We open the second quarter with anticipation to the UN Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogue that IISLA will convene in May.  Last month, we explored how to make healthy food more accessible to consumers and how to expand the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices through the back-to-back forums anchored on the recent studies conducted by our research team.  This month, we will examine the rest of the value chain to better understand the challenges faced by smallholder farmers and food micro entrepreneurs as we continue to craft grassroots-level recommendations for consideration during the Summit.  We look forward to your usual active participation in our upcoming IISLA Forum this April 27 as well as your continued support to our various food systems initiatives.

~ Jennifer & IISLA Team ~

Globally, we are witnessing an upward trend in organic food production and consumption and its market is forecasted to reach as high as $380.84 billion by 2025. The mainstreaming of organic agriculture is propelled by the growing resistance to "Big Agriculture" that is causing much of the food insecurity that smallholder farmers and poor households are experiencing, particularly in the developing countries. 

In the Philippines, there has been a significant increase in the size of its agricultural land dedicated to organic practices within the last 20 years. The country is slightly behind its national target due to various challenges from the farmer' perspective and issues in the implementation by government agencies and extension workers. Nonetheless, the rise in adoption of organic practices among Filipino farmers seems to denote a move towards the right direction, that is, food security. Organic agriculture is regenerative and it entails holistic practices anchored on the principles of health, ecology, fairness and care. But it doesn't come without danger.

A huge motivation for Filipino smallholder farmers transitioning to organic practices is still its lucrative market, both domestically as a niche market for the wealthy and mostly urban-based households, and internationally as exports. This is problematic for two main reasons. First, the reputation attached to organic products being alluded to the health-conscious, rich individuals creates a 'niche' market that leads to an expected profitability seen as an 'aesthetic illusion' - an unsustainable source of profitability. Secondly, producing primarily for export can lead to production of monoculture crops as it allows the foreign market demands to dictate what the farmers should produce. Also, as observed in many developing countries, it's only a matter of time until the large commercial farms borrow organic techniques and transition to large-scale organic production. The conventionalisation of organic culture, or simply "Big Organic" will lead to the erosion of power from the smallholder farmers and food insecurity in the same manner as industrial agriculture currently does. The main driving force behind the expansion of organic agriculture in the Philippines should be anchored on producing mainly for local consumption. IISLA believes that when the farmers are provided with the enabling environment, they will prioritise local consumers over exports; and only through this will the country achieve food security and self-sufficiency where farmers can exercise their freedom over what and how to produce, while consumers have access to abundant, affordable and healthy food.

Food Beyond Convenience 
Tuesday 27 April, 2021
This forum will be a follow up session to build up on the discussions we conducted recently on the consumption and production sides of the food system. It will tackle other key players in the food value chain and their roles in fostering food security. 

Food price volatility is a huge problem in the food supply chain, but stable and fair prices are possible. This is important to achieve affordability and accessibility of healthy and nutritious food to consumers and maintain profitability among producers and other actors in the food value chain.
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We will be conducting an Independent Dialogue as part of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. Join us on Tuesday 25th May to discuss analyses on the Philippine food system, focusing on the challenges and the proposed systemic solutions in achieving equitable livelihood. 

This Independent Dialogue will build on the studies and forums (expert panel discussions) conducted by IISLA in 2020 and 2021, particularly in four key areas: food production; food processing; food distribution; and rural financing.

Learn more
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IISLA is a social enterprise that embodies holistic values and the belief that we can create an equitable world, where people from diverse backgrounds and locations have equal opportunities. Our mission is to improve the lives of people in rural communities to mitigate migration, whilst simultaneously protecting the environment and preserving local culture. We believe that if people in remote places can achieve economic and social prosperity without leaving their homes and families, many of the social and environmental challenges we face today could be eradicated.
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