2. Unpacking the Global Food System

The discourse we often hear around global agriculture is one of scarcity and hunger, namely, that hunger exists because not enough food is being produced. Often, this narrative leads to the justification of practices used in large-scale industrialized farming as the only way to efficiently feed the word’s growing populations .

However, it has been estimated that smallholder farmers practicing traditional agriculture are responsible for producing over 70% of the world’s food needs today, and do so on only a quarter of the world’s farmland. The other three-quarters of the world’s farmland is dominated by industrial agriculture, which only actually produces about 30% of the world’s food. This type of agriculture also uses an inordinate amount of water in an unsustainable way, and comes with a myriad of environmental problems.

The model of industrial agriculture known well in the US was exported to the rest of the world through the Green Revolution, with promises of increased yields and decreased hunger.  Indeed, in the last 30 years, the world produced 17% more food per person than 30 years ago. Yet today, close to a billion people go hungry. If we are indeed producing more food, why is there is still so much hunger?

In this Lesson, we unpack the global food system while exploring some of the myths surrounding the causes of global hunger and it’s roots causes, including international trade agreements and consolidation of corporate control in the global food system.

You’ll explore alternatives to a globalized food system while investigating how small farms can still be financial sustainable through different marketing strategies available to small producers.This Lesson also explores the intersections of farming and social issues like gender, labor and race to really understand who is both at the center of of our food movement as well as most impacted by our current system.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To understand how traditional knowledge and skills have been replaced by technology, and the consequences for both the natural world and small farmers.
  2. To identify the root causes and myths surrounding global hunger and to analyze the current global food system
  3. To explore how consolidation of power in the food system can lead to the exploitation of farm workers, racial inequity, urban poverty and land displacement.
  4. To compare and strategize which marketing strategies might best fit a farm’s needs and financial sustainability.
  5. To be able to explain how gender and agroecology are linked
  6. To understand what a resilient farming system looks like, and envsion steps towards community-based, resilient food systems