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Exploring Hunger Crises and Local Food Sovereignty

by David

Packaging tomatoes in the Souss area, Morocco
Packaging tomatoes in the Souss area, Morocco

In the past summer semester, I had the opportunity to teach a seminar at the University of Leipzig’s geography department. More than 30 students, mostly freshmen and sophomores, prepared presentations and then contributed (with varying commitment) to lively classroom discussions. Every week, we read and discussed a key journal article or book chapter. Starting from explanations of poverty and famines (vulnerability, entitlement decline, responsibility failure), we later explored food regime and commodity chain theories and finally turned to present-day issues such as land grabbing, financialization, and alternative food movements.

Throughout the course, the links to our daily consumption decisions became apparent, and we kept coming back to the question whether we could do anything to make the world’s agri-food system more equitable or sustainable. I tried to give a realistic, yet hopeful perspective on the potentials and limitations of academic research in this regard. A little excursion to a community-supported agriculture project in the countryside and a store that sells unpackaged groceries in the city centre gave additional ideas of practical steps that are being taken by a multitude of actors around the globe.

Our modelling work at POLISES will hopefully benefit from the seminar’s insights as well, at least in terms of positioning our research findings within broader debates on food security. An important concept that goes beyond food security seems to be food sovereignty, which additionally asks where food comes from and thus stresses the welfare of smallholder food producers such as dryland pastoralists.

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