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1 : I n a Nutshell

This is the age where knowledge and information are critical

for success. In a Nutshell is designed to stimulate interest
and inform on issues and topics of importance to sustainable
agricultural development in Caribbean countries.

This issue focuses on issues relating to securing the future of

food supplies. An extensive body of literature exists on the
topic. This nutshell provides information that can be easily
understood by the general public, especially rural women
producers and youth.

The Nutshell not intended to be a policy manual or technical

paper on the food security and nutrition policy issues.
Rather, it will highlight the implications of a rapidly growing
world population with respect to food supplies; the major
links in the food production–consumption chain and what
we need to do now, to reduce the likelihood and incidence of
food insecurity and hunger for all, especially rural peoples, at
all times.

Please visit the following websites for more information on

this topic:
− International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
− food and agriculture organisation (fao)
− caribbean food and nutrition institute (cfni)
2 : I n a Nutshell

We All have a
Right to Eat!
Everyone has the right to a
standard of living adequate for the
health and well-being of himself
and his family, including food,
clothes, housing and medical care
and necessary social services.
( 1948 Universal Declar ati on o f Human Righ ts, Ar ti cle 2 5.)

At the beginning of the 21st century, humanity

faced a glaring contradiction: the persistence of
desperate hunger amidst plenty [IFPRI].
Between 1991 and 2001, an estimated 842
million people were under-nourished. Of these,
788 million (93%) were in developing countries.

We must change the way we think about,

organise and practice agriculture. Agriculture is
inextricably linked to nutrition, health,
education, labour productivity, water
availability and quality and the environment.
We must reinforce these links to provide a
strong base to achieve gender and social equity,
household and national food security.
Food Security will depend on achieving sustainable
agriculture and food systems– that is, a way of
producing and distributing food that protects the
environment and ensures that our land, air and
water will be able to continue producing food in the
future. [ The Food Security Projects of the Nova Scotia
N utrition Council a nd the Atlant ic Health Promot ion Re search
Centre, Dalhousie U niver sity ]
3 : I n a Nutshell

More People,
More Pressure on Food Systems
The U S Ce nsus Bur eau estimate d tha t 4.4
people ar e bor n ever y second ar ound the
wor ld. IFPRI no tes tha t dur ing the last 3
deca des alone, a billion people have been
adde d ever y deca de.

There have never been as many people as

there are now. At the start of the. . . .
− 20 century, there were 1.6 billion
people; 47% of them lived in cities.
− 21 century, there were 6.1 billion
people; 52% of them lived in cities.
In 2020, the world population will reach 7.5 billion
people; 60% of them could be living in cities.

Population growth and social changes,

including longer life expectancies, growing
urbanisation, congestion of cities and
greater inter-dependence of countries will
affect the world’s future food security.
Countries around the world are already
plagued by deep poverty and inequalities in
health and access to food. Despite three
decades of rapidly expanding global food
supplies the most vulnerable – the poor,
children, women and the aged, especially in
developing countries – are food insecure.

Food Insecurity means not being able to get enough

food or enough healthy food at all times. It means
worrying about what your next meal will be, or
where it will come from, or the capacity of the
world’s food production systems.
4 : I n a Nutshell

Food Production
Keeping Pace
Adva nces in technologies and the continuous
applica tio n o f r esear ch and k no wle dge have
enable d agr icultur e to keep up with gr owing
dema nd for food.

The Green Revolution made the practice

of agriculture more science/ research-
based, resulting in more efficient use of
arable lands; higher yielding plants, seeds,
animals; enhanced fertilizers, pesticides,
feeds; improved greenhouse and irrigation
technologies. This averted the “mass
starvation and food crisis” predicted for
the late 1960s and early 70s.

The ‘Gene Revolution is revolutionizing

the science of agriculture, opening
possibilities to expand production on
marginal lands; cultivate higher yielding
pest-disease-drought resistant and
herbicide-tolerant seeds and plants;
produce, nutritionally and quality
enhanced seeds, plants, feeds and animals.

E nough food is being produced to fe ed all. But

food insecu ri ty remains a persisten t p roblem.
Sh ortfall in global food production is not the
maj or cause of f ood insecuri ty . Equitable
acce ss to f ood supplies is a maj or part of the
problem. The growing con trol ove r food
distributi on is a maj or cause of the inequitable
acce ss to the world’s f ood supplies.
5 : I n a Nutshell

Food Distribution:
A Competitive Space
Efficient food distribution is essential to
availability and equitable access to food.
Competition has never been more dynamic with
more than a dozen types of retailers vying for
market share. Power has shifted from the many,
small food producers and retailers, to a few mega,
multinationals that influence what, where, when,
how and even, how much we eat.

Some major features of the corporate-

driven food distribution system are:
Retail explosion, with a meteoric growth of
supermarkets and competition in food
service outlets, in gas stations, malls,
hardware stores, etc., to meet satisfy
demands for convenient, ready-to-eat food-

Dynamic and Innovative Packaging driven

by demand for convenience and food safety,
extending ‘fresh-life’ and featuring portion
control, eg., ‘a-size-for-all’ packs, bite- to
super-sizes; and smart and active packaging,
that transforms ingredients into ready-to-
eat snacks.

Aggressive and Excessive Marketing that

targets children and youth; offers direct,
personalized, instant delivery; spreads
global franchises, mass-merchandising and
private brand labels and encourages and
rewards brand loyalty, driving over-
consumption of unhealthy foods.
6 : I n a Nutshell

Food Demand:
Ever Changing Tastes
In the 21st century KING Consumers’ tastes
and eating habits know no boundaries. This
will continue to drive rapid growth in new
products and innovation in food marketing.
The face of demand and consumption
has changed from vegetarian- fibre-based
diets to high-calorie, meat- sugar-fat-based
diets. This is obvious in the range and high
availability of food and drink to satisfy the
demands for convenience (fast foods) and fun
and novelty (‘fad foods’).
Worrisome levels of diet-related illnesses and
chronic diseases, (major causes of death) and
the high costs of treating these illnesses are of
grave concern in the Caribbean.
The face of demand and consumption
is still evolving, as people live longer and
the safety, health and wellness movement
sweeps across the globe. This is becoming
obvious in the rapid growth of heath foods
and supplements that promote production
and consumption of fresh and organic foods
(‘fit’ foods) and herbs and supplements
(‘functional’ foods).

Agriculture is being repositioned to enhance health and

influence food demand in a more direct and positive manner.
This is being facilitated by advances in nutrition science
along with changing demographics which have reinforced
the central role of a good diet and eating habits in health and
7 : I n a Nutshell

Food Nutrition:
Enough, Healthy and Safe
Everybody eats; but not everybody eats
nutritiously. Poor nutrition, due to
either an excess or deficiency of
nutrients and unsafe foods, is a leading
cause of diet-related ill-health, diseases
and death.
Enough Food:
Worldwide over 2 billion people, mostly children
in developing and least developed countries are
malnourished. For the large and growing number
of poor households, healthy food is expensive.
Children’s bellies may be filled, but
they are starved for nourishment.

Healthy Food:
For the first time in human history, more
of the world's population suffers from too
much, rather than from lack of food.
Worldwide, mostly in developed
countries, more than 1 billion adults are
over-weight, 300 million of them are
clinically obese, with an estimated 17.6
million children under five overweight.
(WWW.WHO.INT ) Too many people have
adopted poor eating habits, starving
themselves for nutrition.

Safe Food:
As populations become more urban and the
global food distribution systems become
more diverse, the risks of contamination of
food have increased. Food safety has become
an essential factor in all aspects along the
entire food-production-consumption chain.
8 : I n a Nutshell

Farms and Farmers:

Food Security Building Blocks
Food does not produce itself.
It does not grow on super- market
shelves. In many developing countries,
farmers and their farms are sometimes all that
stand between food sufficiency and starvation.
Dozens of nations, once food self-sufficient
in many food staples, have been forced into
food import dependency. This is becoming
a growing concern in several Caribbean
countries as prices of imported foods keep
rising while local food production remains
constant or declines.

Farmers are under threat as the risks and

costs of farming keep escalating with very
limited security from exposure to the
vagaries of nature, theft of produce and the
unpredictable nature of markets. This is
especially for women farmers who are
responsible for 60-80% of food production
in developing countries. Farming is at risk
in several countries, including developed
countries, where it has been reduced to the
most unattractive form of livelihood and
career option.

Agriculture and food production need good

farmers! Environmental health needs good
farmers. Your food security and your health
depend on protecting your community and
country’s farm lands, farmers and national
food production systems.
9 : I n a Nutshell

Contain the
Seeds of Crisis
Widespread under-nutrition and
agriculture’s capacity to meet food
needs are critical issues dominating the
global agenda as nations try to restrain a
set of inter-related crises.

A current Energy Crisis as

competition between food and non-food
agricultural production escalates the
rate of extraction of non-renewable fuels
and the search for renewable, clean agro-

A looming Ecological Crisis as

growing populations, expanding
business and climate change strain
thresholds and the regenerative capacity
of natural bio-systems intensify the
competition for land and water;
environmental degradation; the impacts
of pollution and contamination; and the
frequency and severity of natural

A disguised Food Sovereignty

Crisis as more limits placed on
developing countries’ rights to define
their own food policies and strategies,
further marginalize small and medium-
size farmers and independent retailers;
increase reliance on imported inputs,
technology and food; and discourage
expansion of local food production and
10 : I n a Nutshell

An emerging Health and Nutrition

Crisis as more people suffer from
chronic diet-related disease and illnesses
and family members are too sick to work
and provide for their food needs,
threatening household food security,
childhood nutrition and eventually
national food production capacity and
growth in agriculture.

A restrained Agriculture Crisis as

soil fertility deteriorates, crop and
animal yields decline, farming
populations disappear, local and
traditional agricultural knowledge
diminishes and agricultural lands are
lost to housing and industry,
jeopardizing rural prosperity, social
equity and sustainable environmental

An energy crisis +
an ecological crisis +
a food sovereignty crisis +
a health and nutrition crisis +
an agricultural crisis
= An inevitable
condemning hundreds of millions of
men, women, children and infants\
to hunger, malnutrition and misery.
11 : I n a Nutshell

Feeding All
All the Time
If nothing is done now, hundreds of millions of
people will remain food insecure, children will
die by the millions from malnutrition and
environmental degradation will continue
uncheck ed. [IFPRI]

With the 2000 United Nations Millennium Development

Goals, the world is on a race to eradicate extreme hunger
and poverty and reduce child mortality by 50% by 2015.
This is a shared responsibility of the individual and the
State with support from development organizations.

Feed the Children - nutritiously

Children are our future. Their preferences
will determine the foods grown, processed
and marketed and future eating habits. They
must be influenced positively. Poor childhood
nutrition will affect the development of the
body and mind and the effects can last a
lifetime. A strong, community-based day care-
nursery -school feeding program is a good
starting point to, for example, promote
interest in agriculture and the environment,
good eating habits and healthy food choices.

Protect the Farmer – secure rural livelihoods

Despite the challenges faced by small individual farmers
and the growing trends towards ‘corporate food
production’, farmers are essential custodians of natural
resources and will remain the first source of food
supplies for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
12 : I n a Nutshell

Empower a Household – create opportunities!

Food security must be situated at the household, with particular
attention to women, children and the aged. Priority areas must
include systematically:
− improving access to food by enhancing
stabilizing prices, improving
marketing and distribution;
− facilitating access to land for
− promoting good nutrition by
improving diets, cooking skills,
education and equity in households;
− safeguarding family units by
promoting family planning and good

Energize a Rural Community – sustain capacities!

Many rural people are forced to move to urban areas because
they can no longer sustain a living in farming or fishing.
Rural areas must be made more attractive by:-
− building on traditional knowledge and
best practices;
− improving access to land for family
farms, backyard and school gardens;
− providing infrastructure and social
services [education, health, sanitation,
childcare, entertainment, sports];
− strengthening communication
networks with urban areas;
− nurturing efficient and viable
community-based enterprises;
− facilitating dialogue and cooperation.
13 : I n a Nutshell

Involve a City - strengthen the farm-city linkages!

Most city dwellers pay little attention to where their food comes
or the process it goes through to get to supermarket shelves.
City folk must be encouraged to become more involved in food
security issues through, for example:
− agriculture and food education and
awareness campaigns;
− promoting and facilitating good ‘urban
agriculture’ projects, (eg. grow box’);
− smart partnerships between producers
and urban distributors and food service
− well functioning national agricultural
market networks.

Mobilize a Country – enable

economic activity!
All countries must be allowed to exercise
their sovereign right to define their own
policies and implement strategies for the
sustainable production, distribution and
consumption of food, taking into
consideration their needs, resources,
capacities, cultures and structural
Integrate a Region – reduce
external dependency!
No country in the Caribbean can
achieve an acceptable level of food
security on its own. The Caribbean as
a whole, possibly, can, but only if the
right policies, integrating mechanisms
and programs are put in place and
14 : I n a Nutshell

Food For All – All the Time

An ‘In-
In-exhaustive’ Indicative Policy and Strategy Checklist

 Establish National Nutritional Policy and Goals to determine

nutritional needs, map vulnerable segments, forecast food needs and
define a supply response strategy that balances domestic production,
imports and where needed, food aid.
 Design an Integrated Policy Package for land use, sustainable,
agriculture and food production, rural development, natural resource
management, public investment, education, health and social services
etc, making food and nutrition security an integral part of such policies
and growth strategies.
 Provide Adequate Infrastructure and Institutional Support to
ensure that the basic preconditions are in place to boost production
(that fosters self-reliance, good practices and innovation) and
consumption (that promotes use of local foods).
 Develop Domestic Agricultural Markets to provide efficient and
equitable marketing and distribution infrastructure and services that
ensures consistent access to (price efficiency) and availability of
(distribution equity) available food supplies.
 Incorporate Agricultural Health and Food Safety Principles in
the entire input, production, processing, handling, storage,
transportation, marketing, food preparation and consumption chain.
 Establish a Climate Change-Disaster Management Response
Strategy centered on securing (food stocks for emergency needs) and
mobilizing (recovery) national food and nutrition security through rapid
resuscitation of productive capacity (small-scale community-based
seed/semen enterprises).
 Establish a Food Nutrition Education Program that provides
education in schools, community-based nutrition education, cooking
demonstrations and facilitate school gardens and school feeding.
 Participate Effectively in Trade Negotiations to secure increased
flexibility in policy formulation and domestic support to safeguard
domestic markets and enhance food security.
These and complementary policies and strategies will
contribute to improving livelihoods
livelihoods and reducing poverty,
especially in rural areas. Poverty is a key factor in Food
15 : I n a Nutshell

Issue #10
June 2005
ISSN-0245-4746 A2/TT/04-05

Prepared by
Diana E. Francis
Regional Specialist
Richard Rampersaud
Research Assistant

Trade Policy and Negotiations Pogram

IICA Caribbean

Production and Printing

CTP Services & Supplies

This issue is printed with financing from the

Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

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