Saying our current global food system is wrecked is an understatement. A system which is getting increasingly unprofitable for its main stakeholders - i.e. farmers. Specially for small holder farmers, who happen to feed almost a third of the planet, situation is getting hopeless.
Our food systems need to evolve quickly to cope with current and upcoming challenges of Anthropocene.
How did we get to the current situation?
Along with the industrial revolution, another revolution started in the agricultural sector
changing forever the way humans consume food. In fact, the latter wouldn’t have taken place
without the success of the former. These two revolutions took the Homo sapiens species to the next level by changing their livelihoods forever. This resulted in a society incarnating capitalist and consumerism values with an insatiable thirst for increased living standards.
With globalization, these two revolutions have propagated from the old continent to the
other parts of the world at an unprecedented pace. With their expansion, they improved the
living standards around the globe while bringing other undesired effects: natural resources
depletion, environmental degradation, natural habitat loss, population displacement only to
name few. These undesired effects, if left untamed and unsolved have the potential to cause the next mass extinction. And if this happens, this would be the first time in the geological history that one single species is responsible of disruption of its own habitat at this scale. This species which evolved from its cousin primates 20.000 years ago has - in its own expansion - the weapon of mass destruction of the ecosystem which took millions of years to form. This sounds pessimistic but not improbable. However, to keep the spirits up equally probable (hopefully) is a more optimistic possibility. What if the next revolution for Homo sapiens was a paradigm shift towards sobriety?
How to trigger a much needed paradigm shift in our society?
This is the existential question of 21st century and this blog post can't give answer to this. However it can certainly can provide some food for thought. Although the first part of the post gives a bleak view of the current food system, there is a growing global network of pioneers who have demonstrated solutions, if scaled up, that have the potential to steer our food-systems in the right direction.
The glimmer of hope we had when starting the Permafarm adventure has now a strong conviction that the future lies in investing in regenerative practices. The concept of permaculture which is the holistic answer to the much needed paradigm shift is gaining traction across the globe. Permaculture principles can be applied to all aspects of human needs: agriculture, construction, technology, education and even economics. Above all, this way of thinking enables to find solutions based on whole-systems rather than the conventional way of thinking solely based on individual components.
Permaculture inspired agriculture techniques - regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, agroecology to name a few - have demonstrated promising solutions that can produce nutritious food while preserving the bio-diversity, regenerating soils, capturing and storing the carbon while reducing the pressure on natural resources. A picture speaks 1000 words but a video speaks billions. I suggest this video I encountered recently which captures perfectly the essence of regenerative agriculture based on permaculture principles. It builds upon concrete business cases to demonstrate the potential of such practices.
Permafarm, established in 2018 was growing slowly till spring 2020, until an unforeseen pandemic made it difficult to unfold the plans we had for 2020 and 2021. This has halted the project for a while but we are slowly re-igniting our network and continue working to lay out our plans one step at a time. This year of inactivity gave us the much needed time to refocus and redesign the project according to our capacities. Most importantly it gave us the humbling realization - business plans don't capture the complexity of the real world and some dreams are worth pursuing even if they don't have attractive business plans according to the current metrics. However, in the world that is unfolding, there are positive signals that business metrics will evolve dramatically in favor of regenerative agricultural practices. The ecosystemic services delivered by such practices for carbon capture and storage, soil restoration and biodiversity preservation will certainly have a positive price tag. And one day the pioneers who have invested numerous years in honing such practices will reap the benefits.