The “Untold Story of Food Politics,” a panel at the Perugia Journalism Festival organized in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), featured a discussion addressing the challenges impacting global food production and consumption, including increasing population and diminishing agricultural output; decreasing biodiversity due to corporate patents dominating food production; the threats land grabs pose to indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers; and the political use of food in regional conflicts in Africa. Panelists included Antonella Cordone, IFAD Technical Advisor and Coordinator for Indigenous and Tribal Issues; Frederick Kaufman, food journalist and author of Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being; Iain MacGillivray, agricultural economist and Special Advisor to the President of IFAD; Sipho Moyo, executive director of The One Campaign; and Massimo Alberizzi, the editor-in-chief of Africa ExPress.
The discussion highlighted the increasingly tangled relationships between food, land, energy, water, and civil conflict in the modern world as food becomes increasingly scarce. “Because when something is scarce, then all of a sudden it can cost more, and all sorts of people who were not necessarily interested in food are now interested—I mean like Wall Street bankers, large multinational investors,” says Kaufman. “[…] the food story, and the energy story, and the money story, and the water story have all become one story.” MacGillivray also pointed to growing global interest in agricultural investment as a tool for economic development: “There is no other investment in these low income countries where they can get greater economic growth than they can from agriculture.”
Moyo emphasized the need for stronger support for smallholder farmers who produce the majority of the global food supply. He also called for advocacy for fairer prices for producers, stronger land tenure rights, and more viable employment options in agriculture for youth and women.
Moreover, panelists underscored the essential role that indigenous people and traditional knowledge play in promoting plant cultivation practices that may increase agricultural productivity and global food security in light of the adverse effects climate change global agricultural output. “Indigenous people are modern today, because their approach to life, their approach to food is holistic,” says Cordone. “It means that when we talk about food, it’s not only food; it’s environment; it’s culture; it’s spirituality; it’s economy—and this is all together. It’s not the simple package we buy in the supermarket.”