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Why Social Justice Matters to Our Food System

Why Social Justice Matters to Our Food System

By Max Darcey, Navitas Organics Director of Sustainability & Quality

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, we wanted to use this space to reflect on the past year and acknowledge the tremendous challenges that our country and world have faced. The pandemic has brought devastating loss, and has severely and disproportionately impacted communities of color, highlighting profound racial and social disparities that have long existed. Widespread protests against police brutality in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others brought to a tipping point the need for a reckoning of the deeply institutionalized racism and social injustices faced by BIPOC communities in this country. Beyond this, we’re seeing protest all over the world against governmental corruption and corporate greed. In the last three months Indian farmers have staged one of the largest strikes in human history, fighting for farmer rights and agricultural reform that represents the farmer instead of private interest and investors in big agribusinesses. Over the last year in the Philippines we have seen prominent activist and farmer organizers slayed at the hands of their government, as they fight for their rights for land ownership and livelihoods.

At Navitas Organics, we hope that 2021 and beyond will bring hope and healing, along with an ongoing fight for social justice and real change. Our mission is to cultivate a healthier world through traditional organic farming, and we believe this is one of many crucial components to addressing economic and social inequality on a global level. We’re committed to partnering with smallholder farms around the world to help create economic opportunities for organic farmers that strengthen both local economies and the environment. To further these bonds and help foster a just food system, Navitas Organics has partnered with organizations that are fighting for social justice in the food system, including A Growing Culture (AGC), Farms to Grow, Inc. and Fairtrade. Please consider donating to these amazing organizations as your support is crucial to their success in fighting for social justice in the food system.

Below is an article that Loren Cardeli, the founder of A Growing Culture, wrote in 2018. The challenge and the mission remain ever so pertinent today. I hope that we can continue to be part of positive change as we move through and beyond these uncertain times and strive for a more sustainable and just future for generations to come.

How We’re Facing Social Justice Head On

By Loren Cardeli, A Growing Culture Executive Director

Our food system is not broken.

In fact, global food production continues to steadily increase at a rate faster than population growth. We produce 17% more food per person today than we did 30 years ago – enough to feed more than 10 billion people!

Food System Challenges

But, there’s a catch. Food produced is different than food delivered. Although we produce enough food for 10 billion people, a staggering one-third of that food is wasted. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.2 billion people are malnourished and more than 795 million are severely hungry when they don’t need to be. What’s more, a majority of those starving are farmers.

Our current food system exploits the individuals and systems it purports to serve, and the outcome is destabilization on both social and environmental spheres. Neither the smallholder farmer in Peru who grows Cacao nor the chicken farmer under contract in Arkansas has the autonomy they deserve. Instead, our food system is designed to consolidate control of production. Four companies presently control over 75% of the world's grain production, and factory farms account for 72% of poultry production and 55% of pork production.

Smallholder Farmer Production

Yet, all over the world, smallholder farmers demonstrate great resilience, despite this unparalleled economic, social and environmental adversity. These smallholders produce 70% of the world’s food from only 20% of the world's land in production. Smallholder farmers use only a fraction of the land, water and agricultural resources that large-scale farms do, while producing more than 10 kilocalories of energy for every one kilocalorie expended. In contrast, industrial farms average 1.5 kilocalories of energy for every one kilocalorie expended. Despite smallholder farmers clear contributions, they are forgotten in our current food system. The system is expertly designed to produce calories, not provide nutrition, and to consolidate control, not democratize production. In this way, it’s inherently unjust, not broken.

It’s time to demand the humanization of agriculture and bring smallholder farmers to the forefront. This community, referred to as the Peasant Food Web, is approximately 2.5 billion people strong, almost 40% of the world's population, and the guardians of 95% of our agricultural biodiversity. It’s time we show our gratitude to all farmers for their support and expertise in their craft, and to acknowledge their impacts on social equity movements throughout the world. We need to support farmer-led initiatives, support their communities to take hold and reshape this unjust food system toward one of environmental, social and economic equity from the ground up. It’s time to listen to the ones who grow our food and stand together to create a better tomorrow!