Action on Climate Change

A Food Sovereign Future

Summary

Food sovereignty is a kind of holistic thinking that must be applied to all aspects of life in the Mount Alexander Shire. I implore the council to implement a Food Sovereignty Officer, whose role it would be to apply this lens to all council projects, processes and decisions. A Food Sovereignty Officer could develop and oversee the implementation of a Food Policy.


Full submission

To come back to basics, climate change and biodiversity loss is driven by an increase of carbon in the atmosphere. Transport, energy, agriculture, manufacturing, deforestation. There are many factors to consider when deciding how to approach this predicament we find ourselves in. However, only one of these industries represents an existential necessity. The food and agriculture system is one of the biggest contributor to climate change and is the web that links all the other disparate issues.

The food and agriculture system is the one and only double-edged sword in our arsenal. Not only can we dramatically reduce emissions with a shift from industrial agriculture to agroecology, and from commodified globalised food to local, decentralised food systems, but we can sequester carbon at the same time. One change, two outcomes. Food Sovereignty is the framework with which reimagine a sustainable and regenerative version of the food and agriculture system. Food sovereignty is about choosing ecological resilience, health and equality over centralised industrial food systems. It’s about nutritious food that is grown and distributed in ethical and ecologically-sound ways.

This emergency requires courageous and radical action. Hard decisions must be made that prioritise a resilient localised food system above all else, including jobs and the economy. For example, when considering planning applications, economic benefit or negative impact on amenity should be trumped by the potential of the applicant to detract from or contribute to our collective food sovereignty.

Ask yourselves, how is council incentivising small-scale agroecology? How are we divesting ourselves from food wrapped in plastic and imported from interstate or overseas? How does the management of our parks affect the soil ecology? How is the community being supported to access local produce? These are the issues that are paramount in creating a ‘foodshed’ that regenerates our soils and restores its ability to mitigate climate. The biology in our soil is our most important resource and our policy during a climate emergency must regenerate it at all costs. Using agroecology to restore our soil microbiome means we will store more carbon in our soil, which will increase its water holding capacity. This creates a positive feedback loop which regulates climate, increases resilience and continues to improve production capability.

Food sovereignty is a kind of holistic thinking that must be applied to all aspects of life in the Mount Alexander Shire. I implore the council to implement a Food Sovereignty Officer, whose role it would be to apply this lens to all council projects, processes and decisions. A Food Sovereignty Officer could develop and oversee the implementation of a local Food Policy. They could ensure that all food provided during council events be grown locally, that all applications to council include an assessment on how the proposal will impact our food system. With the power of agroecology and food sovereignty, not only will we restore our climate, but we will build resiliency into our community, our economy, and our health.

I would point to the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) as an idea organisation to partner with in efforts to develop a food plan. AFSA is an organisation made up of farmers and allies that works towards a democratic and participatory food system. They have an existing ‘Peoples Food Plan’ that could be used to inform a locally applicable version. They would be willing to utilise their mandate and direct communications with local growers and community members to assist council in this kind of work.

The existing support for the Castlemaine Farmers Market is exactly the kind of action that needs to be expanded upon in order to tackle climate change in our region. Some examples of additional actions are:

  • An education campaign for local growers on carbon sequestration through agroecology, and for reduced emissions and reliance on off-farm inputs e.g. utilising waste stream feeds.
  • An education campaign for community members on where to buy and how to subsist on local seasonal produce.
  • A commitment to divest from industrial production and distribution models, including supermarkets.
  • Support for food producers to own their means of production. Eg. Small-scale abattoirs.

The Declaration on Farmers and Peasants Rights is another document that could inform our approach to redesigning our food system. It was developed by grassroots organisations across the world to reflect the values of food sovereignty and agroecology. It asserts that‘States shall comply with their respective international obligations to combat climate change. Peasants and other people working rural areas have the right to contribute to the design and implementation of national and local climate change adaptation and mitigation policies…’The Decade of the Family Farm has begun and Mount Alexander Shire Council has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this new UN ratified epoch.