On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Timothy A. Wise, Senior Researcher at the Small Planet Institute and author of Eating Tomorrow, talks about the agriculture stakeholders vying for a seat at the global policy table—and the agribusinesses who come out on top. “Ultimately, it is agribusiness who is at the policy table or influencing policymakers: not farmers. That’s a huge problem,” says Wise.
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Wise describes the current global food crisis that started nearly 10 years ago, in which a series of weather or policy choices impacted food markets: prices for corn, rice, and other commodities doubled or tripled, fueling rapid government responses across the globe. Throughout his research, Wise finds governments prefer expensive, industrial solutions requiring high inputs, in comparison to the low-cost solutions proposed by each country’s small-scale farmers. “Governments would argue that [industrial solutions] are more productive,” says Wise. “The whole focus on productivity is misguided.”
While the threat of chronic shortages or disruptions in supply has passed for many nations, a new form of food crisis with low crop prices and poor access to resources subjects farmers to poverty and hunger. “We’re concerned about the hungry, and the majority of the hungry are in those same small-scale farming communities,” says Wise. “What we really want to do is increase farmers’ capacities to feed their own families and then feed their communities,” says Wise.
In Eating Tomorrow, published February 2019, Wise reveals that the key to feeding a rising global population is investing in the small-scale farmers who already feed hungry communities in developing countries, rather than investing in agribusiness’ solutions: farmers grow more than 70 percent of the food consumed in these countries. And while small-scale farmers worldwide lack access to expensive or agribusiness-controlled resources, these farmers harness ecologically sound and biodiverse agricultural practices that can stand up to climate change effects and an increasing population’s pressures. “There’s low cost solutions offered by family farmers all over the world,” says Wise. “They are certainly there to be scaled-up. Governments just need to see the wisdom in doing so,” to support a resilient future food system.