Together with Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Old Manila Eco Market, GCash, The Moment Group, Manam, and Pancake House, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines showcases how its different projects work together to ensure food security in the country on October 16, 2019.
“WWF works on food security because globally, agriculture and food production are some of the biggest causes of the rapid change we are currently experiencing in our environment. In the past 50 years or so, there has been an increase in the mechanization of food production. Land conversion for agriculture affects our natural ecosystems and wildlife habitats. We need to seriously start tackling the issue of sustainable food consumption and production because it is directly linked to how we use our natural resources, which in turn affects how our climate is changing.”
This was the call to action made by Chrisma Salao, WWF-Philippines’ Vice President for
Conservation Programs, on World Food Day.
Annually, World Food Day is celebrated on October 16 in honor of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. For WWF-Philippines, World Food Day is a special event because food security and sustainability are major themes of the projects that are implemented locally. Food consumption and production are responsible for 29% of human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 60% of terrestrial biodiversity loss, and 70% of global fresh water use, making food a major contributor to the climate crisis we are experiencing today.
More importantly, the role the food industry plays when it comes to environmental protection and conservation is becoming more apparent as populations all over the world continue to increase. More people means more mouths to feed, and more mouths to feed means more produce needed to be grown. More produce needed to be grown means more forest area needed to be converted into agricultural lands as well as more seafood needed to be harvested from the oceans. And in order to support the growing human population, this means that our forests, watersheds, oceans, and cities need to be developed and cared for in the most sustainable way possible.
“The increase in population and economic prosperity have put considerable pressure on food production. There has been a dramatic economic shift in the past 30 years, so much so that nowadays, it is cheaper to eat meat compared to consuming fruits and vegetables. This is partly due to the changes in the way we produce food. The unintended consequence of the way we produce and consume food has compromised our health and the health of our planet,” Salao added.
Our need for food is directly related to the health of our planet, which is why WWF-Philippines launched The Journey of Food – a World Food Day celebration showcasing the different projects of the organization and how each of these projects contribute directly to ensure food security in the Philippines. The event, held at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay and hosted by WWF National Ambassador Rovilson Fernandez, aims to help educate the Filipino people on the correlation between food production and consumption and climate change, and to present to them WWF-Philippines’ brand of conservation – one that sees our ecosystem as one living breathing entity and one that works to improve Filipino lives by crafting solutions to climate change, providing sustainable livelihood programs, and conserving the country’s richest marine and land habitats.
“The Journey of Food is the whole complex process of producing our food for the entire food value chain. It starts with our farmers down to our consumers,” said Moncini Hinay, WWF-Philippines’ Project Manager for Sustainable Food Systems. “Sustainable agriculture works to improve the capability of farmers while taking into account our natural resources. We want to empower farmers by giving them opportunities to enhance their agro-entrepreneurship skills through sustainable agriculture production, financial literacy and savings mobilization, and creation of viable agro-enterprises. By improving the income of our farmers and equipping them with knowledge on how to climate-proof their farms, we can ensure that they can continue to produce food for generations to come.”
Meanwhile, David N. David, WWF-Philippines’ Fisheries Technical Officer for the Sustainable Tuna Partnership project, provided the perspective from the lens of our local fisheries industry. “We are working on the production of sustainable tuna and so for us, the Journey of Food means tracing the journey of tuna. We are working with local tuna fishers in order to promote sustainable fisheries,” said David. “We are setting up measures for traceability and verifiability for sustainable seafood. We want to empower our fisherfolk by involving them in the management of our marine resources and by linking them with global markets for equitability. We are also connecting them with local markets – those who, in particular, want to ensure that the seafood they sell to their consumers are responsibly-caught.”
One of the major challenges when it comes to promoting sustainable food consumption and production is the difficulty that consumers encounter when asked about the relationship between their food choices and climate change. Atty. Angela Consuelo Ibay, WWF-Philippines’ Program Head for Climate Change and Energy, pointed out that actively making ourselves aware about this issue starts with how we take care of our own health. “When we are unaffected, we do not do so much. It is in our nature as humans. We need to start caring about what we put in our body because this will then make us think about our food choices – what we’re eating, where it comes from, who produced it and how. The relationship between climate change and food security is clear and we need to make our food systems climate-secure. We are still getting there but in our households, we have the power to decide and engage in sustainable practices,” said Atty. Ibay. “In cities, where convenience and the instant mentality reign supreme, the Journey of Food can be quite complicated but it doesn’t have to be. We can be urban farmers and plant food enough to sustain our households. Learning where our food comes from by producing in our own backyard will help us appreciate the process of production more. The youth sector is very important as they are in a position of influence and can vote for a more sustainable future through their food choices.”
Pamela Luber, the Integrated Marketing Communications Specialist for The Sustainable Diner project, shared her thoughts on the issue from a behavioral and cultural perspective. “There is a clear disconnect between food producers and consumers, particularly when it comes to thinking about how hard it is to produce the food that we eat. From the consumer perspective, whenever we dine out and order food, we are so focused on wanting to satiate the hunger that we are feeling and to satisfy our cravings that we often fall under the cultural Filipino trap of takaw tingin or over-ordering. More often than not, we end up producing food waste which not all of us choose to take home,” said Luber. “Whenever we waste food, we are wasting the hard work of our producers as well as the resources that went into producing it. The Journey of Food should not end up with food waste thrown in landfills. We want people to learn and to always remember that it took a lot of hands to produce the food that we enjoy and so we need to start consuming responsibly.”
Hinay and David, who are both working on the production side, shared their thoughts on the matter as well. “There is a gap when it comes to educating our consumers on food production. It’s not just about being mindful of our food choices but also realizing that empowering our farmers means empowering rural communities, which serve as lifelines for urban cities. Rapid urbanization has brought about land degradation and industrialization has contributed to extreme weather changes, all of which affecting the capacity of our ecosystems to produce food.” said Hinay. David added, “We often forget that producers are consumers too – they live in rural areas and they offer a unique point of view as rural consumers. While urban consumers don’t get to see how food is produced on a daily basis, rural consumers would historically know the changes that have historically occurred in the way we produce food and how our changing methods have affected the ecosystems that support food production. They would know this because they live in those places and they see the effects of climate change as it happens.”
In closing, the rest of the panelists offered their thoughts on how Filipinos can individually contribute to the fight for food security. “The journey starts with ourselves. Responsibly consume food by eating just enough to sustain yourself so you do not produce food waste. Cultivate food in your own household so you can also experience what it’s like to produce food. This experience will help you understand why it is so important for us to be mindful of our choices because it is very hard to produce food.” said Atty. Ibay. Luber added, “Whenever you can, buy local and support the livelihood of our Filipino farmers and fisherfolk. When dining, you can do this by supporting dishes that use local ingredients. Eat more vegetables and fruits so you can considerably lessen your meat consumption. Iced coffee and milk tea may be popular now, but it’s important for us to consistently refuse the use of single-use plastics because microplastics are already entering our diets through the food that we eat and the water that we drink. And then last, as mentioned by my colleagues, avoid wasting food. Honor the hard work of our producers and value the planet’s resources by consuming responsibly.”
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
WWF-Philippines has been successfully implementing various conservation projects to help protect some of the most biologically-significant ecosystems in Asia since its establishment as the 26th national organization of the WWF network in 1997.
Event details and images provided by WWF-Philippines in a recent press release.
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