Helen Hill Putting food at the centre

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Helen Hill Putting food at the centre

  1. 1. Putting food at the Centre of the Development Problematique: Case study from Timor-Leste Dr Helen M. Hill Honorary Fellow, College of Arts, Presentation to Development Futures Conference, University of Technology, Sydney 21st - 22nd November 2013
  2. 2. The problematique and argument The issue of food, its production, distribution, preparation, nutritional adequacy and the task of putting in place systems to ensure its sustainability, have barely been addressed by governments or aid agencies anywhere. Every country’s history impacts on its food system. TimorLeste has a particularly high level of stunting and wasting, partly explicable by the 24 years of war. The aid system tends to divide reality up into ‘sectors’ which are not necessarily the most useful for addressing issues such as food and nutrition.
  3. 3. The importance of History ANU Anthropologist James Fox observed in 2003 that Portuguese Timor had a ‘Mexican stye’ cuisine, based on maize, pumpkin/squash, and cassava as basic staples together with mung bean, taro, sweet potato peanut, watermelon, papaya, chilli, tomato eggplant, Chinese and European cabbage and potato (Fox 2003: 107-8). The famine of 1980 and subsequent introduction of large scale irrigation to grow paddy rice by the Indonesians put an end to this diversity and introduced the Hungry Season. An Indonesian Army economic program the KUD deskilled farmers, turning them into wage laborers doing the bidding of soldiers and profited the army.
  4. 4. Four ways of looking at Food 1. As Part of Nature and the Environment, plants and animals which have been domesticated by human beings, ways of growing them and increasing productivity. In Timor-Leste this has been disrupted by war and famine (1980) during the 24 year occupation, which also led to the loss of the forests and promoted climate change.
  5. 5. 2. Food as Nutriment Food can also be looked at as primarily nourishment for humans and animals; adequate supplies of protein, carbohydrate, fibre and micronutrients are needed for human flourishing. These are deficient in most Timorese diets, even those of the middle class. Knowledge and attitudes are key elements in determining whether people get adequate nourishment; but access to supplies is also vital. The right to food is a human right - the UN has a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
  6. 6. 3. Food as Commodity Food ingredients are commodities traded internationally and locally, playing a part in Global economic exchanges, creating jobs and livelihoods and foreign exchange which helps countries, but also subject to speculation and fraud. In Timor-Leste most food is still traded through the subsistence sector and insufficient efforts have been made to create a adequate internal cash market in food. International speculation in food commodities, food futures and derivatives means that many are not following the ‘normal’ rules of economics and small countries suffer.
  7. 7. 4. Food as Culture Food is part of culture reflecting the history of a country, its cuisine, status of crops as ingredients, and influence of tradition or disruption of it all play their part. Gender relations are historically important to food as culture with the split between agriculture (men) and home economics (women) leading to the ‘breadwinner/homemaker’ divide brought in by colonialism. Timor-Leste barely recognizes food as culture, unlike Vanuatu which celebrated the ‘Year of the Traditional Economy’ and uses crops in all kinds of ceremonies.
  8. 8. The food cycle and jobs created • • • • • • • • • • • • Soil preparation and farm management (farming) Growing food (horticulture, agriculture) Harvesting food (personnel management, logistics) Storing, processing & preserving food (engineering) Transporting food (driving, logistics, management) Buying and selling food (business, communications) Meal planning, preparing (nutrition, home economics) Cooking & Serving food (culture, home economics) Eating food (biology, nutrition, education) Redistributing unused food preventing waste (logistics) Recycling food waste (local government) Avoiding food contamination (sanitation)
  9. 9. The ‘Hungry Season’ What is it? The ‘Hungry Season’ is part of an Indonesian discourse that asserted that rice was the only ‘civilized’ staple crop and marginalized discussion of what needed to be eaten with it. (i.e. fruits, vegetables and protein). The Hungry Season is when rice is not being harvested. While there are also difficulties with root crops during the wet season, Ego Lemos, UNTL Lecturer in Sustainable Agriculture argues there are plenty of other staples which can be used during this season such as Jackfruit, Breadfruit, cooking bananas etc. most of them more nutritious than rice (which has hardly any food value).
  10. 10. Attempts to Address Nutrition Medical Model – the MDGs limit this to under 5’s • HIAM Health • SISCa (Government’s preventive health program) • Supplementary feeding (Timor Vita, Guri Guri Gizi etc. Educational Model • School feeding program (WFP project, imported food) • Media campaigns, publishing recipe books • Food based dietary guidelines (not happening yet) • Home economics in schools and universities (may be) Agricultural model Seeds of Life Nutritionist Permaculture’s improved kitchen management
  11. 11. Gaps Identified in TimorLesste’s food system The conference identified a number of gaps in Timor-Leste’s system for dealing with food. - Dualism between ‘tradition’ & ‘modern’ in production, cuisine, and thinking. - Absence of food from formal education, no training for farmers, ‘hidden curriculum. - Poor level of cooking technology - Lack of awareness of food diversity, cooking methods, nutritional principles. - Absence of food from all types of media None of these can really be addressed by aid?

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