By Angel B. Dukha III

The world currently has 7.7 billion people, and this number is still rapidly growing. The task to look for a lasting yet nutritious solution to feed this much people lies on everyone in the community.

Therefore, agriculture must be optimized to be able to feed and supply food to the growing population. Food security is related to the food choices that we make today. 

Plant-based chef and instructor Asha Peri believes in the sustainability offered by small-scale farmers, on which most of the world actually depends. 

Peri is advocating food security and sustainability with her organization Bread of Freedom, a consumer-activist platform that promotes responsible citizenship through demanding change, encouraging action, and increasing awareness, to resist entities that put food and farming at risk. 

She also teaches her students how to become more food secure while depending solely on locally available plants for food through her plant-based nutrition course Ecology of Food.

“This is my (act) of peaceful activism to reclaim and optimize our health, teaching people how to cook their own food using local, organic, bio diverse (food),” she said.

Who feeds the world

There are two very different farming systems that feed the world: The industrial food chain and the small-scale food web. 

The industrial food chain is composed of corporations responsible for supplying produce in huge quantities. These big food companies have the ability to mass produce products. However, they often generate a lot of food waste as well.

“The state of the industrial food chain is a linear sequence of links from production inputs to production outcomes and connected with financial and political economy,” Peri said.

The first link in the industrial farming system is composed of inputs in crop and livestock economics, pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics. The second link is the whole process, as well as the use of heavy machinery, transport, storage, processing, and packaging. The third link is the distribution of food to homes and restaurants.

This industrial food chain tends to cause an oversupply of food, which leaves a portion of their produce unconsumed and left to waste.

This system also limits the market for small-scale farmers who are often landless and earn barely minimum income. The lack of government support to farmers and the failed agrarian land reform results in the farmers’ poverty.

“Rural land is becoming more and more valuable, not for growing food but for real estate development,” she said.

Small-scale farmers, on the other hand, are local producers of usually organic products. This is where most people actually get their food and produce, said Peri.

According to statistics, 75% or around 4.5 billion people rely on the small-scale farms for food and not from the industrial food chain, she said.

However, the cost of production of small-scale farmers are high, both for food and cash crops, which are sold as raw materials to industrial food system factories. 

“It is so ironic that they support this cash crop economy but they’re losing cash in the process,” Peri lamented.

Solidarity with small-scale farmers

Peri urged that the community needs to support the small-scale farmers more as she believes that “food is the biggest source of profit,” especially in the cities. 

“We need to start growing food in the cities because the food chain ends in the cities,” she added.

The food choices that this generation make affects not only the current sustainability of food but also that of the future generations.’ 

To further positive change in the community, people should be familiar with their sources: locally sourced, naturally grown produce that benefits everyone in the community and helps the environment and “not hasten its destruction.”

“If our food providers are hungry, if consumers are wasting a lot of food then it’s definitely not going to sustain our planet,” Peri said.

Plant-based chef and instructor Asha Peri spoke about “Breaking the Chain, Building Food Webs” in Food. Farming. Freedom. held at the Cardinal Sin Center, Loyola School of Theology, Inc., Ateneo de Manila University.