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World Food Day and climate justice

For the second time, we celebrated World Food Day (last Oct. 16) in the midst of a global pandemic that has magnified longstanding issues in our food system. Since 2020, we have seen how people’s access to healthy and sustainable food has become more limited, and food wastage has become more rampant due to restricted mobility.

According to a United Nations report, 59 million Filipinos experience food insecurity. The pandemic aggravated this condition as the COVID-19 situation impacted the agricultural sector due to disrupted access to markets.

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Food producers experienced another hurdle when Typhoon “Maring” (Kompasu) battered Northern Luzon this week, leaving behind an estimated P29.4 million worth of agricultural damage and losses in the Cordillera Administrative Region alone, and affecting 1,128 farmers and almost 2,000 metric tons of produce.

A video of farmers in Baggao, Cagayan desperately trying to save their corn harvests during the storm went viral and drew sympathy for the farmers. Once again, it raised a host of questions: How will farmers recover from the impact of the calamity? How can they provide for their families? Will they be able to repay their farming debts?

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These struggles are not new. Climate disasters, such as extreme flooding and droughts, have long been the biggest nemesis of our embattled food producers.

The 2021 Global Climate Risk Index shows that the Philippines ranks 4th among the 10 countries most severely affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019. A UN report in 2020 also showed that 149 million Filipinos have been affected by 304 disasters, mainly climate-induced, in the past two decades. Within this number are millions of farmers and fisherfolk whose livelihoods are constantly devastated by strong typhoons, droughts, and sea-level rise.

As our food producers, the backbone of our society, struggle, so do the rest of us Filipinos.

According to a global study in 2018, climate variability, along with conflict, has massively contributed to the rise in hunger. Weather events drive the prevalence of hunger, altering agricultural productivity, food availability, food pricing, and food access. Climate change, now exacerbated by the pandemic, has impeded global progress in reducing all forms of malnutrition, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

The struggles of food producers after every disaster point to the interconnectedness of food security and justice. The most frustrating part of this vicious cycle is that food producers who are the least responsible for the crisis bear the brunt of its impact.

This is why this year’s celebration of World Food Day should be more than just a commemoration, but a call to action.

Farmers and fisherfolk have long been calling on governments for climate justice. They were part of a groundbreaking petition filed in 2015 to hold the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies accountable for their lion’s share of responsibility for the climate crisis. Six years later, we are still awaiting redress for this petition. But the world is seeing a broader movement of food producers, backed by the youth and other sectors and communities, expressing their hunger for climate justice.

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Mandating corporations to adopt and implement genuine climate policies will aid in the crafting of a coherent strategy for climate adaptation for localities, and will benefit marginalized communities such as food producers. Governments can mainstream policies that address food wastage and food insecurity, among them climate friendly diets, farm-to-community linkages, and other community-based solutions such as the successful community pantries.

But as long as climate-destructive ventures like fossil fuel drilling persist, our food systems will remain vulnerable.

Climate justice is a big part of the solution to food insecurity. When countries, including the Philippines, finally take a crucial step toward holding climate polluting corporations accountable, it will give us a strong rallying point to confront systemic issues that have long haunted our communities, and will continue to haunt our future if left unaddressed.

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Virginia Benosa-Llorin is a senior campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines.

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TAGS: climate justice, Greenpeace, World Food Day
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