An important part of improving food systems is learning from others and forming collaborations. When we hear about innovations, understand the role of food in different communities and build networks we are better equipped to develop solutions for the most complex issues. That’s why a group from Arrell Food Institute recently travelled to Colombia to learn more from agri-food experts.
Arrell Scholars Regan Zink, Rosemary Brockett and Margarita Fontecha (who is completing field research in Colombia) and Education Coordinator, Jeanna Rex, travelled to Bogota to meet with different organizations and academic institutions to exchange knowledge about food production, sustainability and climate change and other complexities that affect food systems in Canada and Colombia.
“The conversations we had on this trip were both informative and inspiring,” said Rex. “It was a chance to talk about Arrell Food Institute and the work we do and for the Scholars to speak to their research, make new connections and gain insights on food and sustainability initiatives in this particular region.”
The group met with representatives from academic, research and other organizations which brought a range of perspectives from Colombia’s agri-food system:
- Fondo Accóin
- LaSalle University’s Uptopia Project
- Andes University
- Climate Focus
The meetings were fulfilling and covered a range of topics. Notably this included climate change and some of the initiatives that are happening in each country focused on the effects of climate change and preparing for the future. Another theme that emerged in the conversations was the important role that smallholder farmers play in both the Canadian and Colombia food systems. People, especially those in rural communities in Colombia, depend heavily on the food that these farmers grow and are faced with challenges that impact their financial support and security.
Another special part of the trip was enjoying local dishes and cuisine together and learning about how and where food is sourced and even the history of it. For instance, the group had the chance to try one of the largest freshwater fish in the world from the Amazon region, the pirarucu. The pirarucu is considered a living fossil and a typical dish and thanks to conservation efforts and collaboration with Indigenous villages, is sustainably sourced through fishing reserves.
Our world is faced with an enormous issue of producing enough food for a growing population while protecting the health of the planet. Collaborations across sectors and between academic, industry and government are becoming more prevalent to find solutions and pave a path for more sustainable production methods. Sharing perspectives and participating in dialogues like the ones that happened on this trip are a step towards more resilient, more sustainable food systems for all.