Article Access: Innovate or Perish: Food Policy Design in an Indigenous Context

by Karabo Cohen

The credibility of the old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention”, has prevailed remarkably in the face of the numerous challenges posed by the threat of climate change (e.g. the destabilization of ecosystems due to enhanced global warming, which may hinder the process of farming) and the seemingly growing threat of global epidemics. F instance, Kevin Kumala’s innovative biodegradable bag, composed of natural starches and cassava roots, or Beer Bottle Sand which is said to help preserve beaches for New Zealanders in the future. But a contextualization of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) recognition of food and nutrition insecurity in the region of Latin America as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it so that the inverse of the adage is equally true, given the current nature of public policies in the region which is said to be non-inclusive and conceived almost entirely without an “anthropological approach”. In the article Food Policy Design in an Indigenous Context in a Post-Pandemic and Climate Adaptation Era, Dr. Diosey Ramon Lugo-Morin sets out to examine the utility in indigenous food systems in the region through the model of effective food policies.

It is said that indigenous food systems have played (and continue to play) a huge role in environmental conservation, particularly seeing as all the territories they are observed in account for 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity. The term refers to the intimate connection between several natural resources like fungi and air which have sustained indigenous peoples for many millennia; this naturally contrasting with industrialized food systems observed in non-indigenous parts of the world, where food production is supposedly linear, mechanistic, and eternally bound by the exposition of neoclassical economic theory.

Dr. Lugo-Morin, a professor at the Intercultural University of Pueblo State, introduces his research on food policy design in this paper initially by outlining the origin of biotic/abiotic resource pressures: complex interactions between organisms and the environment through the presence of humanlike primates during the Pliocene (over 5.3 million to 2.5 millions years Before Present), which was then enhanced with the planet’s humanisation during the Pleistoene over 350,000 years ago. Secondly, he sheds light on the anthropocentric imposition of these resource pressures on nature (e.g. the near biological extinction of North Atlantic cod from fishing), which has resultantly shed further light on the resilience of indigenous groups in owing their survival to natural resources. An example of this being the Qhapaq Ñan project (Peru) which “adress[ed] the rights of indigenous peoples in a context of protection and management of their biocultural heritage”.

Essentially, the crux of this report is ‘open innovation’ — the definition of which, as cited in the article, is an adaptive process shaped in accordance with the context in which it has been given rise to. This is particularly noteworthy because of the effects of climate events on local food systems, which as the article outlines, are beyond what may be thought of as minor inconveniances. In the case of urban areas, these effects amount to social alienation, immobility, and structural unemployment as a result of this. While still introducing the study at hand, Dr. Lugo-Morin suggests the urgency for a transitory mobilization towards a biosociety; this being defined as the “collective organization of individuals who generate processes of bio-knowledge with the natural resources of their territories.” Regarding the methodology behind the article, it seems that the option to carry out theoretical research necessitated a large constitution of the report by its literature review (180 publications are reviewed), which is neatly divided into three categories for analysis: the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, the evolution of food systems in the context of a pandemic, and the more specific effects which the recent pandemic may have had across different geographical scales.

There are but a few concrete conclusions which are drawn from the wealth of literature which was incorporated into the study: one, that indigenous peoples have been affected by economic and agricultural development and related policies such as the industrialization of production and systematic oppression, and two, that promotion and learning based on these food systems should consider the building of diverse food landscapes — financial and political support are also essential to create robust, circular structures. Naturally, the report concludes with what are (?) research-based food policy designs (i.e. food taxes, food promotion tools, and feedback tools).

There is a quote attributed to the late Secwepemc Elder William Jones Wolverine Ignace, which may serve as a fitting encapsulation and/or nexus between the overarching theme of the Journal of Intersectional Social Justice, intersectionality, and the motivational basis of Dr Lugo-Morin’s work on food policy design: “food will be what brings people together.” As noted previously, it is suggested that current public policies with a local impact are far from being inclusive and lack a vital anthropological approach to include other viewpoints and systems of knowledge. Consequently, it is necessary for indigenous territories to have sufficient autonomy in the management of their food systems in informal and formal institutions so that schemes can emerge that value the socialization of biocultural food heritage.

References:

Lugo-Morin, D. R. (2022). Innovate or Perish: Food Policy Design in an Indigenous Context in a Post-Pandemic and Climate Adaptation Era. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, 8(1), 34.

Image: https://www.eufic.org/en/food-production https://phys.org/news/2018-03-food-production-crisis-isnt.html

Karabo Cohen is a finishing A-Level student at the Rutlish School in History, Politics, Economics. He currently plans to attend university for history and politics.

Originally published at https://www.journalisj.com on June 18, 2022.

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