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Can climate solutions support food justice and sustainability?

Introduction
Sustainability is now the desire of all nations. Yet, climate disruption is powerfully shifting path from sustainable life-choices of food, water and energy. Consequently, the overpopulating world is witnessing food justice movements more than the conventional social justice movements known previously. Has hunger not motivated such movements?
seedwheelEveryone eats. Besides, eating to nourish human body, food spawns social peace to curtail youth radicalisation, aggression, fear and civil distortions like bloody wars as well as ills related to malnutrition. For millions of smallholder farmers involved in cultivating food, malnutrition and starvation are still self-troubling. ‘Starvation is the characteristics of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristics of there not enough food to eat’[1].

Scanning hunger trends and futures 
Today, hunger and starvation situations are harsh but not worse as compared to 18th century. The 2016 Global Hunger Index[2] (GHI) uses four broad technical indicators namely undernourishment; child stunting; child wasting; and child mortality for 118 countries to demonstrate that the level of hunger is declining. The GHI score for developing countries had reduced from 30.0 per cent in 2000 to 21.3 per cent in 2016. The concern, however, is that proactive effort is required if goal #2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to be achieved.seedfjb

The global community is in crucial times to collectively get the zero hunger job done by 2030. There is no time to wait. This is because there are approximately 800 million – 1.02 billion people[3] who fall short of the ‘2100 kcal per day’[4]. On the basis of what the World Food Programme describes as ‘hidden hunger’[5], the malnourished population is arguably over 2.5 billion. And, if the ‘sustainable world scenario’ is not realised, then 13-25% of children can become ‘undernourished’ by 2050 – the period 9 billion people will likely inhabit the planet[6].

Is climate change not disrupting the earth’s resource systems to trick people into hunger trap? Apart from climate uncertainties, new causes of hunger have mushroomed in complex forms and scales, including digital violence, in the global South where there is high digital illiteracy.

International alliance against hunger
seedinterThe impact of climate-induced food insecurity is unevenly affecting all societies but developing economies are the hardest hit. Food inadequacies triggered the formation of global alliances and calls for innovative action from Stockholm 1972 — Rio 1992[6] to raise ‘the levels of nutrition’ (FAO, 1992) and, during the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the delegates came up with voluntary commitments to achieve food security. What about the happenings at Marrakech COP22 and Paris 2015?

Nexus of food justice, security and rights
The 1996 World Food Summit defines food security as a condition ‘when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’. How to feed ‘all people, at all times’ to fulfill this vision of global food agenda is a challenge. Many households, governments, NGOs and faith-based organisations are not able to feed all their people through mainstream food interventions. The indications are clear that actors can progress faster towards zero hunger by greenly funding and implementing Food Justice Bill (FJB). Some societies have recognised food justice as an assuring antidote to meristematically deliver food needs to all. Indices of food justice activisms or research activities had occurred in developed and emerging countries, including UK by FoodEthicsCouncil, Kenya by FoodFirst, Guatemala by Oxfam International, Ethiopia and India by IDS that stimulated the enactment of food justice-related instruments like Food Security Bill (FSB[7]). Food justice is  at the centre of the UN programme on Zero Hunger Challenge and the University of Sheffield is one of a few universities that runs an academic programme on food justice.

Literally, the meaning of FJB is not the same as Food Security Strategy (FSS) or Food Security Bill (FSB). From a new sustainability science context, FJB is distinctively a subset of FSS/FSB and best compares to the Right to Food. Most countries have been ‘slow in putting’ the latter into practice as a ‘human right’ (FAO, 2011: xiii). FJB has countless benefits for humans and nature. One of them is the elastic propensity to move food issues from the boundaries of ‘Rights’ to ‘Human Values’ reflecting the sense that, at a given time, a person may genuinely be incapable to feed him or herself due to socio-legally defined limitations. Is it not that ‘Rights’ go with ‘Responsibilities’? Fulfilling responsibilities in order to access food to eat is certainly beyond ‘all persons’ and, as such, the global agendas for zeroing hunger will be incomplete if they do not strategically build-in FJB. In classified war zones, it may be prudent to encourage governments to adopt ‘Right to Food’ in tackling hunger and malnutrition. In migrants’ situation, FJB does not promote ‘rights’ as priority. Instead, it encourages human values, which implies that migrants have micro-spaces to explore access to food at interpersonal, corporate and charity levels. Also, when it comes to the destruction of 0.5ha plot of food crops by adverse climate changes, this can be dealt with using climate solutions nested with human values — having spaces for disabilities and capacity inequalities.

Is integrated climate solution not needed?SDGs #2
Ideally, climate solutions should not exclude soft solutions of which human values are integral for fostering sustainability base for a society. The integration of human values into the formulation of climate solutions helps to facilitate fixing of complicated hunger ills alongside resolving conflicts and other sustainability challenges. Thus, integrated climate solutions mean producing and manufacturing of various foods through cleaner, greener and sustainable processes that rebuild resilience of the biosphere and avert pollution of both the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. This suggests that global governing institutions, donors and national governments ought to sufficiently invest in decarbonising economy, researching low-carbon knowledge system, sustainably conserving biodiversity, and funding ‘appropriate sustainable agricultural technology to deliver significant yield increases on small farms in developing countries’[8]. More importantly, reframing and co-creating local and international food policies to embrace FBJ can rapidly tip significant changes in social-ecological systems to aid zeroing of hunger among restricted and inactive persons, including prisoners, children, mentally-challenged persons and pregnant women living in marginalised conditions. A universal FJB will keep off the food saddle on the neck of central governments to working together with families, communities, churches and traditional authorities. It has high potential to globally force and move people out of chronic hunger and malnutrition. The UN SDGs will win big and society will be safer and sustainable.

 

Further readings
[1] Sen A., 1981. Poverty and famines: an essay on entitlement and deprivation. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.
[2]von Grebmer, K.; Bernstein, J.; Nabarro, D.; Prasai, N.; Amin, S.; Yohannes, Y.; Sonntag, A.; Patterson, F.; Towey, O. and Thompson, J., 2016. 2016 Global Hunger Index: getting to zero hunger. Bonn, Washington, DC, and Dublin: Welthungerhilfe, International Food Policy Research Institute, and Concern Worldwide.
[3] FAO, 2011. Right to food: making it happens. Progress and lessons learned through implementation. FAO, Rome.
[4] FAO, IFAD and WFP, 2015. The state of food insecurity in the world 2015. Meeting the 2015 International Hunger Targets: Taking Stock of Uneven Progress.  FAO, Rome.
[5] World Food Programme, 2007. World hunger series 2007: hunger and health. Earthscan: London.
[6]Pinter, L., 2016. Envisioning the transition to a green industry. A paper presented at the UNIDO/Central European University, Budapest, Hungary July 13. 2016.
[7] FAO, 1 992. Sustainable development and the environment: FAO policies and actions, Stockholm 1972-Rio 1992. FAO, Rome.
[8] The FSS is a large-system framework that deals with the past, current and future food security issues concerning an entire population while the FJB focuses on current food requirements of a particular underserved people constituting a fraction of a larger society at a time.
[9] Stockholm Memorandum, 2011. Tipping the scales towards sustainability. 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on ‘global sustainability: transforming the world in an era of global change’. 16-19 May 2011, Sweden.

Industry in sacks: global value of greening urban landscapes in a changing climate

 Introduction

Climate change threatens resilience and sustainability of urban development-environmental gains in the longer run. Even presently, millions of people are sternly feeling the risks of climate change like floods, hunger, energy deficits and heat waves in ‘urban areas of both developed and developing countries’[1]. For Toronto Urban Growers, they ‘see the impacts of climate change every day’. The connectedness of urban living, ecology and climate change arguably theorises ‘urban sustainability’ as the ‘most critical environmental issue facing mankind.’[2]  Associated to this is a complexity that consequentially resurfaces when the number of people living in cities keeps increasing and putting pressure on urban ecology. UN dataset projects that 66 per cent of the world population will live in urban areas by 2050. More urban residents will mean struggle to meet their competing needs, which will probably lead to complex city forms not different from what is depicted in a masterpiece on Making sense of cities[3].sd9

Universally, the interactions of climate change with the phenomenon of (peri-)urbanisation have complicated concerns for where urban authorities can construct landfills, water treatment plants, school parks, football stadiums, toilets and markets. In the process of providing these public services, the open green spaces are unjustifiably squeezed. Urban lands under agriculture is often underestimated and converted to different courses. The image of urban agriculture is outrageously likened to an industry in sacks, signifying it has no value. Even with this persistent misconception, the activity is enduring and rapidly proliferating in North America, Europe and global South[4]. From Japan, it is found out that ‘85% of Tokyo residents would like their city to have farmland in order to secure access to fresh foods and green space.’ This text re-examines global significance of caring for green urban assets, including producing food sustainably. Why shifting to a new regime of sustainability leadership that recognises that greening urban landscapes will enable cities, and people who live in them, to adapt or mitigate climate change shocks is re-stimulated.

Geotrends and meanings
In cities of Canberra, Shanghai, Singapore or Bogota, the varying effects of climate change on residents and the sustainability of green resources as well as the critical need to reverse the trend through cleaner, greener and sustainable initiatives is not disputed. I happened to visit Budapest, in July of this year amidst other colleagues, where I witnessed how urban natural resources could be expertly reordered to connect people to nature. Urban ecological modernisation is done beautifully. What could I say about the innovative micro-gardens in Dakar city? What about the neatly layout of greenspots in London’s Russell Square and the blossoming biodiversity assets in distant locations such as the Englefield Green? In Ghana’s capital city enclaves, the greenest index score could be found in Dodowa where phytospecies and other countryside assets are better protected and are in natural forms.

At this point, the emphasis is that urban agriculture is not simply the cultivated food crops we see or the uncared for livestock running along railways. The activity has evolved tremendously across geographical spheres, disciplines and cultures. It can be carried out to promote resource use efficiency and productivity; and strategically schemed to combat climate change. Thus, urban agriculture broadly includes hydroponics, permaculture, aquaculture, forestry, rooftop gardening, and mini-stories of several organotivars. The Berkeley Lab excellently elaborates what is meant by ‘precision urban agriculture’.

The undiscovered industry
Innovative practice of urban agriculture fits advancement of the concept of green economy, which is at the ‘forefront of the international sustainable development agenda’. Yet, its value is not something everyone accepts.

The value chain of manufacturing inputs to support output maximisation from urban agricultural activities is in excess of €78.8 billion in cities of global South annually. With rising attempt to introduce solar-driven irrigation technologies to green plots in cities, the potential is certainly higher than I predicted. This is an industry that encompasses selling of pot flowers, ICT messaging to deliver nutrition and extension news to reach growers and consumers, trading and packaging of fruits, creating green jobs, manufacturing of handy cleaner tools, bioinsecticides, organic fertilizers, and light machinery as well as providing expert industrial consultancies so that urban agricultural activities are practised on the basis of greener and sustainable principles, regulations and technical guidelines.

It recycles by-products from biodegradable origin to cultivate and produce pot plants for landscape improvements and, in some instances, feed for livestock or food for human consumption.

In Harare, Hanoi, Havana and Honolulu, thousands of residents are actively working soils to derive multifunctional benefits, including cooling of microclimatic conditions. Havana, in particular, has enviable record in hydroponics and about 90,000 residents are involved in agricultural-related activities. The residents of Windhoek, Lusaka and Cape Town are gaining from agricultural land uses within their cities. In Windhoek, the UN-FAO and local government agencies partnered with private sector institutions, including UPH Consultancy, to encourage residents to translate the science of horticulture into enhancing environments and food production. UPH adopts vermicompost production and application, which greatly contributes to eco-prosperity and limits the rate of evapotranspiration thereby reducing global warming at a micro scale.

Greening to purge climate risks
In Ghana, not less than 60% of local poultry is commercially reared outside of city fringes like Accra. With regards to vegetables, almost 90% of cabbage, lettuce, carrot, and leafy onions consume every day are cultivated within city catchments. These small-scale plots of green biospecies absorb essential proportion of CO2 to perform photosynthetic processes. Also, the vegetable plots are commonly sited along roads or near to markets. Because of the close proximity, there is no need to burn fossil fuel to transport harvested produce to markets. Emitting GHGs is avoided. Similarly, refrigeration is minimised since the fresh produce is sold out at the market immediately without storing in refrigerators. The situation where ‘chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)’[5] can arise from refrigeration to damage ozone layer is zero or negligible in regards to urban agriculture.

Scientific advances
Greening urban agricultural value chain provides climate solutions. Advances in scientific research prove this. The extent it does remain mystery to many, though. As I indicated above, it is evidently documented that urban agriculture ‘taps into a significant part of the photosynthetic resources of the city; thus the green agenda is advanced through the brown agenda of the city synergistically’ (Murphy 1999 cited in UN-Habitat, 2009:121). A more recent research result released by scientists based at the University of California reaffirms that urban agriculture, including the practice of gardening is important in aiding the reduction of GHGs. An aspect of the result, which was shared by ScienceDaily and the Food Climate Research Network based at the University of Oxford is summarised as: ‘In the baseline vegetable garden scenario, the gardens were calculated to be able to contribute 0.5 percent of the city of Santa Barbara’s 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target, 3.3 percent of the 2020 target for unincorporated Santa Barbara County and 7.8 percent of the state of California’s 2020 target.[6] Cautiously analysing and drawing insight from this result goes to strongly substantiate the notion that urban agriculture has ‘high potential for improving the urban environment and urban adaptation to climate change’.

Resource efficiency and eco-friendly
The evidence is clear that greening urban lands could lessen climate change risks and boost resource efficiency. Combining the maintenance of wetlands, community gardens and aquaculture with wastewater treatment and its reuse could increase efficient use of urban natural resources for multi-purposes as it is the case in Calcutta, Beijing, Pretoria[7] and Kampala. In Lethbridge city, the adoption of ‘crop management and biodiversity for weed and insect control’ helped to decouple environmental pollution from production system.

Co-engaging all heads and hands
The sustainable formation of cities, including greening of landscapes, to deal with unpredictably surging hazards of climate change will require co-engagements to be successful. Why? Urban sustainability is a multifaceted task. As a result, consulting others and leaving out scientists is not a genuine urban development approach and will not work well as explicitly encapsulated in ‘Scientists must have a say in the future of cities’[8]. Harnessing development-environmental values offered by urban agriculture to resolve crisis of GHGs demand that actors are involved in urban policy formulation and implementation from local to global level along the vision of achieving smart-climate cities. This means, as has been said over and over, that urban agriculture should be integrated into ‘city-level climate change strategies’ – an integration that does not divide or exclude people.

Division among actors becomes the root cause of why even a well-planned and adequately financed intervention can go into disarray to instead invite detrimental impacts of climate change. The gathering of global audience for the 2016 UN-Habitat III event, which has perhaps ended a dozens of hours ago, in Quito to renew and reset New Urban Agenda is a fine moment to soberly reflect and come out with clear path and plan of how greening cities can be responsibly financed. We are also in another exciting season to see the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PACC) ratified by 83 countries globally as at October 5, 2016. Sustainability leadership is required to enable the PACC and goal #11 of agenda 2030 recognise green urban agriculture, in addition to other global strategies, in building resilient and sustainable cities. Whatever approach is applied; if you are urban grower, you are indeed a climate change champion as the Toronto Urban Growers would say. And, for National Geographic, you are ‘growing a green future’. In my own view, you are a planet sustainer and not involved in an industry that is in ‘sacks’ but abundantly blessed for green success in future.

[1] UN-Habitat, 2009. Planning sustainable cities: global report on human settlements 2009. UN Human Settlements Programme. Earthscan: London.
[2] McDonald, G. and Patterson, M.G., 2007. Bridging the divide in urban sustainability: from human exemptionalism to new ecological paradigm. Urban Ecosystems 10 (2) 169-190.
[3] Badcock, B. 2002. Making sense of cities. A geographical survey. Cambridge University Press: London.
[4] Lynch, K. 2002. Urban agriculture. In: Desai, V. and Potter, R. B. (eds.) The companion to development studies. Arnold Publishers: London.
[5] Lorenzo, G.C. 2016. Integrated solutions: the case of refrigeration. A paper presented at UNIDO/CEU Green Industry Course, held July 11-22, 2016. Budapest, Hungary.
[6] Cleveland, D. A., Phares, N.; Nightingale, D. K.; Weatherby, L. R.; Radis, W.; Ballard, J.; Campagna, M.; Kurtz, D.; Livingston, K.; Riechers, G. and Wilkins, K., 2017. The potential for urban household vegetable gardens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Landscape and Urban Planning 157: 365-374.
[7] Dubbeling, M. and de Zeeuw, H. 2011. Urban agriculture and climate change adaptation: ensuring food security through adaptation. RUAF Foundation, Netherlands.
[8] McPhearson, T.; Parnell, S.; Simon, D.; Gaffney, O.; Elmqvist, T.; Bai, X.; Roberts, D. and Revi, A., 2016. Scientists must have a say in the future of cities. Nature 538:165-165.

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