The Alternative Food Network

The Alternative Food Network

Hello dear reader. As part of Mawsam’s mandate to act as a hub for local small scale producers, we are using our communication mediums to also spread awareness on several topics that are relevant to the sector we are working in, in a bid to share knowledge for the greater good of local and sustainable development.

Our sector is called the Alternative Food Network and is abbreviated as AFN. It englobes producers, farmers, direct and/or indirect stakeholders who all work with limited resources and short value chains to craft high-value and artisanal products that can be purchased and consumed by households, as well as by businesses. AFNs are usually a corrective response to the widely spread Conventional Food Network (CFN). Also known as the mainstream network, CFNs are characterized by industrial production/harvest and their outcomes are usually sold in supermarkets. They are considered the main food system that has been feeding the planet ever since the Green Revolution’s breakthrough in the 1960s. Their historical focus is on eliminating food insecurity by producing large quantities all year long, irrespective of crops’ seasonality, neglecting any environmental repercussions and ignoring the quality, all in the name of availability.

The globalization, the need and the viability of the CFNs have made them the main system and consequently rendered local food systems quasi-absent and unreliable among communities. By limiting the reliance on locality, AFNs started operating as a segment within the entirety of the conventional system; or functioning at its margin to complement it. The result came under the form of having local specialty being sold sporadically in distinguished shops, or via informal sales channels that may not be very sustainable for the livelihoods of small scale producers who created the value behind the product. In the AFN framework, retail venues are usually farmers’ markets who provide direct connection between producers and consumers, allowing the latter to trace the origin of their food and establish a relationship with the producer. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another form of informal producer-consumer relationship, allowing the latter to visit the land and oversee the process that is used to grow the food. Those two examples are few among many existing in the AFNs, and their adoption comes within the benefit of both producers and consumers alike, as the former is seeking sales retention and the latter opting for quality products.

The sustainable production methods that are used in the AFNs by small scale producers are being well met by ethical consumers who show commitment to purchasing sustainably grown food, that do not harm the environment from one end, but affecting positively the livelihoods of producers within the process. Unfortunately, the prices of those commodities are relatively high compared to their industrial counterparts, and hence limit their availabilities to lower income communities.

Mawsam is on its quest to help in creating that balance while emphasizing on the corrective approach adopted by AFNs in a bid to improve the livelihoods of their producers.

 

That would be it for now – stay safe and mentally sane.

Your friends from Mawsam


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