How technology can help nations navigate the difficult path to food sovereignty
Can trade help maintain communities’ identity as the globalization of society creates a more multicultural society? The concept of “food sovereignty” is based on this question.
The right to healthy, culturally-appropriate food produced using environmentally sound and sustainable methods has been defined. It is also the ability to own one’s food system.
The term “culturally appropriate food” refers to a group’s cuisine that reflects its values, religious beliefs, and norms. It can be dynamic and change over time.
On my travels across the world, I discovered that people eat food for cultural, religious, and social reasons, not only to satisfy their hunger. International trade is a way to facilitate this.
What is the impact of trade on cuisine?
My journey was shaped by my experience examining the preferences of people of Afro-Caribbean, South Asians, and Chinese in the Greater Toronto Area.
Chinese people love bok choy (also called Chinese broccoli), Chinese eggplant, and gailan. South Asians enjoy okra and bitter melon. African-descent people tend to enjoy okra, amaranth, and eggplant.
These groups have a lot in common when it comes to food, even though their preparations may vary.
It makes sense. One of my major findings was that migration and trade have affected everyone’s culinary style. In the modern world, this pattern is more prominent as people learn and explore other cultures by incorporating other food traditions into their cuisine.
Food culture enrichment
Integration of cultures doesn’t negate the culturally appropriate foods but enriches them. London’s curries were a product of migration. In Nairobi, the Indians settled and traded in the area.
Different cultural groups have other ideas about what constitutes good food or appropriate foods. People who can afford organic food and those who are environmentally aware, for example, eat local produce. Jews and Muslims, meanwhile, eat Halal.
It is important to ensure that food is properly labeled as organic, local, or kosher.
If you’re unsure of the origins of certain foods, it can be difficult to determine whether they are produced locally or abroad. It allows consumers to make informed decisions. It is not a good incentive for farmers to label because it could be an extra cost.
Transparency and authentication: The case for both
To ensure that people have access to authentic, culturally appropriate food in the marketplace, I recommend “cryptolabelling”, a new digital process. The crypto-labeling process would rely on secure communication technologies to create a record that traces the food’s history from the farm up to the grocery store. This would ensure that records are consistent, there is no duplication, there is a registry of certifications, and there is easy traceability.
The crypto-labeling process would bring transparency to niche markets such as organic, halal, and kosher. This allows people to form a relationship with each other, even if they don’t trust or know each other.
A family in another country could have the food they want all year round if someone in Cotonou in Benin produces organic amaranth and labels it in a way that anyone easily understands.
The Blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin can be used to manage this initiative. The consumer only needs a smartphone in order to read and scan the crypto-labels.
Adoption of blockchain technology can help African nations “leapfrog over” the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Leapfrogging occurs when developing countries abandon an outdated technology widely used in developed nations and adopt a more modern one. In the early 2000s, for example, homes with no landline were replaced by households with two or more mobile phones. In Kenya and Somalia, a platform was developed for mobile banking.
Crypto-labeling, on the other hand, will result in a type of “electronic farming” that will be cheaper to label over time and improve traceability. It’s feasible for developing countries as mobile technology is becoming more accessible.