This event is for the idea-generating session for the 5th Asia-Pacific Society for Food and Agricultural Ethics (APSAFE2023). Self-introductions, a brief description of APSAFE, and sharing & discuss research interests were made.
Date: September 8, 2022, 14:00-16:00 (JST)
Participants: Chandra Prasad Pokhrel, Takashi Eguchi, Simona Zollet, Nobutsugu Kanzaki, and Kazuhiko Ota.
Thanks for your contribution to a fruitful discussion!
= Event report by. Simona Zollet =
Introduction of APSAFE 2023: just transitions in regenerative food systems under urbanization and climate crisis. The conference will focus food ethics as the key to break free from the path dependencies that lock us in the current unsustainable model and to move towards regenerative and just agri-food systems.
Focus: soil biology, satoyama, agricultural biodiversity, traditional knowledge
His current research looks at the consequences of land abandonment in rural areas vs land consumption in urban areas, especially in relation to the sustainability of periurban agriculture in Kathmandu valley. Agriculture in this area is facing various issues. Two of the most prominent are:
- small farmers are not legally registered with he government, and there is often no written contract between farmers and landowners owner of the land – making their situation very precarious and transient.
- young people who are engaged in farming don't have a long-term interest in agriculture, which serves as a temporary occupation while searching for better opportunities. Therefore they often use a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, leading to environmental and human health issues. In Nepal the use of synthetic chemicals for agriculture sharply increased after 2000 with the start of widespread intensive farming, while before farmers mainly used traditional low-input agricultural methods. Similarly, consumers don't know about the safety of the vegetables they buy.
- farmers also don't save their own seeds anymore – especially in periurban areas, farmers mainly use high yielding varieties, and there is no strong effort to protect indigenous varieties, despite their importance to food culture and food sovereignty.
Writer about japanese sake - software engineering, food ethics, Japanese food culture expanding to food ethics. He is focusing on two topics:
- Japanese food culture in Brazil, where there is a large population of Japanese origin. He has already engaged with this topic before, particularly in relation to the acceptance of Japanese food culture in Brazil as connected to acceptance of Japanese in-migrants (for example, sushi becoming part of Brazilian food). He is interested in further engaging with the mechanism of this acceptance, particularly in regard to the perception of authenticity of Japanese food (and how ‘authentic’ Japanese cuisine changes when it comes in contact with other cultures, in other countries, and through contact with people from other ethnic backgrounds. He is examining questions such as ‘How is this new mix of food cultures perceived and accepted’? ‘Which one is ‘real’ sushi’? ‘What are the innovative aspects of food creation’? from the perspective of understanding how to solve conflicts around food and culture.
- In his work as sake researcher, after interviewing farmers who produce sake rice he realized that the philosophy behind organic farming is changing – from the 1960s, organic farming has been connected to specific philosophies and ways of living, but now organic farmers are becoming more ‘neutral’ when it comes to production and life philosophies. For example, the use of machines is becoming more widespread and accepted, and younger farmers seem more motivated by economic incentives (for example, organic food can be sold for a higher price). An underlying question, however, is do we NEED philosophies behind ag and food? If yes, how do we create a balance between ideology and economic needs?
Her main research focus lies at the intersection between rural revitalization and sustainability transitions in agri-food systems. She is currently engaging with two research topics:
- Creating sustainable agri-food systems in rural areas based on agroecology: how do we move from an individual to a territorial perspective, and what principles and ethics should guide the creation of sustainable and resilient agrifood systems at territorial level?
- As agri-food system researchers, what did we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, both in relation to food production and consumption (and their connections)?
He is currently conducting research in Echizen city, Fuki prefecture, with a community regeneration focus. In particular, he is looking at the introduction of ICT technologies to assist community revitalization. One of such technologies are online discussion platforms for idea and opinion exchange. The positive side of this tool is that there is no need to be in the same place at the same time, making it possible to have more flexible (and covid-safe) discussions. A possible limitation, however, is that it might be challenging for elderly people to use this kind of system; furthermore, the users of the platform would not include all members of the community, so the opinions exchanged there would not represent the whole community, giving rise to potential issues with democratic management.
The discussion touched upon several topics discussed by the presenters, in particular the difficulties of the uptake of organic farming, and how these issues manifest in different ways in rich versus emerging countries (for example Japan and Nepal). Barriers/bottlenecks to the diffusion of organic farming are different among countries, in ways that relate to the different stages of development of the country’s food system. In Nepal, for example, the goal of increasing production to ensure food security is the government’s priority, similarly to Japan in the 1960s. The participants also discussed national level policies in the respective countries, noting that although policies in support of organic farming exist, they are not well implemented in practice.
A final topic discussed in the session was the difference in terms of farmer-led organic movements; while in some countries (like Japan) farmers movements were crucial to the spread of organic farming, in Nepal the diffusion of organic production is mainly linked to government policies.