Hivos International

Why Sustainable Food

Our planet has the potential to provide the growing world population with enough nutritious food for many years to come. It is clear that this is not happening, as one billion people are undernourished and two billion are struggling with obesity. Economies of scale, monoculture and liberalisation, market forces - none of these have been able to change that. On the contrary, by contributing substantially to climate change, by depleting natural resources and by letting countless plant and animal species become extinct, our current food system is leading to its own demise.

The situation is untenable in every respect, and the problems affect everyone. Both in rich countries and in poor countries, people’s health is deteriorating due to an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Basic knowledge about food and its preparation is disappearing. We do not know where our food comes from any more or what it contains, but we see that animals and plants are becoming sick more frequently, more severely and for longer. In addition, agricultural land that used to be fertile has become unusable because of depletion. That can lead to sharp price rises, which affect especially the poorest among us.

In Hivos’ view, our food problems arise from the pursuit of profit maximisation and productivity gains, which holds the entire food system in its sway. A growing counter-movement of citizens, businesses and organisations is opposing this by opting for diversity, robustness and transparency. Across the globe, more and more measures are being taken to stop the loss of species so that our food can be more varied and the food system can absorb a setback. Initiatives to inform people about what they eat, what is healthy and who produces what are becoming increasingly popular. There is growing evidence that we need to cool the climate instead of heating it, feed the land instead of depleting it, and that we must distribute our food more equitably.

Hivos believes in this counter-movement. Across the world, we work on ambitious projects with progressive partners. With the help of Hivos, farmers in Guatemala who make their businesses more environmentally friendly are given access to the market for emissions trading. Their indispensable contribution to the fight against climate change is finally being recognised. In Kenya, our partners are using comic books and radio to encourage young people to grow food, and the media is used to inform them about the quality of food. In Tanzania, Hivos works with a large coffee trader to improve the viability of hundreds of thousands of small farmers. Their increased productivity and diversification of crops has become an inspiration for government policy.

Key Focal Areas