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As the team leader of the Global Perspectives Studies from FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Lorenzo Bellù studies the impact of agriculture in our daily lives. Is humanity threatened by mass food production techniques? Should we all go organic? I talked to him and brought you answers to these and other questions.

Photo: UNDP

Regarding the Zero Hunger goal, how can we overcome the challenge to produce healthy food for all?

I understand healthy food as safe food, which means is not poisonous or damaging, and then containing sufficiently nutrients, vitamins and proteins. On the other side, it is a healthy combination of healthy food. You can use healthy food and have an unhealthy diet. I’m saying that in terms of abuse of animal proteins, for example. Food may be healthy but the way you use it or abuse it can be unhealthy.

That being said, how to produce healthy food for an ever-growing global population?

There is a debate about whether farmers should use organic versus conventional techniques. I’m not against organic, but a key question is whether producing organic food is something that can actually feed the planet now and in the future. This question is an issue that still needs to be researched. Having said that, this doesn’t mean conventional agriculture doesn’t require investigation. In general, we need to identify sustainable ways of producing to achieve the SDGs, but we don’t have the answers. Moving food along the sustainable pattern require investigation, investment, commitment.

Are technology and social innovation helping with providing solutions to the increasing global demand for food?

We are going to face several challenges, one of them is in front of us, how to produce more food with fewer resources – water, land and greenhouse gas emissions. Technology may help us to use less water or using it in a more efficient way, it is something that may evolve a lot. But this requires knowing the moment when crops need water and the quantity. So technology can help with finding ways of dealing with antimicrobial resistance. The use and abuse of chemicals, medicaments, antibiotics to deal with animals and plants diseases cause resistance. Technology can discover new remedies ant the better use of the current ones.

Conventional agriculture has shown limitation in terms of excess withdrawal of water, fertility of soils, what has been useful so far to feed global expanding population now cannot be on the future, we are facing deflation of biodiversity. We must change the way of doing and producing things by spreading existing knowledge, investing more in research and development, infrastructure, know-how and expertise of people. We don’t have preconceived solutions. To move around these ways you need political commitment, private investment and the participation of all actors.

What is the role of consumers and their personal choices in order to push for a more sustainable agriculture?

I believe that the role of consumers is crucial now and it’s going to be crucial in the future. First of all, the consumer can decide to move personal diets into more healthy food. In developed countries, for example, where there is an excess of animal products consumption, we can move to more sustainable diets, because animal processing is very intense on gas emissions. (By eating too many animal products), I am not going to help myself and other people and I put pressure on the market, contributing to raising prices. Consumers are sovereign, what they decide can influence production and is going to be crucial to go on the sustainable path.

Many experts and influencers advocate for organic, regional, seasonal food. Is it part of the solution to make agriculture more sustainable?

It’s important to rely on trustworthy information and not ‘fake news’ sources concerning food. On internet you find everything, consumers have to be informed but not trapped getting wrong signals. Not all the websites are the same. But I believe consumers who want to privilege organic food may have their right to do that. I believe the awareness is a key factor also in pushing production techniques. I’m not saying that local food intended as self-sufficiency of small, regional areas is necessarily more sustainable than traditional. To some extent, exchange of food across different zones may help increase sustainability, so you are not forced to produce some kinds of food. If you live in a zone where water and land are under stress, there is no need to produce that to fulfill needs. So it doesn’t exist simple solutions to complex problems. But consumers who want strawberries in winter time need to know it’s not advisable. If they want cherries in December in Europe and they’re coming from Australia, it’s not environmentally sound. You can consume other things. We need to be wiser about what the implications are.

What should we be aware of working conditions and other social impacts of agriculture?

When we eat food at cheaper prices, we don’t count externalities like footprints as transport cost and pollution. We don’t fully internalize the costs of gas emissions. The food is cheap, I consume it, but environmentally and socially it may not be cheap. Prices are signals the consumer receive, but the cost of polluting water sources may not be reflected in these prices. Food may come at cheaper prices because people work with indecent wages and conditions. In some parts of the world, labor conditions are not acceptable, that’s why FAO push member countries do adopt legislation to impose decent working conditions. FAO avocates for responsible investment in agriculture, respect for the environment, local values, right to food, access to resources to small holders. It may imply higher costs, but the consumers have to be aware of what they consume and if it comes from countries which actually respect these conditions. If we move in that direction we may be close to achieve the SDGs.

Horyou is a strong supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This article highlights challenges and solutions for SDG12 – Responsible consumption and production.

Horyou soutient des initiatives innovantes qui s’inscrivent en résonance avec les Objectifs de Développement Durable des Nations Unies. Ainsi, nous sommes heureux de partager la campagne de Food Save Challenge, promue par notre partenaire Impact Hub Lausanne.

Savez-vous que plus de 12000 tonnes de nourriture sont non consommées par an en Suisse? Cela représente un budget de plus de 64 Millions de francs.

Le problème n’affecte seulement la Suisse – il est global et si concernant que fait partie des Objectifs de Développement Durable de l’ONU. En pensant à lui donner des solutions innovantes, Impact Hub Lausanne lance le Food Save Challenge, un défi pour startups. L’entrepreneur qui présente les idées plus innovantes sur le gaspillage va gagner 9 mois de soutien financier, coaching et un space de travail au Impact Hub Lausanne valant jusqu’à CHF 50,000. Les candidatures sont ouvertes jusqu’à 10 Novembre.

Pour participer du Challenge, il faut être un entrepreneur ou une start-up résidant actuellement en Suisse et présenter un projet avec potentiel d’impact de réduction de gaspillage alimentaire dans la région de Lausanne. Les critères comprennent aussi «adaptation du réseau» – si l’initiative est un ajout précieux au réseau d’épargne alimentaire existant, «faisabilité», «durabilité» et «attractivité».

Le Food Save Challenge fait partie d’un projet plus large, le Lab Vie Durable, qui veut promouvoir des modes de vie durable em Suisse Romande, en créant une plateforme multipartie qui favorise la collaboration ouverte entre les acteurs privés, publiques et associatifs, em se focalisant sur trois thématiques: consommation responsable et futur de l’alimentation, santé et bien-être, mobilitées et communauté durables.

Au delà du Lab Vie Durable, il y a aussi des projets Open Labs, notamment des sessions de travail ouvertes à tous, et un Social Labs, qui débutera em 2018 et offrira une processus expérimental d’apprentissage et de prototypage avec une cohorte de 12-24 leaders d’opinions. «Le Lab Vie Durable avec son approche régionale est un premier pas pour renforcer les liens et synergies entre acteurs clés de l’Arc Lémanique, créer une seule communauté grandissante dans la région et contribuer ainsi à l’essor de la Romandie et son positionnement en tant que leader régional d’innovation durable!», a dit Amanda Byrne, co-fondatrice de l’initiative.

We never think about eating as a political act, even though our choices are directly linked to social and environmental issues. Fair production and trade, water consumption of each product we buy at the market and carbon footprint of food transportation are only a few of the concerns we should take into consideration before giving the first bite in an apparently innocent snack. The organization Slow Food International does a great work raising awareness into the civil society and promoting fair, healthy, harmonic initiatives that both respect the environment and communities. Here are highlights of their interview!

Wheat farmer in Australia
Wheat farmer in Australia

1. What is Slow Food International’s purpose?

Slow Food is committed to restoring the value of food and to grant the due respect to those who produce it in harmony with the environment and ecosystems, thanks to their traditional knowledge. Since 1996 Slow Food has started to work directly with small-scale producers in order to help them safeguard agro biodiversity and traditional knowledge through projects like the Ark of Taste, that collects small-scale quality productions that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the entire planet and today have almost 4,500 products on board. Or Presidia, that sustain quality production at risk of extinction, protect unique regions and ecosystems, recover traditional processing methods, safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties. One of the projects Slow Food is most proud of is “10.000 Gardens in Africa”, launched in 2010. The Gardens are created by local communities who plant traditional vegetables, fruits, culinary and medicinal herbs using sustainable techniques, involving young people and drawing on the knowledge of the elderly. The aim is to promote biodiversity, value African gastronomic cultures and raise awareness about big issues like GMOs, land grabbing and sustainable fishing. Around a third of the gardens are in schools, serving as open-air classrooms with an important educational function and often supplying healthy, fresh vegetables for school meals. This, in turn, is training a network of leaders aware of the value of their land and their culture. The other gardens are run by communities, and the produce is used primarily to improve the nutritional value of the community members’ everyday diet, while any surplus is sold to generate supplementary income.

In 2004, Slow Food launched the Terra Madre network, which brings together food producers, fishers, breeders, chefs, academics, young people, NGOs and representatives of local communities from 160 countries. In a world dominated by industrial production, Terra Madre, which means Mother Earth, actively supports the small-scale farmers, breeders, fishers and food artisans around the world whose approach to food production protects the environment and communities.

2. What is your mission and vision of the world?

Slow Food was founded to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and to encourage people to be aware about the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good, clean and fair. Good, because it is healthy in addition to tasting good; clean because it is produced with low environmental impact and with animal welfare in mind; and fair because it respects the work of those who produce, process and distribute it. For this reason Slow Food works to defend biodiversity and to promote a sustainable and environmentally friendly food production and consumption system; to spread sensory education and responsible consumption; and to connect producers of quality foods with co-producers (conscious consumers) through events and initiatives.

Farmer's market
Farmer’s market

3. The Slow Food movement has gained more momentum in the last years. What would you consider as the main reasons behind the increased global awareness of the way we consume food?

We think that today, due to the increasing level of illnesses related to our daily food, people are starting to realize that their actions and daily choices have a repercussion on their health. People are starting to be more accurate in their food choices, on where they buy their food, on what’s inside what they eat. Also the concerns about the environmental challenges, like climate change, has increased the attention consumers are paying to how their choices can mitigate them. The industrial food system of production and consumption is in fact the first cause of pollution, CO2 production, loss of biodiversity. Today, Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries. Among them, a network of around 100,000 Slow Food members are linked to 1,500 local chapters worldwide.

4. Are you committed to the Sustainable Development Goals or do you address some of the SDGs with your projects?

Some of the Sustainable Development Goals share our philosophy and our aim. Our philology, good, clean and fair tackles several SDGs, naming good health and wellbeing, responsible production and consumption, decent work and economic growth. We are working to address the huge problem of food waste, by organizing events like Disco Soup through our Young network, where people cook only food that would have been thrown away. That means that we are trying to help reach the zero hunger goal and that we vision sustainable cities and communities that would weigh as less as possible on the environment. Industrial animal production (linked to high levels of meat consumption) is responsible for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions, if we take into account the whole chain from food production to final consumption. Similarly, aquaculture consumes immense quantities of fishmeal, pollutes the water and, in many parts of the world, is responsible for the destruction of wide swathes of mangrove forest. On 2015 Slow Food launched an appeal called “Let’s not eat up our planet! Fight Climate Change” which aimed to sensitize the public on how much the agriculture weights on the climate change issue. Also for the “life on land and below water”, we are really sensitive about animal wellbeing, and we organize every two year an event called Slow Fish completely dedicated to sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystems.

Slow Food International has built a network with chefs worldwide
Slow Food International has built a network with chefs worldwide

5. Do you think food industries are getting more committed to producing food with less environmental, health and social impact? What are your main challenges to get them on board?

We have recently seen an increase of attention regarding these aspects. If industries are interested in finding more sustainable solutions for the environment and the health (in a serious way and not for marketing reasons) we are ready to facilitate the process and give advice.

6. Horyou is the social network for social good. What’s the importance of internet and social media to spread the message of movements like Slow Food and other positive initiatives?

We think that internet is a fundamental tool that can be used to share ideas, visions and experiences all over the world. For example people, especially youngsters and producers, could share their experiences to see how a same problem is tackled in different areas of the globe. Conversely, we don’t think it’s a useful tool if it takes place of human interactions and communications.

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

IsegeretotoSchool-3

Scarcity of food is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Access to healthy food at a reasonable price can be an obstacle to the well-being of children from modest backgrounds. Since the 1980s, food prices have constantly increased, especially in Africa, where income inequality leads to an inability to earn money and people often resort to a barter economy. Consequently, in sub-Saharan schools, children sometimes come to school on empty stomachs, and since the prices are very volatile on the food market, the cost for the school to feed the children is a real challenge. Many people have abandoned traditional foods in this area, and people are starting to forget indigenous varieties of plants.

Enter Julien Kauer, who wants to raise awareness and encourage the use of local food sources. Kauer, from Switzerland, created a project to lead the Isegeretoto School in Western Kenya to self-sufficiency.

Please tell us about the project.

It’s an organic farming project called Food Sovereignty at Isegeretoto School, Kenya. It’s my second time coordinating an organic farming project at Isegeretoto School, a primary school of around 300 children in Malaba, Kenya. The second project started in February 2015, and our aim is to produce enough to fulfill the need of the school in terms of food: cereals, vegetables, fish, milk, oil and mushrooms. The food self-sufficiency will allow the school to reduce the school fees to increase the access to a quality education for children in our basically rural area.

IsegeretotoSchool-4IsegeretotoSchool-1

What is your strategy?

We base our techniques on organic farming, as we believe that it can enable us to preserve our soils for the future. It will provide healthier food for our children because we only use natural means to grow the food. We rely only on available means to ensure the food security of our school. In our region, even the mechanization, so to say, is unavailable: The whole work of plowing, fertilizing, planting and weeding is done by hand. This also is a step toward food sovereignty, as by using simple means, we master the whole chain of work. In addition, the use of a tractor brings the risk of expensive repairs, which could easily bankrupt a farmer in our rural area.

What are the results of your approach so far?

We have been very successful in all the goals we have set. We’re almost finished planting and fertilizing our fields, and we have started working together with around five different agricultural institutes of Kenya. We have employed many people from the region, whereby we taught them practical techniques we are using. We’ve also founded an environmental club in the school that enables children to participate in activities on the ground with us.

IsegeretotoSchool-5

Do you have media to share with the community?

Yes, I’ve started a Youtube channel that presents in a very concise and inclusive way our activities from week to week through short videos. And I have to say, the video media, but overall every kind of 2.0 media, is a real chance for a small initiative like ours to have visibility. It allows us to get support from all over the world in a few clicks, and other people starting those kinds of initiatives can see us and interact in a very constructive approach.

What are your plans for the future?

For now, our aim is to build two traditional houses for mushroom production and to start planting the indigenous trees that we’ll implement in our agroforestry fields. We’re going to introduce 1,000 fingerlings by next week. We also want to increase our fish production, which provides a quarter of our needs in fish, so we’ll continue with the fishpond we have. Finally, when we have enough funds, we’ll start renovating the three other fishponds that are now out of use.

by Vincent Magnenat

IsegeretotoSchool-2

Artificial Intelligence means new perspectives for governments and corporations… and everybody else

Technology has answered many humanitarian challenges, trying to foster inclusion at a pace that was unimaginable only a few decades back

After years of covering some of the most important technology events in the world, I was happy to witness the rising of AI for Good. While 2018 saw a burgeoning approach to Artificial Intelligence as it became the central theme of a few panels in major global forums and conferences or a key resource in innovative projects developed by a still modest yet resilient number of blue chip corporations, 2019 has obviously given the subject its momentum. AI is a market expected to grow from USD 21.46 Billion in 2018 to USD 190.61 Billion by 2025, and AI for good seems to be the new frontier to explore, according to a McKinsey studyFrom startups to established tech operators and from governments to social entrepreneurs, it suddenly seemed like the whole tech industry was finally on the right launch pad to propose devices and services that improve both our lives and natural or manmade environments and, ultimately, preserve the planet.

Education is one of the industries that have been positively impacted by AI and has potential to grow 38% per year, reaching an approximate market value of 2 billion USD by 2023. Gamification, along with assessment and tutoring programs are being widely implemented by corporations and governments to boost learning ratios, even in remote impoverished or isolated communities while reducing costs and, eventually, helping attain the related UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4). Now quality education seems indeed a reachable objective where it is most needed. Robots are taking center stage in educational projects, whether to teach students about coding and AI or to coach them, thus improving their level of interest in technology-related topics.

For governments, AI has proven effective in security projects, helping cities to secure big events through improved surveillance, using connected devices including drones, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices to better control road traffic or the air quality. Cities like Barcelona and São Paulo have been forerunners in that regard, while making sure their policies meet the aims of the related UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG11), specifically recommending the implementation of smart city policies.

Another major concern relating to sustainable development being population welfare, especially regarding food security, smart farming strategies are at the center of many country agricultural sustainable improved productivity programs, one of the biggest concerns of our times. AI for farming, include IoT, is a promising market and, only in the US, is adopted by 250,000 farmers, who are collectively spending almost 1 billion USD. And that’s in line with the UN SDG2. Producing food for an ever-increasing population in times of dramatically severe climate change certainly is the ultimate challenge of our society – and AI is indeed offering a highly estimated contribution. Companies that monitor crops and livestock, and those that are in the business of optimizing the efficiency of health plans, are part of the same trend, which otherwise rely on complex microclimate predicting algorithms and communication tools reaching out to farmers, providing them with more accurate information.

In a nutshell, AI for Good is good. In times when competitiveness, productivity and transparency are inevitably defined in terms of sustainability, they have no other option but to be intrinsically connected to smart, clean and socially impactful devices and services. Technology has answered many humanitarian challenges, trying to foster inclusion at a pace that was unimaginable only a few decades back. It is now the appropriate time to look at AI, as well as at its developers, and consider them as allies in the process of shaping a better world.

Join us! If you want to showcase your product, service or project in AI for Good, apply to speak at SIGEF 2019.

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) and its side event 4YFN, have some successful experiences to share with the social good sector

The Mobile World Congress took place from 25-28 February, 2019

Until a few years ago, the social good world was considered as a unique entity, completely separated from the regular businesses. Although it had common goals with the public sector, it was then clear that the ‘charitables’ or ‘non-profits’ shared few traits with the for-profit industries. The good news is, these times are over. Last week, as I dug in two most disruptive conferences, the MWC and 4YFN, I learned not only that social businesses have never been more interesting to the tech industries, but that they have many lessons to learn about them. Here are some the tech industry takeaways for social entrepreneurs:

They want to invest in social businesses – Regardless of industry, many big corporations have substantial open innovation budgets to invest in startups that bring positive change in their businesses. Clean energy, sustainable mobility, simplified and accessible payment projects, affordable healthcare, all of these are examples of areas that are in the radar of big companies. There was never a better time for social businesses to be funded and supported by for-profit businesses.

Accountability and Traceability are the future – As we’ve been seeing with the many Blockchain projects that have been developed in the last few years – going from cryptocurrencies like HoryouToken with its Proof of Impact to Smart Contracts that bring transparency to documents – traceability is key and, luckily, more accessible than ever. The future lies in trustworthy information, as consumers want to know more about the supply chain of their food, clothes, medicines…

Don’t be afraid of Artificial Intelligence – One of the most awaited events of the MWC was a live medical procedure – a live surgery performed by a surgeon on the stage of MWC, while the patient was at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. The new technologies will allow exchanges that were almost impossible in the past, due to geographic barriers, distances and broadband limitations.

Internet of Bodies and Biohacking – I witnessed, shocked, a volunteer had a chip implanted in his own hand, live on stage. It now allows him to make payments or open doors with his ‘intra-device’, but the possibilities of the biohacking technology go far beyond that. It can help disabled people to be less dependent on carers, for example, and has a huge potential in developing solutions for dementia patients.

The Industry of Care – As populations are becoming long-lived in many countries, the industry of care has brought promising technological solutions. From apps that connect healthcare workers with families, providing traceable and monitored care to non-invasive procedures for chronic patients that use wearable devices to prevent hospitalizations, there is a range of affordable MedTech solutions that were developed by successful, social-good-oriented startups.

Do you want to share your social innovation solution with the world? Horyou, the social network for social good, is the perfect platform to do so. Be the change, be Horyou.

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