SAFCEI’s Regional Interfaith Dialogue on 17 October was an exciting, collaborative grappling with aspects of food security that relate to practical ways in which humans express the teachings of their faiths.
We asked: What does your faith say about the commoditisation of food?
The question stemmed from two UN special days: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and International Food Day, both falling on 16 October. These reflect the first two of the Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 1, aiming for No Poverty by 2030 and SDG 2, aspiring to No Hunger in the world by 2030.
Our speakers brought very different aspects to our thinking.
Dr Steve Worth was our second speaker. Dr Steve recently retired as an Associate Professor in Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa, where he also served as Director of the African Centre for Food Security. From his deeply rooted Baha’i perspective as well as a broad knowledge base, Dr Steve Worth described the importance of justice at every step of the chain, from producer through to consumer, and spoke of the need for each of us to live an individually coherent life centred on love and unity. If each of us truly expresses these common values in the way we live our lives and make our decisions, there will be no inequity because we will all have the greater good at the core of our intentions and our actions.
Finally, Gabriel Manyangadze, SAFCEI’s programmes manager had the difficult task of unravelling the question: Have our faiths failed the starving people in Africa? Gabriel’s powerful presentation concluded that yes, our faiths have failed our people. He started his presentation with an exploration of what commodification means: “Commoditisation is the process of converting products or services into standardised, marketable objects. This process tends to strip away unique or identifying qualities of the commodity in favour of identical, lower cost items that can be interchanged with one another.”
Gabriel shared texts and teachings from his own faith (Christian), that examined the call to practice neighbourliness and kindness. He also spoke about the need to embrace agroecology and move away from the industrialised farming methods that not only strip the soil of nutrients and health, but also rob many people of their land and the ability to grow their own food. Gabriel stressed the importance of indigenous and traditional food, which had provided nourishment for generations before the balance was upset by industrialisation and greed.
Our breakout rooms produced intense and thoughtful discussion from the 40 participants, of whom 21 were men, and 18 were women. One highlight was the realisation of how important youth engagement is in the re-invention of a food system that would leave no-one behind.
The final input of the day came from SAFCEI’s recently appointed Cage-Free Campaign Coordinator, Zwelisha Shobede. Zwelisha shared both the campaign and his heart when he told us that loving animals – including those who are part of our human food chain – is equal to loving ourselves.
By Rev Berry Behr