I’m just back from two important meetings – a meeting of African food systems leaders in Ethiopia hosted by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), and the 7th International BCFN Forum hosted by the Barilla Center on Food and Nutrition in Italy. Both meetings reinforced for me the incredible work people are doing around the globe on food systems reform – from seed activists to corporate leaders – and the importance of strengthening that work individually and collectively.
In my keynote remarks to AFSA I noted that the future lies with us – those actively working on food system change. It’s easy to defer to high-level political leadership. We often do. But with recent geo-political shifts, we are recognizing that we can’t defer any longer. Jonathan Foley with the California Academy of Sciences – reacting like many to recent political events – is fed up. He argued in a recent blog: “We continue to think this time, this time, is the time we’ll get leaders who will address [the critical challenges of our day]. I’m tired of waiting. And so are many others.”
So then who? At the Global Alliance we are committed to doing our part. As a group of international foundations not satisfied with the status quo we are working at a global systems level to make the case for food system reform, to advance frameworks for change, and to highlight successful transitions to sustainable food systems, or what we call “beacons of hope.” In particular, we have been advancing our work on true cost accounting, health, and agroecology. In the grand scheme of things the Global Alliance is a relatively modest actor but, now more than ever, we believe in the urgency of advancing sustainable global agriculture and food systems, and in the power of working together and with others to effect positive change.
Together is an important word for the Global Alliance. Transitioning to more sustainable systems is going to take collective action, across stakeholders, geographies, and scales. We’ve been connecting with amazingly informed and dedicated people at events around the world from Sustainable Food Trust’s conference on true cost accounting in California to the Global Consultation on Farmers’ Rights in Indonesia, the Convention on Biological Diversity CoP13 in Mexico to the EAT Food Forum in Sweden and the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i. What I know is, again in the words of Foley, “Instead of waiting for some new political “hero”, or some miraculous new policy to arrive and singlehandedly solve the problem, let’s see what the rest of us can do right now … The heroes we are looking for are already here.”
There is incredible optimism, hope, and energy amongst our colleagues, stakeholders, collaborators, and partners and we must continue to work together in 2017 to further open-up dialogue, present viable frameworks for change, and push the agenda for sustainable food systems that are renewable, resilient, equitable, diverse, healthful, and interconnected. Let’s see what we can do.
All the best for you and yours in 2017,