducing emissions,storing water and mitigating flood risk. Yet, many of our global grasslands have been destroyed. Decades of development, industrial agriculture or overgrazing have led to swathes of healthy, biodiverse grasslands being lost. Almost half of all temperate grasslands and 16 percent of tropical grasslands have been converted to agricultural or industrial uses and only one percent of the original tallgrass prairie exists today.
However, we can restore our grasslands. By valuing our species-rich grasslands and restoring them to health, we can help to stop our climate and ecological emergencies and create a more sustainable future for our planet. This panel discussion will look at the power and potential of grassland restoration with a focus on the importance of species-richness and biodiversity. Panellists will discuss restoration from a location-specific perspective, offering examples from around the globe and highlighting holistic management techniques.
This panel will explore the implications of technology--both high and low--on how we grow, harvest, distribute, and consume food. Farmers today are using image recognition technologies to detect signs of bacteria or fungus—such as color change, wilting, or spots—to identify pests and plant diseases. Predictive ordering algorithms are modernizing food retail and helping to cut food waste in half. Natural language processing applications can read tweets and restaurant reviews in order to identify sources of food poisoning, and improve food safety inspections. But technology is not a silver bullet and there are potential dangers around privacy, control, and who benefits. We will feature farmers, nutrition and food experts, and entrepreneurs who are grappling with these issues.
Agriculture and the food system accounts for nearly one third of all greenhouse gases, but the vast majority of this is from the energy intensive production and distribution of a few internationally traded commodities. Whereas farmers operating agro-ecological systems around the world produce food and resources for their communities while reducing cO2 emissions from agriculture and sequestering carbon at the same time.
Many governments now accept the need for net zero but there is a huge amount of conflict over the strategies we need to get there. From corporate veganism to carbon offsetting these false solutions continue to rely on the exploitation of people and resources around the world, just as much as the current agri-industrial food system does.
In this session, we will outline the Landworkers’ Alliance and La Via Campesina’s vision of how to create a genuinely climate friendly agriculture system while resisting the false solutions advocated for by the corporations ultimately responsible for reducing fossil fuels.
New research has found that for every pound spent buying organic food through a farmers’ market or veg scheme, almost £3 more is generated in benefits to farmers and growers, their workers, local suppliers, citizens and the environment. We show how buying food is an agricultural act with far-reaching consequences.
One of the main problems with our food system is that the price you pay often doesn’t reflect all the factors that have gone into creating it. This can disadvantage food production and distribution systems that do take them into account.
New Economics Foundation (NEF), in partnership with community-led traders Growing Communities and the Soil Association, shine a light on this with ground-breaking analysis. It draws on data from customers, volunteers, employees, farmers, producers, as well as environmental research and demonstrates how to monetise the true value of local, organic supply chains, now recognised as valuable ‘public goods’.
We discuss this ‘toolkit’ and its potential for enabling other community led growing and trading networks, such as Better Food Traders.
The Soil Association and the English Organic Forum have been working with Defra to seek recognition of the public goods that are provided by organic farming practices. From our research and representations, we make the case for these public goods to be supported by the government.