Quezon City – The food sector contributes one-third of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions even though hunger rates remain high in certain parts of the world—a sign of an inefficient global food system that is harming the planet while failing to feed more than 800 million people across the globe.

 

This was the topic of discussion during the 19th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan episode entitled “Healthy People, Healthy Planet: What Does Food Have to Do with the Climate Crisis?” 

“Using 83% of all farmlands produces 60% of agricultural [GHG] emissions. It provides only 18% of calories and 37% of protein that humans consume. Where does the 82% of calories and 63% protein come from? It comes from plants. So why are we using 80% of all farmlands to produce very little? It just doesn’t make sense,” Climate Reality Leader Shiela R. Castillo explained during the webcast.

Shifting to a more plant-based diet

Castillo, a vegan and initiator of several online communities on veganism, underscored the need for a global shift towards a more plant-based diet to help curb emissions and to maximize the health and the environmental benefits of easing out meat from the daily diet.

“Meat is a powerful driver of climate change,” Castillo said. “Meat production produces—in the most conservative studies—more GHG than all transport sector combined,” he added.

Castillo also noted that even the lowest-impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least-sustainable vegetable and cereal growing that directly feeds people.

“If the world changed its diet and went completely vegan, emissions would drop by 7.8 GT,” she said.

Patronizing local foods and food mapping

Chef Jam Melchor, Founder of Slow Food Youth Network Philippines, supported Castillo’s call for transforming food systems, underscoring the need to utilize heirloom indigenous agricultural products that are grown and sourced within the country.

In line with this, Melchor shared that his group has been pushing Congress to provide local government units funds for food mapping, which includes creating an inventory of heirloom dishes, food produce, and gastronomic cultural bearers. 

Adding that food mapping also helps in calamities by providing data on where we can source food, Melchor said that their group has already finished food mapping in Cordillera, Pampanga, and Bulacan and is currently implementing the initiative in the Negros area.

“Mindfulness is the key. Always. Patronizing local foods that have been produced ethically and sustainably makes a difference to people’s livelihoods, to the environment, and economies,” Melchor said.

Melody Melo-Rjik, Project Manager of WWF Philippines’ The Sustainable Diner Project, agreed with Melchor. She noted the abundance of heirloom indigenous agricultural products in the countries.

“Why is it important to promote and use them? Number one, it’s easy to grow them since they’ve been growing here ever since. Second, it lessens our imports when it comes to the vegetables we need. Third, they are very climate-resilient. They can survive the impacts of climate change,” Melo-Rjik explained.

Enabling policies for food sustainability and support for local establishments 

Sharing the success of The Sustainable Diner Project, Melo-Rjik said that there is a need to influence national and local governments for them to include, incorporate, and consider promoting, mainstreaming food sustainability in national and local policies. She added that policies are drivers for businesses and consumers to embrace the sustainability journey.

“For the food sector, we try to help them transition from business-as-usual to a more sustainable business model,” she said, adding that local businesses must be provided with capacity development services and technical support.

Making urban gardens as common as sari-sari stores

Climate Reality Leaders Carissa Pobre and Karla Rey, meanwhile, shared the work that they do for Slow Food Sari-Sari, a coalition of small farmers, urban growers, community organizers, activists, and advocates for food justice and the urban poor.

A movement borne out of the pandemic, Slow Food Sari-Sari is founded on the idea of building collective power and understanding the systems of power in place that are disenfranchising a lot of people. It has been empowering urban communities through the Food Today, Food Tomorrow initiative.

“The Food Today side is for community kitchens contributing fresh organic produce sourced from smallholder farmers to communities in and around Metro Manila. The other side of it is Food Tomorrow—this is the urban gardening side,” Pobre said.

Rey added that the Food Tomorrow part supports urban poor communities—those who are always in danger of being displaced from their homes—grow their own food through agrobiodiverse gardens. “What makes this project really different is that every person we work with wants to overcome their problems. They don’t want to be helpless. They actively participate,” she shared.

Pobre shared that they have also introduced a Community of Practice Toolkit on urban gardening, which is publicly available for free at their website. She also invited people to pre-order Makisawsaw Recipes x Ideas: Community Gardens Editions, a collection of over 70 plant-based recipes from various chefs and urban growers in the country. All proceeds of the cookbook sales will go into supporting the Food Today, Food Tomorrow initiative.

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