Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A Welsh Food Revolution?

There are many good reasons to change the way we source our food. The price of food is on the increase, we don't fully understand the effects of additives in processed food, climate change is turning parts of the world into desert and biofuels have replaced food crops resulting in food shortages. It is estimated that world food supplies would have to double in the next 40 years to feed a population of nine billion, while at the same time, farmers must cope with climate change, oil price rises and new plant and animal diseases.

A report from MPs out last week said "Only 10% of the fruit consumed in the UK by value is grown here. Apple orchards have reduced by nearly 33% in just 10 years and less than a third of the apples eaten here are grown here", while in 2005 Britain imported 1,500 tonnes of potatoes and exported exactly the same amount.

According to Sustain

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has calculated that, globally, agriculture generates 30% of total man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, including half of methane emissions and more than half of the emissions of nitrous oxide.
In the EU, over 30% of the greenhouse gases from consumer purchases come from the food and drink sector.
Latest conservative estimates from the Food Climate Research Network in the UK suggest that almost one-fifth of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions are associated with our food and drink.

We have to change the way we source our food and the single greatest contribution we can all make in reducing our individual carbon emissions is to eat as much of our own-grown food as possible.

Growing-your-own provides good exercise and has obvious other health and financial benefits. It can also help to bring people together. On my allotment, young and older people work together sharing plants and tips in a spirit of communalism. We all rely on each other - a plant disease on one plot can affect us all.

Demand for allotments is growing. At the beginning of the year I did some research which showed that there are 2,500 people on waiting lists for an allotment in Wales and that some people will have to wait up to nine years! The 1908 Small Holdings and Allotment Act says the council has a duty to provide land if they are satisfied there is demand and if six electors petition that council, their representations have to be taken into consideration. Since then I have found plenty of examples of groups of people who have petitioned their council only to be told that the council has considered their request, but there is no land available.

I've visited community owned urban food production gardens in Cuba and I'm keen to see if we can do something similar here in Wales. Tomorrow, I am hosting a "summit" of all the contacts I have made while working on allotments and I am hoping that the meeting will generate ideas for making more land available for those who want to grow their own.


Rhys said...

"climate change is turning parts of the world into dessert"

Good job too, lots of pudding for everyone!

Leanne Wood said...

This made me laugh so much, I don't want to change it!