News: Local Food, Food Safety and Food Sovereignty, February 2019

The Crawford Fund Regional Master Class in Plant Biosecurity conducted in Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia from 10-16 February 2019 was hosted by Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana (UKSW) Salatiga, and supported by the Indonesian Biosecurity Foundation (IBF), with assistance from Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation and CABI

As part of the selection process, participants wishing to join the master class were requested to write an essay on the theme of the program. This week we are highlighting three of these outstanding essays. In the last blog of the series, we are featuring Rohning Sulistyani, from the Agriculture Department, Kota Salatiga and their essay “Local food, food safety and food sovereignty local food.”  A Study Case in Salatiga.” Also read essays by Agnes Cela Purwani and Andreas Sukmana.

By Rohning Sulistyani, SP., M.Sc.
Agriculture Department of Kota Salatiga

Local Food

The term Local Food has multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions. In most cases it means that the food was grown in close physical proximity to the consumer (Martinez et al., 2010). Furthermore, it could also refer to the food that has the unique characteristics of a particular place or carries a certain local cultural value or significance (Sonnino, 2007). The growth in world consumption of locally produced food has resulted in significant increases in the amount of sales of food produced by local farmers.

Rohning at the recent master class.

A product can be considered a “local or regionally produced agricultural food product” if (a) the total distance travelled is less than 400 miles from the source (approximately 644 km) or (b) the product is produced in the same state in which it is marketed (Martinez et al., 2010).

Local food systems also draw inspiration from how food is produced, how it affects health, the economy and the environment. Thus, in some ways, a local food system also incorporates the concepts of “food security” and “food economy”. Food systems can be divided into three basic components: biological, economic-political and socio-cultural. The biological component refers to the food production process or how food is produced. The economic and political components refer to the institutional moderation of different groups of interest and control of the food system. The socio-cultural component refers to personal relationships, community values and cultural relationships that affect people in the use of food (Tansey and Worsley, 2008).

Food security 

Food security is the “availability at all times of adequate, nourishing, diverse, balanced and moderate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”. The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Household food security exists when all members, at all times, have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Individuals who are food secure do not live in hunger or fear of starvation.

Food security can be measured by calorie intake per person per day, available on a household budget. In general, the objective of food security indicators and measures is to capture some or all of the main components of food security in terms of food availability, access and utilization or adequacy. While availability (production and supply) and utilization/adequacy (nutritional status/anthropometric measures) seemed much easier to estimate, thus more popular, access (ability to acquire sufficient quantity and quality) remain largely elusive. The factors influencing household food access are often context specific.

Food security versus food sovereignty

Writing in Food First‘s Backgrounder, fall 2003, “food sovereignty goes beyond the concept of food security. means that [everyone] must have the certainty of having enough to eat each day but says nothing about where that food comes from or how it is produced.” Food sovereignty includes support for smallholders and for collectively owned farms, fisheries, etc., rather than industrializing these sectors in a minimally regulated global economy. In another publication, “food sovereignty” as a platform for rural revitalization at a global level based on equitable distribution of farmland and water, farmer control over seeds, and productive small-scale farms supplying consumers with healthy, locally grown food.

Food sovereignty asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system. It also encompasses the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. 

Eating Local Food

An important aspect of food security is ensuring that people have access to food. But some barriers, unsupported the local food to be part of food sovereignty. In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the “four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability”. Food availability relates to the supply of food through production, distribution, and exchange.  The next pillars are access. Food access refers to the affordability and allocation of food, as well as the preferences of individuals and households.  Food stability refers to the ability to obtain food over time. Food insecurity can be transitory, seasonal, or chronic. 

It has been argued that ‘eating local’, it’s potential to provide fresh, nutritious, affordable, sustainable food that people can grow themselves.  But buy more locally produced food will expected that the veneration enjoyed by local food will generate economic, environmental and social benefits in local areas, leading to patterns of more sustainable consumption and production. In many ways, local consumption aims to reverse the negative effects of globalization on local economies and communities.

Today, an Indonesia popular movement seeks to protect local economies and go against the juggernaut of globalization even as government policies continue to support large food producing companies in the food exporting sector.

Regional Master Class in Plant Biosecurity 10-16 February 2019 group photo.

Promoting Local Food

Many farmers who live in the countryside have difficulty in locally marketing their products. Large supermarkets most frequently source vegetables and fruits from other states, while small and medium-sized markets source more from local producers. For the supermarket, fruit and vegetables produced locally are fresher and have a lower cost; however, the low dependability of supply and the lack of variety offered by local producers are considered unsatisfactory points

The promotion of “local food” is a complex issue which incorporates the realms of environment, economy and health on both the local and the greater national and international scales. Governments should have strategies in place to promote and strengthen the local food trade as much as they have historically for the export market. The use and understanding of the nutrient composition of local foods is very important in the development of local food, there is a need to integrate local knowledge into the evaluating process of nutritional benefits and locale-based values of local food

Protecting the maintenance of the genetic purity of local food has also been much discussed. We must recognize the important role played in the conservation achieved by small farmers in the South, because it contains most of the biodiversity of the world both in variety and species that are used for food.

In general, the consumption of local foods, produced in ways adapted to the local environment and the use of technologies with ecological conditions, is certainly one positive factor in promoting improvements to the health of the environment, the economy and society in general.

The Crawford Fund has a number of programs to encourage the next generation in international agriculture for development and the training of international researchers. We are proud to sponsor researchers in biosecurity in Indonesia with thanks to our partners. For further reading on the importance of biosecurity in Indonesia, here are the links to the other two essay submissions: “Understanding the Potential of Local Plants in Supporting Food Security: A study case in Salatiga” by Andreas Binar Aji Sukmana, from the Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana (UKSW), Central Java from and “The Importance of Plant Biosecurity,” by  Agnes Cela Purwani, Semaran, Indonesia.