How do we advance equitable livelihood in the food system? This month, IISLA focuses on the inequalities and other challenges in the Philippine food value chain. The recent study and forum that our team has conducted examined the role of key actors in the food system, determining why small-scale producers are the hungriest despite being the primary source of food for the population. We will be bringing this discussion further as we host an Independent Dialogue for the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit on May 25.  With your support, we hope to co-create a position paper for inclusion in the Summit agenda that is truly reflective of the plight and sentiments of smallholder farmers and small food-based entrepreneurs. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights through our various communication channels.

~ Jennifer & IISLA Team ~

Unhealthy eating habits within global food culture has become a growing concern, primarily because of the detrimental effects that they have on human health and the environment. The current globalised food system is built to increase productivity and supply levels but with little regards to nutrition. Modern supply chains allow big corporations to capitalise on unhealthy consumption patterns by making processed food readily available and affordable to everyone. Consequently, more people are suffering from micronutrient diseases. These processors are not sustainable in the long-run for our health, and neither are they benefitting the farmers and the rural economy. What would it take to rebuild the system to be more nutritionally orientated?  

Globally, a staggering 70% of small-scale producers provide the world with food, yet they are not benefitting from the current system. In fact, farmers and MSMEs are not succeeding in the globalised economy because they are unable to compete with global and national corporations that dominate the food value chains. This means that both parties often suffer from extreme poverty and spiralling debt.

In the Philippines, the distance between farm and fork is far greater, and so is the number of links working throughout the food chain. Farmers and consumers are no longer engaging with one another, creating a disconnect between the consumers and the food they eat.  Alternative supply chains can reconnect farmers back with consumers by shortening the number of actors within the chain. In addition, this change can provide farmers with a greater share of wealth. But is it possible to eradicate the middlemen altogether?

Core changes to conventional supply chains are required to ensure that nutrient-dense and sustainably-grown foods are available, affordable and preferable for everyone, whilst properly supporting the food growers and producers. Undoubtedly, food systems must transform in a way that nutrition takes priority. 

As IISLA maps out the key actors throughout the value chain in the Philippines, we seek to enhance our understanding of the stakeholders involved in the intricate system that supplies us with food. By analysing the evolution of value throughout the chain, it is possible to highlight prominent issues and thus provide the right interventions for a more equitable future.

At first glance, the Food Systems Summit 2021 seems to be a bountiful opportunity to discuss the future of global food systems. However in recent backlash, over five hundred peasant and indigenous-led organisations have positioned the Summit as neither revolutionary nor representative. 

These opposing groups have come into agreement that the Summit is riddled with corporate greenwashing. Simultaneously, despite it’s proclamation of urgent change, the agenda is still firmly set on industrialising agriculture to feed the hungry. In order to get their voices heard they are calling for a counter summit. 

Recognising this, at IISLA we stand by inclusion and diversity within all movements of change. All voices throughout the sector should be included, especially those disproportionately represented in positions of power. 

We understand that the failures in the food system lie in systemic issues that aid large-scale production. We envision a redesigned food system that benefits the health of all humans and the environment.

For us, the Summit facilitates a discussion on food system change and our approach will encompass both regenerative and green solutions.  It is vital that we revert from the status quo and head towards progressive reforms such as natural practices, alternative supply chains and the education of both farmers and consumers. This is our motive with or without the platform that the Summit provides us with. 

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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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