Transcript of "Sustainable Foods Summit Presentation"
Slide 1: “Intro”Good morning. It’s such pleasure it to be here today.First, let me thank the organizers of the Sustainable Food Summit and The Organic Monitor forbringing together so many amazing panelists and speaker. I’m looking forward to not onlyhearing what the other speakers have to say, but also the questions you all have.Again, my name is Danielle Nierenberg and I’m the Director of the Worldwatch Institute’sNourishing the Planet project. Worldwatch is an environmental think tank based in Washington,DC and will celebrate its 38th birthday this year. Our Nourishing the Planet project started in2009.I spent most of these last two and a half years traveling to 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa andAsia, highlighting agricultural innovations that are working on the ground. During my research Imet with more than 500farmers and farmers groups, research institutions and universities,businesses and corporations, and local and government officials, collecting their thoughts aboutwhat’s working on the ground to help alleviate hunger and poverty, while also protecting theenvironment.Fifteen sets of innovations are highlighted in our book State of the World 2011: Innovations thatNourish the Planet, which was released last year. State of the World is Worldwatch’s annualpublication and the 2011 edition is the first time it focused entirely on food and agriculture.We will also be highlight many of these innovations in a book we’re working on with the BarillaCenter for Food and Nutrition that will be released this spring. And this summer, we’re headed toone dozen countries in Latin America to focus on the innovations farmers there are using toprotect the environment.Slide 2: “Agriculture is the Solution”What I’d like to talk about briefly today is agriculture’s changing reputation. For so long,agriculture has been villanized for the world’s worst environmental and social problems—everything from deforestation and land degradation to rising greenhouse gas emissions andobesity has been blamed on the current food system. But today agriculture is changing and so isits image. Thanks to several recent reports, including the International Agricultural Assessmentand major reports by the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, the UKForesight Analysis, and others, agriculture is being viewed very differently than in the past.In fact, agriculture is now seen as the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.Of the 15 set of innovations we uncovered, there are really 4 that stand out in terms of theirability to create resilience in agriculture, improve incomes, increase yields, and promoteenvironmental sustainability. The innovations I’m going to describe today, include
-Innovations that help prevent food waste-Innovations that help youth-Innovations that help cities feed themselves-And innovations that help mitigate climate change. From sub-Saharan Africa to right here in San Francisco, farmers are using agriculture to notonly improve their food security and livelihoods, but they are growing and processing food inways that contribute to environmental sustainability. These innovations that are working on theground are changing the image of agriculture from a creator of problems to a provider ofsolutions.Slide 3: “Innovation 1: Cutting Food Waste”Let’s start off by talking about food waste.With the holidays over, I think a lot of us realize how much we overindulged the last fewmonths. Unfortunately, a lot of the turkeys, pumpkin pies, Christmas cookies that were part ofholiday celebrations ended up in landfills. It’s estimated that Americans waste about 34 milliontons of food per year, 5 million tons of which gets thrown away just between the Thanksgivingand New Years holidays.And last November, when the United Nations announced the birth of the 7 billionth person,many news articles focused on how it would be possible—or impossible—to feed the world’sgrowing population. By 2050, world population is expected to hit 9 billion and experts at theFood and Agriculture Organization have estimated that food production will need to increaseanywhere from 50 to 80 percent over the next 40 years. And there are questions about where thatfood will come from—will more of the Amazonian rainforest need to be cleared to satisfy ourincreasing meat consumption, for example? Or will sub-Saharan Africa become the bread basketfor China and the Middle East as a result of foreign acquisition of land, also known as landgrabs? And what will happen to our groundwater supplies and soil nutrients as we farm more andmore of the world’s arable land?Slide 4: “Cutting Food Waste: Waste in the Food Chain”But an effective way to make sure everyone is fed is by reducing food waste. Today, roughly 30percent of the global harvest is wasted before it ever reaches people’s stomachs.Food waste tends to be insidious—a little bit is lost in the field; a little bit is lost in storage; alittle is lost in transport; and then finally, a few percent is lost at home.In the U.S. households and retailers throw away an about one third of edible food annually.When you get home tonight, take a look way in the back of your refrigerator and you’ll realize
that those take out containers and left over rice and pad thai probably won’t make it to yourdinner tables or lunch bags later this week, it will end up in the garbage.Food releases methane gas as it decomposes in landfills. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20times more potent than carbon dioxide. And according to the U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency, landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the UnitedStates.In the developing world, a staggering 40 percent of food is lost before it can be sold or eaten,meaning that all the hard work that farmers do to fertilize and irrigate crops goes to waste,putting them further into poverty.Slide 5: “Cutting Food Waste: Solar-Powered Dryers”The good news is that preventing food waste can be both simple and inexpensive.Throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America, solar powered dehydrators are preserving abundantharvests of fruits and vegetables. In The Gambia and India, for example, drying papayas andmangos helps makes sure that families have access to vitamin A throughout the year; In Bolivia,farmers are using driers to preserve a number of different crops, such as tomatoes and potatoes,throughout the year.Slide 6: “Cutting Food Waste: Hermetic Sealing”And in West Africa, hermetically sealed bags, or what are essentially really big Ziploc bags, arehelping farmers to protect their crops from moisture, insects and fungus. Researchers fromPerdue University are working with farmers to manufacture these bags locally and help distributethem to cow pea farmers across Niger, Nigeria, Mali and other nations. This very low-costtechnology has the potential to save farmers in the region around $44 million annually.And in Pakistan, the United Nations helped 9 percent of farmers reduce grain storage losses byup to 70 percent by replacing jute bags and mud silos with metal grain storage containers thatprevent moisture and insects and rats from eating grain.Slide 7: “Cutting Food Waste: Consumer Education”Consumers are also learning how to become better users of the food we buy.In the United Kingdom, activist groups like Love Food, Hate Waste, are educating consumersabout how to prevent household waste. Love Food, Hate Waste has saved consumers about $970million dollars over the last decade. The organization offers consumers tips for foodstorage and recipes to make use of leftovers or food that is close to its expiration date. Theyprovide cooks with a portion size calculator that shows how much spaghetti or meat orvegetables to cook per person.
The organization FareShare, which is also based in the UK, gleans food from grocery stores thatis perfectly edible but would have been thrown away. It then distributes that food toorganizations, such as schools or food banks. Last year, the food redistributed by FareSharecontributed to more than 8.6 million meals, and benefited an average of 35,500 people every day.And in 2010, San Francisco became the first city to pass legislation requiring all households toseparate both recycling and compost from garbage. Those food scraps are providing an importantsource of organic fertilizer to both urban and rural farmers.And Food Runners is an NGO here that delivers approximately ten tons of leftover food toshelters, soup kitchens, and senior centers in the city each year. This one organization aloneprovides food families with over 2,000 meals every day.Slide 8: “Innovation 2: Reaching the Young”The next solution agriculture is helping provide is more opportunities for young people. At theend of 2010, there were an estimated 75 million young people in the world struggling to findjobs. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of unemployed youth increased by an unprecedented4.5 million.In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, up to 70 per cent of youth live in rural areas and half ofthe young labor force works in agriculture. Although employment in agriculture declined overthe last decade, it still remains the main source of employment for more than half of peopleworking in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.In the United States, the average age of farmers is 57 years old. And despite the recent interest infarming and food from hipsters and young hippies, only about 1 percent of the U.S. population isinvolved in farming, making farmers one of the country’s biggest minorities.But agriculture can be something that not only provides nourishment to communities, butsomething that provides intellectual stimulation, opportunity, and an income to youth and olderfarmers alike.Slide 9: “Reaching the Young: Developing Innovations in School Cultivation”For example, Slow Food International is working across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to helpreignite an interest in—and a taste for—indigenous foods. In Uganda, Project DISC, orDeveloping Innovations in School Cultivation, is showing students at 30 schools that agriculturecan be both profitable and a way to help protect the environment. The project teaches kids howto grow, process, and cook indigenous fruits and vegetables—vegetables that are not only indemand in urban areas, but that can also help mitigate climate change because of their resistanceto drought and disease.
DISC is also part of Slow Food’s 1,000 Gardens in Africa initiative which is working across thecontinent to increase the number of gardens growing foods that are indigenous to communities.Slow Food is also working to professionalize agriculture in other ways. The University ofGastronomic Sciences in Italy attracts food enthusiasts from around the world. Students learnvarious farming practices that are helping to increase biodiversity. Students also have theopportunity to gain hands-on experience of cultivating fruits and vegetables through the schoolgarden helping them connect to agriculture directly.School feeding programs can be especially important in areas where there’s conflict. Food fromthe Hood is a group of student gardeners that began in Los Angeles after the 1992 riots. Thestudents grow kale, eggplant, and 16 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Twenty-five percent of whatthey grow is given to the needy and the rest is sold for profit, half of which has been funneledinto scholarships for students.And in Costa Rica, EARTH University is developing an innovations toolkit that will helpfarmers thousands of miles away in sub-Saharan Africa learn how to be successful agriculturalentrepreneurs. EARTH focuses on building the skills of small-scale farmers and younger farmersto not only protect the environment, but also as the key way of moving families out of poverty.These sorts of innovations make agriculture something that youth want to do, not somethingthey’re forced to do because they don’t have opportunities. Agriculture can provide the economicand intellectual opportunities and excitement that have been missing in rural areas of bothdeveloping and industrialized countries.Slide 10: “Innovation 3: Urban Agriculture”The decline of youth in rural areas leads to the next issue I want to discuss. That’s the increasingrole cities can have in feeding not only themselves, but also rural areas.According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 800 millionpeople are engaged in urban agriculture worldwide, producing 15-20 percent of the world’s food.And the urbanization of the world’s population shows no signs of slowing down.In India, for example, around 100,000 people move to cities each year in search of jobs. Andexperts predict that India’s urban population will increase to 40 percent by 2020, meaning thatmore than 540 million people will be living in Indian cities.And in Africa, 14 million people to move to cities each year, a migration that is second only tothe massive rural to urban shift taking place in China.
Slide 11: “Urban Agriculture and the Poor”Because many urban dwellers’ access to healthy food usually depends on the amount of moneythey have, and food prices can skyrocket without much warning, urban agriculture can releasepeople from this dependence on the global food market.By 2020, some 35-40 million Africans will depend entirely on food grown in cities, making itimportant to find ways for them to grow food more easily.Fortunately, there are no shortages of successful models of productive urban farms, and thesefarms are often found in some unlikely places.Slide 12: “Urban Agriculture in Columbia”Bogota is the capital of Columbia, and home to over 7 million people, 20 percent of whom livein poverty.The Cities Farming for the Future program is spreading an innovative garden design that helpsfarmers grow food where there is no soil. The "Farming In My House" Project is establishing 20container gardens on concrete areas around the city. The project does a couple of things. One, itimproves the diets of families by increasing the diversity of vegetables, fruits and grains they areconsuming, and two it helps them market these vegetables to other consumers, helping themincrease their incomes. And the project is working to promote innovative waste managementsystems, such as composting, as well as encouraging households to collect rainwater.Slide 13: Urban Agriculture: Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya)I also had the opportunity to visit Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera is the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa with roughly 1 million people. It’s everything you imagine a slum in adeveloping country to be. It’s extremely crowded, it’s very noisy, it doesn’t smell very good, andit’s not a place you would expect crops to flourish. But there are a couple of big pockets of hopethere.Several thousand of the women in Kibera have organized themselves into self help groups. Thesegroups are finding ways to grow food and raise animals in their small backyards. One innovativething they’ve done is develop what they call vertical gardens, or growing food in tall sacks thatallow them to grow a lot of vegetables, like kale or spinach, in a very compact space, similar tothe container gardens in Bogota. The Kibera farmers sell their produce to other folks in theirneighborhood and also consume part of what they grow. These sacks turned out to be a veryimportant source of food security during the riots that occurred in Nairobi in 2007 and 2008—nofood could come in to Kibera, but the vertical farmers didn’t go hungry because they were ableto grow their own food.Another group of farmers in Kibera is also doing some innovative gardening in an empty lot inthe slum. The farmers are not only growing food to eat and to sell, but perhaps surprisingly
becoming a source of seed for rural farmers. In small double dug beds, fertilized with compost,the Kibera farmers are growing seeds of tomatoes, okra, and other vegetables and then selling theseeds to rural farmers. There aren’t many local seed companies in Eastern Africa and ruralfarmers often have a hard time finding good quality sources of seed.And the seed beds are profitable--- one of the farmers I met in Kibera explained to me that theseed beds have helped her not only pay for her daughter to go to school, but she’s also savedenough money to own her own piece of land outside of Nairobi.Urban farming isn’t just occurring in the developing world, however. It’s also something that isoccurring literally in our backyards. In Chicago, where I live, the organization Growing Power,is operating five urban farms that employ dozens of formerly unemployed adults and at-riskyouth. The food they grow is sold locally farmers markets and in a mobile grocery store andGrowing Power recently received a $1 million grant from Walmart to expand its operations.Here in San Francisco the Urban Agriculture Alliance helped change laws in the city, making iteasier for urban gardeners and farmers to grow crops.And Urban Sprouts is an organization cultivating school gardens in under-served areas of SanFrancisco. In the 2011 year they taught more than 800 kids to grow and cook food at theirschools.These projects are helping dispel the myth that urban agriculture only benefits poor people livingin cities and they’re providing an example for other cities to follow.Slide 14: “Innovation 4: Carbon Storing “The last innovation I want to talk about is how farmers are combatting climate change.According to the World Agroforestry Centre, African farmers have the ability to sequester 50billion tons of CO2 in the next 50 years, primarily by planting trees among crops, stewardingnearby forests, and keeping their soils planted with crops for more of the year. That 50 billiontons of carbon is like eliminating an entire year of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—and it would be a generous contribution from a region of the world that emits only a tiny share ofthese gases.Already roughly 75 projects in 22 countries across Africa are in the works in to begincompensating farmers and rural communities for providing this climate-healing service,including a proposal to create an African Agricultural Carbon Facility that could incubateprojects and help connect them with buyers.
Slide 15: Farm or ForestThe International Fund for Agricultural Development is helping to finance agroforestry projectsacross sub-Saharan Africa to help farmers not only sequester carbon, but also to reduce soilerosion on farmland. Agroforestry also has the potential to provide organic fertilizer as well asshade for other shorter crops.This is one of my favorite photos. When you look at it, you can’t tell if it’s a forest or a farm andin reality it’s both. And this type of farming and conservation has multiple benefits.In Burkina Faso and Niger, for example, farmers are restoring the Sahel’s degraded land with afarming technique called Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). The farmers prunetree shoots that periodically and naturally sprout from below-ground root webs. This helpspromote forest growth and gives farmers a naturally occurring source of fuel, food, or animalfodder. The trees also produce fruit and nuts and help restore the soil by releasing nitrogen andprotecting the ground from erosion. The practice also reduce deforestation because the trees thatare used for fuel are replaced with seedlings and tended by farmers, further holding down andregenerating the soil.I think there’s a tendency to think of sustainable agriculture as backward and industrialagriculture as more sophisticated. But agroforestry and agro-ecological practices are not a returnto old-fashioned or outdated practices. On the contrary, these approaches are highly complex,relying on extensive knowledge from farmers and an understanding of local ecosystems.Slide 16: “Moving Forward”Finally, I think all of these examples really help show how agriculture’s reputation is changing—farmers and scientists and government leaders from Africa to California are realizing thatagriculture can be the answer.Agriculture, when done in the right way, can improve biodiversity, improve soil quality, healdegraded land—and even mitigate climate change.Agriculture is emerging, not as an instigator, but as a solution to many of our global problems.Around the world, farming is being used to strengthen communities by providing a means ofincome and livelihood, nourishing families through improved crop production and protecting theEarth through agroecological practices. Every day we highlight these solutions on our websiteNourishingthePlanet.org and I invite everyone here to share with me your ideas and innovationsfor improving the food system. Because we are all part of the answer!Slide 17: Final Slide (NtP Logo)Thank you and I’ll look forward to your questions.