143: An Appetite for Adaptation
Welcome back to our series on the Future of Food!
About this episode
In this episode, we’ll explore the significance of adaptive transformation in global food systems. How do farming and consumption play into creating an inclusive, just, and beautiful future?
From empowering women farmers in Africa, to telling the story behind every piece of organic produce, from considering food value over food price, to what to ask at your grocery store, we examine why urgent transformation is needed to protect the people – and land – growing our food against the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.
You’ll hear from:
- Wanjira Mathai | Vice President + Regional Director for Africa, World Resources Institute
- Volkert Engelsman | Founder + CEO, Eosta
- Jenipher Sambazi | Coffee Farmer + Vice Chair, Mount Elgon Agroforestry Community Cooperative Enterprise
- Elen Jones | Co-Founder + Director, Jenipher's Coffi
- Ed Davey | Policy + International Engagement Director, Food and Land Use Coalition + Co-Director, WRI UK
- Helena Leurent | Director General, Consumers International
So with food being at the heart and centre of the human story, there’s not a minute to waste. Let’s get on with it!
Mentioned links from the episode:
- MORE LISTENING: Outrage + Optimism’s previous episodes on The Future of Food
- READ: What is Plum Village?
Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism! I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.
Paul: [00:00:16] And I'm Paul Dickinson.
Tom: [00:00:18] This week we bring you the next episode in our series on the future of Food. We'll be digging deep into our current food system to examine why urgent transformation is needed to protect the people who grow it and the land it is grown on against the increasingly devastating effects of climate change. You may remember we launched this series last year just before COP26. And if you haven't had a chance to listen to those episodes, they're great conversations with David Nabarro, Gunhild Stordalen and Agnes Kalibata and lay out what's at stake if we don't make this urgent transition to a more sustainable food system. Now, before we dive into this episode, Christiana and Paul, I think, first of all, we should just recap briefly on where we got to with food systems at 26, which, of course, although it wasn't the top line item, was a really important element of the negotiations. So who would like to kick off in that direction?
Christiana: [00:01:20] Well, here's a suggestion. Why don't I talk a little bit about COP26 and then, Paul, would you like to pick up on the IPCC report? Because I think both are really important contexts for this.
Paul: [00:01:31] Sounds good.Load More
Christiana: [00:01:32] So COP26, I would say from my recollection of previous cops, definitely the cop that gave more space to the whole issue of land use, slash food systems, slash health. We hadn't seen that. I think previous cops had been much more narrowly focused on emissions emission reductions adaptation, but hadn't really broadened our understanding that in fact, both emission cuts and adaptation are very centrally issues within the food system and affect our personal health. So really wonderful to have seen that space being opened up at the COP and much more focus being brought forward on how food is such an issue in our personal lives, but also in climate change and and addressing climate change. And from a numbers perspective, because many of us look at the cops and go, okay, but what are the numbers? Concepts are fine, texts are fine, but what are the numbers? So we did see more than before a commitment to reversing deforestation along the whole value chain, which will have a very positive impact on food systems and especially on the quality of those food systems. And we had 133 countries, 33 financial companies and $9 trillion that placed themselves behind that commitment. We also, from a government perspective, we saw the UAE and the US pledging $4 billion on farming restoration and we had 30% of the major food companies committing to science based targets, i.e. to really bringing their emissions down from both their land use and food production capacities. So quite exciting to see the cop really recognising the interlinked edges here on this and on so many other issues. Very, very heartening to see the beginning of that understanding that everything is interlinked.
Tom: [00:03:46] It's so critical that that happened right and provided so much momentum. And really, it's where many people, it's where their mind goes as well. We really need everybody to be involved in this effort to deal with the climate crisis. And food is such a fundamental part of each of our own carbon footprint. So the way that that actually gets integrated into international negotiations, I think resonates for people. I've seen that effect as well. Paul, the IPCC report also came out, which also talked about food. Do you want to touch on that as well?
Paul: [00:04:11] Sure. I mean, I just want to also respond to the comment Christiana made about these big companies signing up for science based targets. And it's a huge global initiative, Science Based Targets. It's absolutely brilliant, but it's kind of primarily about companies. And I just, it always makes me think of science based policy. Now, we need the governments to back the companies. They've got science based targets. Governments need science based policy. Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox. Yeah. Food is like a completely foundational issue. I mean, like, sort of stating the obvious, but we all eat. And in advanced economies we tend to think about all these different sectors, you know, video games and fast fashion and, you know, holidays and whatever. But food, you know, it's like we all need food. It's like the basic number one, you don't have food, you don't have a life. So the IPCC had some particular points about food. And one of the most scary ones is, is scientists warning that 24 billion tonnes, think about that for a minute, 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil are lost each year, largely due to unsustainable agricultural practices. And if this trend continues, 95% of the Earth's land areas could become degraded by 2050. I have a friend who runs a pension fund and he says that he's heard that there's only like 60 more harvests now. I mean, we have to do something about that. Studies that separate out the effects of climate change alone have shown that yields of some crops like maize and wheat, for example, in many lower latitude regions, have actually declined and increasing temperatures, unfortunately, will continue to impact food production. And the IPCC estimate there'll be up to 29% increase in the cost of cereals by 2050 depending on the amount of warming. And of course, that's going to have a dramatic impact on people on low income, you know, particularly. And that's just heartbreaking to think of so many more people put at risk of malnutrition. So I think the message here is that food is the sort of central focus of climate change for those who think globally and have a heart.
Christiana: [00:06:08] Well, an increase in food costs. We don't have to wait till 2050. Right. To see the increase of food costs. Are we not seeing it right now because of the Russian attack on Ukraine? Tom, you are, I think, the most up to date on that one.
Tom: [00:06:22] I was going to make the same point, actually. I mean, sometimes we look at these numbers, 29% increase in the cost of cereals by 2050. You can look at that and think, wow, 30% increase in the next 30 years. That doesn't seem too bad. Remember, these are negotiated numbers.
Christiana: [00:06:33] How about 30 hours?
Tom: [00:06:34] Right. Exactly. Actually, what we're saying, you know, right now we're at a situation where Russia and Ukraine together account for a third of the world's wheat exports, a fifth of corn, 80% of sunflower oil. I mean, it wouldn't take much, actually, in this situation of conflict, combined with extreme weather events that are sometimes precipitating conflicts, not in this case, but in many places around the world to see that number rise precipitously a long time before 2050. So climate change is fundamentally connected to rapidly rising food prices, and we should all be concerned about it, particularly the impact on those 3.6 billion people that were identified in this IPCC report as being extremely exposed to the impacts of climate change. Wow. So I think now we're going to dive into the substance of this episode, and it's a fantastic episode where we're going to take you to visit all kinds of remarkable individuals who've been leading on this issue. Paul will be your guide. He's going to take you through this episode brilliantly, as he always does. And the three of us will be back at the end for a bit more conversation. So enjoy and we'll see you in about 30 minutes.
Paul: [00:07:43] Thanks, Tom. Now, listeners. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Look. Of course. Transitioning to a more sustainable global food system is a huge and complex task. So in this episode, you'll hear a variety of voices working across the supply chain to bring about urgent reform. From farmers on the front line of climate change.
Jenipher Sambazi: [00:08:10] We experienced rain in January, yet it was supposed to have sunshine. So farmers are worried. We are really worried because of that.
Paul: [00:08:19] To the food distributors doing things differently.
Volkert Engelsman: [00:08:22] So I thought there's no such thing as sustainability without transparency, which was the sort of light bulb idea to start supply chains that are transparent.
Paul: [00:08:34] And what role we, the individual, can play.
Helena Leurent: [00:08:38] The importance of the consumer is huge, and that's because the scale of the transition is so great. We need every single part of the value chain shifting to get to that point.
Paul: [00:08:59] With global food prices soaring, the conflict in Ukraine, increasing pressure on food security and the IPCC warning of a drop in food production due to climate change, a conversation about transforming our food system has never been more timely.
Ed Davey: [00:09:17] Fundamentally, the 21st century, this terrible mixture of conflict, COVID inequality, a changing climate, loss of nature, all of these factors and others pose something of a perfect storm in terms of people's access to food. And there's just so much that we need to do globally at the moment to try to prevent those impacts.
Paul: [00:09:38] That's Ed Davey, Policy and International Engagement Director of the Food and Land Use Coalition and the Co-Director of the World Resources Institute UK.
Ed Davey: [00:09:52] The food system is at the heart of the human story. It's responsible for as much as 38% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. There are over 800 million people in the world suffering from hunger and malnutrition today. Those numbers have gone up a lot in the last year and a half because of the pandemic. There are a further 2 billion people in the world who suffer from the other side of the so-called double burden of obesity and overweight. The food system drives something in the order of 80% of the world's biodiversity loss and is responsible for over 70% of the world's freshwater use. And there are over 500 million smallholder farmers and families who depend on the food system for their livelihoods. So there's no way we're going to navigate this century to come without a major effort to address the world's food system. We've only got so much land and we've got many, many different uses of it. And so there is this pressing need before us. Twofold need, really the first to reduce emissions from land use. About 38% figure, I used about the food system. But at the same time to adapt to the changes in the climate that are already underway and that does look different in every continent, in every region. It's happening all the time already. But over the decades to come, the world is going to have to get much more serious about so-called transformative adaptation in the global food system.
Paul: [00:11:15] Hmm. But how to go about this adaptation to ensure a just transition for all?
Ed Davey: [00:11:22] Those of us working on climate mitigation in the land use sector have got to be incredibly careful and thoughtful about the measures that we put forward at WRI, we tend to talk about a four part strategy: produce, protect, reduce, restore. Produce more sustainably on existing agricultural land. Double steps to protect ecosystems that remain. Reduce food loss and waste. And reduce demand for meat, particularly in the West. And then restore degraded land. It's a very complex picture of the land use sector. Decisions taken in one place have a bearing elsewhere. Demand for land shifts if we reduce meat consumption in the West in terms of production, rather in the UK, but there's not an equivalent reduction in global demand. That meat production will be equal, will shift elsewhere and the problem will not be resolved. So there's a lot to be done, on the land use sector from the point of view of mitigation. That is a win-win in our view, and that would never have a negative implication on food security or access by the poor to food. But there are challenges. So bioenergy is one, which we think is detrimental to, actually to the climate effort, but also to food security. And also some of the BECCS models that are baked into IPCC scenarios could also be very problematic. So-called bioenergy carbon capture and storage. There too there are real potential risks for food security. But in the core of what I've just described, produce, protect, reduce, restore, we feel that the actions that need to be pursued in those areas all being well, would actually benefit people's access to food and food security. And most of us depend on a very small number of globally produced and traded commodities for the majority of the food that we eat. Therein, by the way, lies another problem in the global food system. We need a more diverse, more nutritious diet and a more varied and resilient diet. But of course, a changing climate and global geopolitics, as we're seeing at the moment, has major implications for the trade in those crops. And we saw at the time of COVID as well how disrupted supply chains, disrupted trade within countries, but also globally reduced labour forces in the food system all played their part in having a negative impact in terms of hunger and access to food during the pandemic. We need a resilient global trade system that remains open and that enables farmers to get crops from A to B. But we also need more resilience in our own food systems. In every country, there is a case for producing at least some of the right food for domestic consumption in countries where we see the threat posed by disruptions to the global trade system. One idea that the Food and Land Use Coalition has been putting forward is whether the world needs something a bit like the Financial Stability Board that was established in the wake of the financial crisis crash 2009 for the food system. Could the world not invent that based at FAO or at the UN in New York some kind of board where finance ministers and heads of state met relatively regularly to assess how resilient is the global food system to this changing climate and to the other factors that set it?
Paul: [00:14:38] Practical solutions are, of course, possible, but what are the key challenges before us?
Ed Davey: [00:14:44] It's really twofold. I mean that firstly there are millions of farmers, especially subsistence farmers, who are already living at the margins unprotected by social safety nets and insurance, who are unable to afford or access, improve technologies and practices and are not connected to information systems that can forewarn them of oncoming threats, whether it's climate related or pests and disease. So for these farmers, even cyclical climate variability can be an existential threat, let alone the accelerating pace and severity of the changing climate. But the second point that I want to make is that the latest IPCC report that we've just seen does point out that environmental degradation, the loss of forests, loss of soil, fertility over extraction of water and so on, has made ecosystems and dependent human communities more vulnerable to climate change impacts the capacity of nature. Societies, communities to adapt to climate change depend on these health ecosystem services as well as access to basic services, resources, information and decision making power. So really what we're trying to convey there is there's a twofold challenge. There's a lot that needs to happen at the scale of smallholder farmers in terms of what they can do and the technologies that they have access to. But there's also something that everyone has to do, which is to effectively protect and restore the environment from which agriculture depends.
Paul: [00:16:07] An issue that Wanjira Mathai has been working tirelessly on in Kenya and the African continent for decades. She's Vice President and Regional Director for Africa at the World Resources Institute.
Wanjira Mathai: [00:16:29] This is a really important topic because, of course, food production predominantly happens on land. And for Africa, the continent that I'm part of, definitely the most important sector is food production and agriculture. We know that across the entire continent, one of the reasons agriculture and climate change are so closely linked is that agriculture is the predominant employer, but it's also the predominant sector in the economy. So it's essentially what drives the economy, but it's also what drives employment. So you can imagine the vulnerability to agriculture renders the entire system extremely vulnerable. And then, of course, Africa is also one of the most degraded continents on the planet, providing right now we know that a majority of the potential for restoration around the world is in Africa. And so we have a lot of work to do to protect what is there. We know that the Congo forests and landscapes like those that actually feed and and provide oxygen to the rest of the world, the real healthy lungs of this planet are on the African continent. But we also know there's a lot of pressure on them for expansion, for agriculture. There's also a lot of pressure on them for other economic demands on these forests. But without them, we would compromise the ability of agriculture to support us. And so I have to say, it is purely the truth that without land, without healthy landscapes, without our healthy forests, we cannot speak of an agricultural sector and therefore the vulnerability to the continent.
Paul: [00:18:18] So how is climate change exacerbating the already precarious situation for African farmers and food growers?
Wanjira Mathai: [00:18:27] Agriculture on the continent is largely rain fed and so right now what's happening with the changes in climate is we're either getting too much water flooding or we're getting too little water and you have droughts. And that obviously compromises the ability of food to be produced. That's the biggest challenge at the moment. But we also have a situation where the biggest food producers are women, and women are in particular very heavily impacted by agriculture just because of the way the agricultural sector is structured. We know that women are the predominant drivers of agriculture on the African continent, and therefore they are the holders of the food basket that is in Africa. But they face very significant challenges. One that we know in particular is they really own land. If you look at most of Africa, south of the Sahara, women are often given access to land by either a male relative spouse, say their husbands, or even just somebody who has given them a brother could be or some arrangement that is extremely vulnerable, highly vulnerable to death, for example, divorce or just a change of mind, right? Somebody can just decide to change their mind and that would change the ante. So that's one just the vulnerability of the fact that they do not own. And that's why land rights are so important here. The second thing is the lack of access to inputs. You look at fertiliser, better seeds, mechanical equipment, even extension services that would usually come from the state. Women are often at the back end of receiving these services. And this is the case. We know that studies have actually shown that in Kenya, Malawi, countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, women are less likely to benefit from financial services in access to capital, access to loans. So that's a big one. And then the last one is just the, I would say, decision making power, right? In far too many contexts, women have actually no authority to manage the crops that they actually produce. And this is really important because we know that when food is actually produced, the ownership, at least in these very vulnerable situations, women are left behind. And so that has a very direct impact on prosperity and their ability to actually develop and invest resources. If women have access to money, almost 70 to 90% is invested in their families. And so you can imagine the impact. When they do not have that access, you can imagine what that means. And this is the same in agriculture, where women disproportionately do not have decision making power over the food they produce. And therefore, there is a direct impact on their ability to invest in their children, in education, in the community as a whole. So these are, I would say, the most important over and above the climate, the direct climate impacts.
Paul: [00:21:41] Empowering women farmers is an important first step, but who else needs to be involved?
Wanjira Mathai: [00:21:47] Local organisation, grassroots organisation are the most important players and in fact organisations including the World Resources Institute and organisations like ours are making it a priority to work through and with local organisations. We don't know how and the dynamics in a lot of these communities where we have our tools of resources and opportunities to bring people together, but we cannot change. We will not have the sort of transformation we need if we do not work with local communities. One of the examples is a movement that I'm really, really proud of the AFR100 initiative to restore 100 million hectares of land on the African continent by 2030. That movement’s first phase was largely a political movement, right? Gathering political momentum, getting governments behind particular commitments. Kenya committing 5 million hectares of land. You have Ethiopia, 15 million hectares of land by 2030. All of that political commitment has got to be translated in this second phase to implementation. So locally led implementation on the ground is really where the rubber meets the road. If we do not get that, then the commitments and the big agenda is not accomplished. We will only say success has been accomplished when there are boots on the ground working. And one of the examples that gives me a lot of energy is a commitment that we have made to work on a massive landscape at the border of Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC. The receding water basin. And in that water, basically it's large across those three countries. You have communities across those countries, you have cities across those countries, you have landscapes, food production, you know everything that's going on. We have to invest in that geography across the board, working with community organisations, universities at a very local level to build the sort of knowledge that's required. Communities on the ground that are changing behaviour around how people protect and farm on the landscape. So massive commitment, but focused on a particular landscape. That's the sort of activity that we need to be repeated across the board.
Paul: [00:24:14] But of course, successful projects such as these require funding, and that's where things can often grind to a halt.
Wanjira Mathai: [00:24:22] We need finance to activate all of these commitments. And sometimes I feel like for people who are making decisions around or making commitments around what is needed, what we are not seeing is the speed of deployment. We need to move finance faster and to a certain extent I wish we could take people out before they sit for COP 27 and others and take them into communities to really see what people are going through and the urgency, the complexity of what is happening. If you don't appreciate that, then it's an academic exercise. It's an academic exercise to sit in a very wonderful room and discuss adaptation. But when you go out and you see a community where children are looking for water, or you see a community that is using, you know, ditches to get water for drinking, it wakes you up to the urgency of the matter. That's what we really need. We need to shift this understanding of what it really means to hold back to postpone deployment of finance. It is unconscionable that we would do that today when things are moving so fast. People are suffering, suffering such untold challenges and complexities and layered across the board. But what you do see is when it happens close to home, there's a very quick deployment. We were not surprised to see the German chancellor, Angela Merkel deploy $300 million to support the communities that suffered from the flooding that happened in Germany, because that is the sort of urgency that is proximal. You can see it. We need people to see that suffering, to understand the urgency.
Paul: [00:26:10] And there's no one better place to understand that urgency than Wanjira. She's played a key role in Africa's environmental movement for over 20 years and is confronted with the impacts of climate change every day.
Wanjira Mathai: [00:26:21] It happens whenever I go into any urban settlement in Kenya and see the sort of difficulty people have and the vulnerability. People are literally living on the edge of a cliff and the rain that comes literally washes them away. And as rains get more severe, flooding gets more severe. We degrade landscapes more, there's a lot more water coming out into the cities. And so people's vulnerability but I must say the most recent wake up call was a rather personal one because I had this incessant cough that I couldn't I couldn't shake off. And my 12 year old daughter kept telling me, Mama, that cough just doesn't sound right. And to cut a long story short, I go to the clinic and I'm told that I have pollution induced asthma. And I thought to myself, now that's a bit crazy. Here I am working on issues of landscape restoration, forests and cities. I know the metrics. I talk about them all the time. Never did I think of myself, and yet I'm in this space as a victim of the same. The impacts of climate change are so severe already. Most of us living in cities that render us asthmatic at this age, it's just a severe wake up call. But I'm overwhelmingly more outraged by just how slow we are moving, by how much we seem to lack a sense of solidarity, how multilateralism seems to be falling apart at the seams at times when we really should be showing solidarity. Covid was the biggest wakeup call. And I think for African heads of state, an opportunity for them to say, okay, really, we could be caught off guard and that climate change could bring even more dire circumstances.
Paul: [00:28:20] So if we can't rely on multilateralism at government level, what role can business play?
Jenipher Sambazi: [00:28:27] Well, the private sector has a lot that they can do prosperity, the prosperity agenda, that is one of Africa's priorities through our agenda 2063 is about building genuine prosperity so that we can move out of poverty. Uganda just recently pulled themselves out of the International Organization for Coffee because they said that it is not fair how the balance of trade is within that organisation. Uganda has put a stance and said that they have to put the interests of their people first. That is a crucially important decision that they made. And private sector ought to be taking note because I think this is the direction that we want to see, that we make sure that the trade that happens between, certainly around the world, we want this for everybody, but we're talking about the African continent, that the trade is fair, that the terms of trade are those that benefit, especially those at the bottom of that chain, which are often the small scale farmers. And as we mentioned, many of them are women. We cannot continue to have trade that is based on a dominant and unfair basis. We need fair trade and we also need to increase, I think this is one of the great, great stories of 2022 is the Intra-Africa trade, the CFTA, that the fact that we can begin to deepen Intra-Africa trade so that we are trading within each other and reducing trade barriers so that within the African continent we can increase our intra-africa trade. We know, for example, that intra European trade is at about 80%. 80% of the trade that happens in Europe happens within European countries, 60% in Asia. It is only 15% on the African continent. That has to change. We have to see for us to see prosperity, for us to see the tide rising, for everybody, because we will leave no one behind. We've got to invest in trade. And agricultural trade is a big opportunity for us, but it has to be fair for anyone. I mean, Africa is open for trade, of course, but Africa is open for fair trade.
Paul: [00:30:51] And someone who has experienced the positive effects of fair trade is Jenipher Sambazi. She's a coffee farmer and vice chair of the Mount Elgon Agroforestry Community Cooperative Enterprise, or MEACCE, as you hear it, referred to. She spoke to us from her home in Uganda about the effects climate change is already having on her business.
Jenipher Sambazi: [00:31:16] The big changes farmers have seen by farming coffee is that we are being much affected by drought sometimes, sometimes by much storms, which affects the berries of the coffee. And we also experienced landslides which washed away the coffee trees. It washes away people's shelter. It also makes people to lose their loved ones, which is very, very serious. And I think even this year we experienced rain in January. Yet it was supposed to have sunshine. So farmers are worried. We are really worried because of that. Even deforestation causes climate change. Most people on the mountain were cutting trees, not knowing that we are destroying the environment. They didn't know that we are leading to climate change and also high population leads to climate change. You know, convincing someone to have a little number of children is very difficult in my community. So by that high population, we are also leading to the loss of our environment. We also have degradation, grazing in the fields over and over, like even cultivating every year, like these small crops, beans, maize, bananas, Irish, in the same piece of land year after year. It also leads to climate change, which affects people mostly.
Paul: [00:33:00] But it isn't just climate change affecting business. As a female farmer, Jennifer was facing other challenges, too.
Jenipher Sambazi: [00:33:07] We were having a very big challenge on the side of market. You know, in my community, women do a lot of work on their farms. But when a man sees that now, coffee is ready to be taken to the Primary Society for sale, she tells you, Madam, this coffee, we take it for sale. Okay, let's make it. But when we reach there, you just stop at the way scale. He wants to see the kilograms of coffee you have done that season and he's the one to receive the money. After receiving the money, you go home with nothing. He can't go on the chat with his friends. Getting more women needs that money, then comes back with nothing. So it was a very big challenge to women, especially women and children in their home.
Paul: [00:34:05] Then ten years ago, Jennipher met Elen Jones.
Elen Jones: [00:34:09] I've been really lucky to work in fair trade and the Welsh Government supported me to go out to Uganda, where I met Jenipher in 2010 and she said to me, look Elen, the best way that you can help us is just buy our coffee on fair trade terms. Now it's taken me a decade and a global pandemic, but here we are. Jenipher's coffee was born in 2020 when the Welsh Government supported us to pay a higher than fair trade price for this organically grown wonderful a-rated Arabica coffee that's grown 3000 metres above sea level. And it's hand roasted here in Wales. We're a social enterprise now, or the money gets ploughed back in and I'm proud to be a founder and a director of a business that's trying to do things better by putting the friend, the farmers front and centre.
Paul: [00:35:00] And with the birth of Jenipher's coffee also came a close partnership between MEACCE and the Welsh Government, which is making a real difference on the ground.
Jenipher Sambazi: [00:35:10] The Welsh Government is in partnership with MEACCE planting trees so that farmers can keep their coffee trees healthy. They must replant in their coffee trees to make sure that provided from heavy storms and direct sunshine to the coffee crop. And another issue is that we are planting these trees along the cliffs so that we mitigate landslides, washing away topsoil and whatever. When we were empowered through fair trade, through Jenipher’s coffee, the trade links we acquired from through the Welsh Government, they have come in and assisted us and I'm happy with the Welsh Government about the way we are doing things with them. Most of the farmers are happy.
Paul: [00:36:06] And what difference is Elen seen since her initial visit to Uganda a decade ago?
Helena Leurent: [00:36:12] So when I was out in 2010, there had been a significant mudslide that had killed more than 300 people. So I knew back then years ago the farmers had been telling us prior to that, but nobody was listening. And Jenipher, you have that story where you were knocking on doors, asking people to listen. And I'm pleased that we we were able to hear your voice and respond. I think the tree planting schemes have been really powerful for the farmers to believe that they can do something and to see those trees growing and providing shade. It's lovely to see that the quality of the coffee is improving because of these shade trees. But I get saddened when I hear Jenipher say that they've had rains in January when they shouldn't have. Climate change has escalated significantly in the last decade, and the saddest part is that it's being affected by the people who have contributed to it least. And when you hear Jenipher say, we are doing what we can on the ground, and yet here I am in my home with my fridge-freezer and my central heating and my car on the drive. You know, what we're doing is not enough and the burden is being placed on the farmers. And that's why Jenipher’s Coffi is so important, because we are doing what we can, bringing coffee into people's homes in a way that they can contribute the least to climate change and support the farmers to adapt quickly and properly.
Paul: [00:37:46] So what would be Jenipher’s message to those attending COP27 on her continent later this year?
Jenipher Sambazi: [00:37:54] I appeal to the organisers of the cop to see to it that these countries living in the coffee countries in Africa, living in production, have to be invited so that we are together and speak one voice which can help farmers, especially on the side of marketing, on the side of coffee price. Farmers do a lot of work in post-production. After that, when selling coffee to our partners, there is a body in New York which sets the coffee price and setting the coffee price, they don't mind how hard the farmers are working so that they produce this best quality coffee to attract the specialty markets. So if we are together in that cop27, have one voice and speak to that body which sets coffee price at least maybe it can favour the farmers so that they can add some more pounds or cents on a kilo of coffee, so that the Fairtrade Foundation also can have more strength to be helping farmers in one voice. Because Fairtrade has done a lot on the side of farmers, but the body which sets the price is not being generous.
Elen Jones: [00:39:30] I am so outraged when Jenipher tells me that that price of coffee that's fixed in London and New York thousands of miles away by people who've never even stepped in a coffee garden and know about the complexities and how hard the farmers work to bring that coffee to market. And actually, those low prices drive climate change. When you are not getting a fair price, you have to cut corners. You have to chop down trees which causes climate change. You have to use all kinds of unsustainable materials. Jenipher is able to sell her coffee on fair trade terms because of the power of fair trade and because of the value that that lovely logo has on products and the message and her story connecting not just with the people of Wales, but we're selling around the world now. Despite the challenges of leaving a very strong trading union within Europe and the challenges that brings. So it's about sort of pushing, you know, the big supermarkets to say, let's not just do price. If there is a low price on something, someone somewhere is paying that cost. And it always goes down to the person at the beginning of that supply chain, which in the instance would be Jenipher and her fellow farmers. So I would ask all supermarkets not just to look at where they're paying for price, but what is their entire supply chain? How is it getting to the consumers and how are they telling their consumers how much carbon has gone into each product? So just like a traffic light system on how healthy it is for you as an individual, as eating or drinking it, how healthy is it on our planet? So they should be now looking at systems that can tell people this is climate friendly and this is not empowering people to do it. And that will shift, I think.
Paul: [00:41:37] Indeed, one man who believes this shift is already happening is Volker Engelmann. He's the founder and CEO of the food distribution company Eosta. As a former employee of one of the world's biggest food multinationals, he knows firsthand why the current system isn't working.
Volkert Engelsman: [00:42:01] In a public company environment, you have short term profit driven shareholders who don't care about the long term costs. But sooner or later, somebody will have to pick up their bill, usually their kids. And usually that bill is much higher if you would have prevented it. But you know, that scene is changing. And I'm aware of the fact that public companies are scared about this transition that we are in right now, because they are sitting on a lot of stranded assets that could blow up in their face. And take, for instance, Rabobank. They have invested up to over their eyeballs in the old intensive farming systems, ignoring the fact that we are losing the equivalent of 30 soccer fields of fertile soil per minute as a result of intensive farming. Well, it takes decades to rebuild that soil, and 12 million hectares per year lost to irresponsible farming practices is just something that can't carry on. So, yes, they seem to realise that they're in the midst of a transition and they usually talk cleverly about it at the World Economic Forum. But then the day to day, financial and commercial reality, the incentives are still short term driven. So that's difficult.
Paul: [00:43:31] But the difficulties didn't stop Volkert at seeing how things could be done differently.
Volkert Engelsman: [00:43:36] Usually supply chains are quite anonymous, which helps retailers to play a dividing govern game, whereby usually prices are driven to the bottom at the expense of people and planet. Because if you don't know what the impact is, who cares. So I thought, there's no such thing as sustainability without transparency, which was the sort of light bulb idea to start supply chains that are transparent. We supply retailers in Europe and we provide them with certified organic and fair trade certified fruits, mostly. With that, we are mostly from the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics, and with that we are a market leader in Europe. And again, no sustainability without transparency. So we provide every product with a QR code, and that QR code gives you access to the unique grower story and his or her impact on people and planet, because again, exploitation rides on the back of anonymity. So by making these things transparent for all stakeholders in the supply chain and actually making that available to consumers, you allow stakeholders and consumers included to make an informed purchase decision and at least have the choice to take responsibility for their own health, for planet health and for social inclusion. You encourage the grower to not only produce a cash crop, but also look after his soil fertility, which usually leads to better water retention and biodiversity and sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deep soil organic carbon. So that's the series of physical advantages, of biological advantages for the grower because it cuts down on his energy bill, water bill, irrigation costs, but also contributes to his or her pest and disease resistance. Because if you blow up a crop with mineral fertiliser, you also weaken the crop. So you should usually, in the wake of application of mineral fertiliser, you need a whole series of pesticides and agrochemicals to keep that crop alive. Whereas if you invest in soil fertility, you usually end up making your soil more resilient, stronger. But that also applies to your crop and the shelf life and the quality of your product. So these are benefits. But again, we also generate carbon credits from sequestration practices, greenhouse gas avoidance, emission avoidance or insetting practices that are usually applied by the grower because they, after all, the land is one of the biggest carbon sinks after the oceans. And if you encourage growers to be by rewarding them for building the carbon sequestration ability of soils, well, and you can reward them with a financial incentive then that helps. And the consumer, you know, usually we say we tend to say the consumer should solve everything. But that's quite difficult because the consumer only has a few seconds when buying something. So that's where our co-creative initiative with the governments come in who have a noble task to create a more level playing field in which the polluter no longer gets away with a competitive advantage by applying fiscal incentives or regulations or carbon taxes or meet taxes or sugar taxes, etc., they can contribute to more level playing field and move away again from this commodity thinking that is only about products and yield per hectare.
Paul: [00:47:47] But even though Volkert has taken Eosta on a successful path to supply transparency, there's still room for some outrage.
Volkert Engelsman: [00:47:56] I think the outrage is obviously about the perverse incentives that are animal feed related or mineral fertiliser related or agrochemical related or genetic engineering or biotech related, because that doesn't help even if they claim that this is needed to feed the world. The opposite is true because feeding the world is not a matter of yield improvement only. It's mostly a matter of a fair distribution of wealth, which is not particularly helped by making the world even more dependent on first world based input suppliers. That means that we need to factor in ecosystems related services such as soil fertility, water retention, biodiversity and mitigation of climate change. We need to factor in social inclusion, living wages, fairer distribution of wealth throughout the supply chain. After all, 60% of our health bill is food related, so that's very pennywise pound foolish if we keep going on this track. So, yes, we need regulation. We need fiscal incentives to provide a more level playing field that makes the polluter pay and the one who contributes to externalities. Health related, social inclusion related or ecosystem related will be supported. And, you know, you can call it functional farming, you can call it regenerative farming principles, you can call it circular economy. I don't care as long as we provide a more level playing field, because at the time of talking is over, we need to act now. And I'm totally optimistic and outraged about this, but most of all optimistic. I understand that there are big businesses, business interests at stake, and I also understand that they do a brilliant lobby job by trying to influence the policy makers in Europe. But I'm totally optimistic that their days are numbered and that they will be part of museums soon because nobody will be able to stop this conversion towards a more healthy, socially inclusive and ecologically resilient food and farming system.
Paul: [00:50:24] And finally we come to that role we, the individual, can play and the impact our everyday food choices can have. Helena Laurent is the Director General of Consumers International.
Helena Leurent: [00:50:38] This change can't happen without the consumer and without a consumer push. But the thing that consumer advocates will make sure they share is that it can't be left to the consumer alone. So we can drive and support the dark green consumer to make a change in their habits. But businesses and governments have to help that happen so that we get to a tipping point.
Paul: [00:51:10] And how is Consumers International helping to achieve this all important tipping point?
Helena Leurent: [00:51:15] So we look at it on a couple of different levels. Our members individually, the vast majority of them work on food. They're working on it in different ways. In Kenya, they'll be looking at food safety. In Mexico, food labelling, in the UK, talking about Buy Less, Buy Better. So it's a variety of different, different messages that are needed in the local context. What we do is get our members together because then you can share ideas, share best practice, and you look at what works to inform and help and support the consumer. You can be doing consumer campaigns. We can be making sure that information gets to the consumer because, you know, the amount of information that we get about nutrition and sustainability is very, very small. But the back to that point about it can't be about the consumer alone. We will then recommend or push businesses and governments to help support the consumer and bring the consumer experience to them. So that can either be recommendations, it can be, you know, being a watchdog for what's happening in the marketplace. And that can be at a country level or it could be at a regional level. Or we can go, as we did last year, to the UN Food System Summit, so that you're representing just the independent voice of a consumer who wants a fair, safe and sustainable marketplace. How do we think that can happen? I still believe that every single person's actions matter because it's not just your actions, it's what you talk about to your friends. It's how you create that movement. Right. And so I don't think we should ever let go of that. And we should be supporting people in every way, shape or form with information, but also with tools and, you know, so that they can keep going. And we grow. Every social movement has started from cells of people working together and then joining up the big challenges. The ones we talk about are the four As, of course. So the first one is awareness and a lot of people aren't aware or the word sustainability is confusing. Even if you try to become aware, you know, hundreds of different labels, what do they all mean? What do I do next? So making those messages simple and easy to understand for us all is really crucial. But then you've got to get over the other issues of acceptability. So how easy is it for me to go out and make the changes that I want to do? That's difficult for many people in every single country across the world. And then it's the affordability question, and that's the really tricky one that people sort of shy away from because it's real, and increasingly with inflation, that's becoming a major barrier for people perceived and in real terms to to overcome. So lots of lots of very real situations for consumers to to deal with. But, you know, there are places where we're able to make those steps and to make progress.
Paul: [00:54:46] So what might this progress look like?
Helena Leurent: [00:54:49] The one piece is really making sure that you've got a clear national policy, which is around food, which doesn't split into environment and health and trade, but those reinforce each other and they're coherent. That is something actually we had a number of dialogues between consumer advocates and farmer advocates who typically do not always see eye to eye. And that was one of the key areas where they said, absolutely, we must have a coherent policy, otherwise this cannot come together. Another place is standards, especially around safety. So standards and standards that then lead enable you to have transparency and traceability. That is a sort of a big shift that we could really drive forward and will make a big difference. And the third piece is enforcement. So often what consumer advocates will say is you might have the standards in place, you might, but rarely are these enforced in a way that makes a difference. And then the final piece is consumer information. So a lot more investment in consumer information. Labelling is an obvious one and tends to come up. But in this modern age of online shopping, actually, consumer information can be far more sophisticated. And you can be thinking about a lot more different ways to get information across to people.
Paul: [00:56:16] And the good news is change is already happening on the ground.
Helena Leurent: [00:56:20] When we survey our members, we found about 30% of countries where your government actually encourages this farmer to consumer connect more or less. And I thought this was fascinating because as people want more local food, you know, that's actually can we go back and think about alright, how do we connect farmers and consumers now in a way that is fairer, more sustainable? So for example, Kenya has done a lot of investment in creating the data to make sure that farmers have information, that that information is shared. So you've got that sort of digital backbone for the country. In Chile, the Rady Alimentos, which was one of the organisations we looked into, they make sure that food that would otherwise go to waste is distributed to vulnerable families. I think in 2021 they managed to get food to about 200,000 families that where that food would have otherwise gone to waste. And they were able to do that and set up that system because the government supported with things like tax changes. So there are examples in places where you wouldn't necessarily expect it. And you know, it's about let's learn from each other fast and get those into those national pathways so that they're as effective and robust. It's then making sure that that all adds up on an international level. Right. So the WTO looks at the price of food, not the value of food. How do we make sure that the true value of food is factored into those international negotiations as well as on a national scale?
Paul: [00:58:11] So what action can we, a consumer or citizen, as I prefer to say, citizens as consumers, what action can we take to support this vital transformation of our food system?
Helena Leurent: [00:58:23] I'd say the first part is inform yourself, because what each person can do is very personal to them. You know, whether it's not buying berries in winter or whether you want to go, you know, avoid single use plastics, you know, there will always be something that you can do. So I think that informing yourself. But the second thing that I find is a good thing to do also to not get overwhelmed is to ask to ask in the store you go into. So okay, why is it that you have this product? What does bio mean in this instance? You know, why are you using plastic? What kind of plastic? And even if the person that you're asking doesn't know the fact that you've asked, and even if you can't afford something more, the fact that you've asked means that the people within the store will be thinking and asking themselves. It's about creating that movement and making it the norm to ask and to make a difference. The other piece, of course, is food waste. You know, really think about what you buy and how you store and what you throw away. Those are really important things. I think we can certainly do, no matter where you are.
Tom: [00:59:58] So this really feels like a critical moment to be having this conversation about the future of food. We come, as we said, right at the beginning of a cop where this was highlighted as a critical issue and into a cop that's going to be hosted on the African continent, where I think this could be even more of an issue. Paul, you so brilliantly took us through that conversation. What did you learn from the journey you've been on?
Paul: [01:00:23] I mean, look, you know, it's such a privilege to hear so many brilliant comments and the thoughts about the predicament we face. But I was particularly struck by this idea that if you put a low price on something, that someone somewhere is paying that cost and the way growers and originators of food are often very disadvantaged in commodity markets, so called commodity markets. And maybe we need to end this notion of commodity markets. And the other thing I was incredibly exciting to me, was the idea of a QR code that tells you about the origin, the growers story and the degree to which we may really actually become engaged with our food. You know, it's not just something that's on the supermarket shelf. You know, there was someone there who produced it for us, you know, things like coffee and tea that we just consume ridiculous amounts of. You know, I was reflecting like in Japan, they have like a tea ceremony. You know, maybe we need to have tea and coffee ceremonies where we honour the growers and we think about the system that we're harvesting from without blinking and sort of recognise that what someone with their hands in one part of the world is now in our bellies in another part of the world. And that's sort of a very deep connection. That was my reflection.
Christiana: [01:01:32] Paul, I'm so proud of you. That is one of the deep lessons that we learn in Plum Village is actually every time we have a bowl of food in front of us, to really be very mindful about everything that has occurred before that food bowl is in front of us. And so the sun, the water, the harvesting, the sowing of the seed, the harvesting, the processing, the transport, the preparation. It's an incredible link for each of us to then have food on our plates for those, by the way, who do have food on their plates. And it is a very, very difficult and challenging link for those who don't get food on their plate. And the fact that COP 27 is going to happen in Africa, where, as we've just learned this week, first it is the most vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change. And it is also where most of the population who don't have enough food are living today. So it should not come as a surprise that there is now already at the start of the year, a lot of pressure to have a very, very clear focus on food and agriculture. In fact, measured by how many days or how many points of the agenda are devoted to topics at COP 27. So a good push to have food and agriculture have what we call their own day, which means the whole day, not in the negotiated areas but in the surrounding conversations of the non state governments to be focused on food and agriculture. Not surprising, and it's also not surprising because COP 27 is going to focus on three main areas being the African nature, resilience and finance. And if you put all those three in a Venn diagram, what's in the middle food? So I am really delighted that we're doing this episode on the Future of Food. The only thing that I would say is maybe it's not that much of a future, maybe it's what are we doing in the present in order to get to the future that we want?
Tom: [01:03:43] Yeah. Well, and of course many of these stories are from the present, and I don't know who said that the future's already here, but it's just unevenly distributed. The truth is that actually many of these things are emerging in people's lives, and it's very easy for the subset of the human population that isn't facing those issues in an acute way to assume they're part of the future, but they're very much part of the present. I thought this was a great episode and there were so many points. Paul In the conversations and in the places that you took us to, that really struck me. And I think net-net overall, I was just really grateful for everybody who's been working on this issue for so long. I mean, I've been working on climate change not as long as you, Christiana, but for a couple of decades at least. And the food issue has always been put in the too difficult bucket because it's millions of individuals who are trying to grapple with issues to do with complex issues, to do with nature, restoration and soils. And it's always been too hard for us to get at. And what I'm seeing now is a kind of maturing of the space where we're now aware of the fact that we can't ignore this. It's a fundamental connection of human rights and development and ecological integrity and nature restoration and climate stability. And that just feels like that's great. It brings it back in a really meaningful way to individuals, in a meaningful way to all of us. And that actually, I think, is real source of hope that can connect us much more deeply to the issues with.
Christiana: [01:05:02] Yeah, I would say it humanises the whole climate change issue, right? It makes it really completely personal. This is about food. And as you said at the beginning, that's something that we all need. So I'm really appreciative of that. Both food and quality of air, really help us to humanise and take climate change out of the tons discussion and the dollar discussion to immediate human needs.
Paul: [01:05:29] And Christiana, I'm sure they will put something in the show notes, but for anyone who hasn't listened to a previous broadcast, can you just say what Plum Village is?
Christiana: [01:05:38] Ah well, I think I was on the podcast from Village a couple of weeks ago, but Plum Village is the Zen Buddhist monastery founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in southwest France. And I just spent some weeks there because Zen Master Thay, as we called him, passed on in Vietnam. And so I went there and travelled there and stayed there for several weeks, actually, in the monastery. And I'm truly grateful for having been able to spend that time there in much more deeper reflection of who I am, how I want to be, who I am. And what point are we in the history of humankind?
Paul: [01:06:27] That was wonderful. Thank you. The little questions, Christiana.
Christiana: [01:06:30] Yeah, a little questions like that.
Tom: [01:06:31] And your point about food recollection. I remember very well from my own time as a monk, and it was a huge source of spiritual observation and development. And also the reason why I never had a hot meal while I was in Monk, because by the time you get round to eating it, after all that observation, everything's gone cold.
Christiana: [01:06:44] Yeah. They always say that. There's no such thing as a warm meal in a monastery.
Tom: [01:06:51] Right. Okay, so this has been great. And Christiana, you said a few minutes ago that you were very pleased we were doing this episode on The Future of Food. And of course, what you meant is this series, this is one episode in a longer series on the Future of Food. We're partway through it. We'll be back next month looking at the role cities will play in transforming the food system. After that, we will follow that with another episode on waste and lastly on alternative proteins and nutrition for all. So a lot to come in this series and I think it's great that we're delving into it that the climate movement in general is now realising the potential and the importance of this space. And we'd love to know what you think. So as ever, please reach out to us, write to us, tweet us. Of course, leave us a review which would be very grateful for hope you enjoy this episode and we look forward to seeing you back.
Christiana: [01:07:38] Paul would say a five star review and.
Tom: [01:07:39] Feel free to leave us a five star review. I mean, a personal endorsement, Dickinson, is always welcome. Yeah and make a point as to whether it's a personal endorsement of Dickinson. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next week.
Paul: [01:07:50] Bye
Christiana: [01:07:51] By
Clay: [01:07:57] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism! Thank you so much for listening. My name is Clay. I'm the producer of this podcast and I'm aware that we get a lot of new listeners around these special series that we do. So if this is your first time with us, I just want to say we're so grateful to have you. Thanks for listening. And if you're a returning or regular listener, it's great to have you back. Thank you to Volkert Engelsman, Wanjira Mathai, Jenipher Sambazi, Ellen Jones, Ed Davey and Helena Leurent for making this episode possible. It's just an absolute privilege to have such incredible voices on the podcast, and they are all active online and reachable so you can connect with them and their organisations or companies by checking the show notes for links I have for you there. A special shout out to Jenipher’s Coffi. You can follow them online, like on Instagram. You can find which stores stock her coffee and you can even buy directly from the website. So check that out. Now these episodes are a team effort, so I just want to say thank you to James and Adam from Airaphon for the edit and mix this week. Thank you to Catherine Hart, our story producer who conducted the interviews and put together the structure of this episode. We actually kept a little from her during one of the interviews in theirs for you to find and enjoy. And thank you to our production team here at Global Optimism, Sophie and Fabio and our Executive Producer, Sarah Thomas. Last but certainly not least, thank you to our hosts, Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickinson. Now we are a fun bunch here at Global Optimism and Outrage + Optimism! And we want you along for the party so you can join us online @GlobalOptimism on all social media platforms and if you enjoyed today's episode. So would you please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts? It makes a huge difference on getting the word out about our show. We really, really appreciate it. Thank you. Ok, that is everything from us for this week. As Tom mentioned before, we have more episodes in this series coming out soon, one on cities, one on waste, and another one on alternative proteins. The best way to make sure that you don't miss a single episode is to hit, subscribe or follow. And of course, we'll be right back here in your feed on Thursday with our regularly scheduled programming, but with a special guest. Climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate. All right. See you then.