Local food solutions for challenging times ahead

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Stephen McDonach, Environmental Development Officer for Lochaber Environmental Group, explores local food solutions for the challenges that lie ahead:

‘The Trussell Trust gave out 1.6 million emergency food parcels in the UK between April 2018 and March 2019 – 210,605 of which were distributed in Scotland, the highest proportion for any region in the UK.

Food is currently at the heart of some of Scotland’s biggest challenges, from inequality to ill health to ecological breakdown.

Our food security depends on sustainability in its production and distribution. As the climate and biodiversity emergency deepens, the vulnerabilities of a mono-cultural, just in time, globalised food system are increasingly laid bare.

These weaknesses within an already inequitable system have implications for all of us, rich and poor. The proposed Good Food Nation Bill attempts to address the purpose of our food system in law.

The hope is legislation, with social justice, health and ecology at its
core, can act as a catalyst in transforming how our food system works.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land states our future food security depends on doubling productivity of smallholder farms and halving food loss and waste by 2030.

To achieve this in Lochaber we have to rediscover our past. Historical knowledge is essential.

Ground breaking work at the Blackland Centre on the Isle of Uist highlights how crofters in western Scotland, through their traditional light-touch management mosaic, have in the past contributed to enhanced biodiversity, thus improving nutrition for local communities and increasing food security through the practice of unique methods for sustainable agriculture.

These traditional low input practices stand in stark contrast to the large scale industrialised practices, such as end-to-end ploughing, that have been widely adopted in ‘agricultural’ regions such as in the east of Scotland.

In Lochaber, where large scale agricultural machinery is simply not suitable, the Blackland project found the ecological impacts of using small micro plant machinery, such as two- wheeled tractors, were minimal compared to those arising from importation of food and fodder.

Blackland’s research demonstrates sustainability and resilience should be seen as a ‘third way’ between extremes of production and conservation as it will be essential in the 21st century to resolve the paradox of under-used land and vanishing skills at a time of growing demand for food, increasing climate instability and rising fuel prices.

Lochaber Environmental Group’s ‘Food Lochaber’ initiative aims to co-ordinate a response to the challenges of local food production and distribution.

If you haven’t already had a look, check out www.foodlochaber.org and join the local food revolution.