Food Security Governance – Empowering communities, regulating corporations. A new book by Nora McKeon

While I was in Rome this week I met Nora McKeon who’s just published a new book on how we manage our food systems. I took the chance to ask her to outline the key aims of the book and you can hear her here:

As she says in the introduction to the book:

“Food is the most basic of human needs. Maintaining a proper supply of it is essentially what food governance is about, and failure to do so provokes serious consequences. One to which governments are particularly sensitive is that of insurrection. The Roman historian Suetonius reports that it was the unpleasant experience of being pelted with bread crusts by an angry mob in the forum in 51 AD that prompted the Emperor Claudius to institute the most comprehensive food supply system the Roman empire ever knew, ranging from bread distribution to more complex measures like offering inducements to ship owners to fill their vessels with grain and planning a new port for Rome. Unsustainable – and often iniquitous – food systems are said to have contributed to the fall of a host of illustrious societies. The Sumerian civilization succumbed to a combination of technical problems (soil salinity caused by poorly drained irrigated soils) and political issues (the growing power of the priestly caste, who vested in themselves ownership of previously common land). The opening act of the uprisings that toppled the French Ancien Régime was the women’s march on Versailles on 5 October 1789 sparked by the high prices of bread in the market places. In a positive vein, three centuries of stability in the far-flung Chinese Empire of the Great Qing, embracing the same period as the French Revolution, can be attributed at least in part to deliberate policies aimed at keeping rural producers on the land and ensuring food distribution when needed through a vast network of locally-supported granaries.”

She says that “Now is the time to focus on food governance not only because we are getting very close to the absolute ecological, socio-economic and political limits of today’s unsustainable and inequitable food system, but also because there are alternatives out there. If we have the courage to say “no” to the dominant food system we are not jumping off a cliff into a pollyana dream world of pre-capitalist pastoral utopia. Over the past three decades a robust, diversified and increasingly articulated network of different ways of going about food provision have sprung up, rooted in territories and cultures throughout the world. Sometimes they are not “alternative” at all, since they constitute the main avenue through which peoples’ food needs are met, as in the case of the “invisible” food webs composed of family farmers and local markets in Africa. These solutions are practised and advocated by increasingly authoritative organizations of peasant farmers, artisanal fisher folk, pastoralists, Indigenous Peoples, urban poor and other constituencies most affected by food insecurity. They are mobilizing around their experiences and their claims at all levels, up to the global. Many of them identify with what has become known as the food sovereignty movement. This book will tell their story, along with that of the dominant food system.”

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About geofftansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I am also a member of the Food Ethics Council and chaired the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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