As the Blog moves through aspects of the agricultural supply chain, one important stakeholder group (and a good place to conclude the week) are those at the end of the chain, the consumers. Considering the global nature of the food system, a consumer’s behavior has implications beyond an individual’s immediate surroundings. Ensuring that there is a connection between
Oxfam International recently released a publication as part of the organization’s GROW campaign on the consumer’s role in building a “fair food future,” attempting to empower people to vote for environmentally sustainable and socially responsible agriculture through their purchasing decisions. It accomplishes this by drawing connections between the big picture, global food system and individual, daily actions, exploring a series of ‘what ifs.’ Here’s what they propose: What if…
…we never let an apple spoil?
According to FAO, about one third of all food produced is wasted. In developing countries, this occurs primarily between harvest and going to market, due to inadequate storage and processing infrastructure. But in industrialized nations, most food is wasted on the consumer end. Planning ahead and only purchasing what can be eaten, will help reduce this post-market waste.
…when we treated ourselves to chocolate, we made sure it was fair trade chocolate?
Often it is hard to obtain information about a food’s life prior to arriving on grocery shelves. The certifications and labels that were examined on the Landscapes Blog this week are one way to identify products that emphasize better wages for farm labor or more ecologically-sound agricultural practices. Oxfam’s report stresses the need to support the 1.5 billion small-scale producers, and offers Fair Trade certifications as one way to do so. As we’ve discussed previously, there are other labels and certifications (e.g. organic) that provide additional pieces of information to the consumer about the types of practices employed or even landscape composition (e.g. Rainforest Alliance/Sustainable Agriculture Network).
…we could save energy when cooking?
The report recommends three steps to reducing energy and water consumption during food preparation.
…urban households ate a meat-free meal once a week?
Livestock is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, from land conversion, improper manure management, and enteric fermentation. It is also a major consumer of water resources and grain-based feeds. The report recommends reducing the quantity of meat and dairy consumed, which is particularly high in Western diets. Still, many communities around the world rely on livestock for their incomes and food security, and Oxfam advocates that when buying meat one should make informed decisions and also consider supporting small-scale producers. For more on this perspective, the Nourishing the Planet Blog at Worldwatch Institute recently explored some of the United States politics behind ‘meatless Mondays.’
…we didn’t stop there?
Read the full report to learn about what actions consumers can take to influence the trajectory of agricultural development and the food system. This is a first step. How can we take it further, and connect the benefits of landscape approaches and the goals of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative on the producer side to the choices made by consumers?