Why you should be a locavore

Kenya is a food-insecure state. She is a net importer of food products like milk, maize and fruits. Some of her supplies like tilapia if flown from miles in China. Interestingly, the country is agro-ecologically fit (soils, weather, knowhow) to supply excess food for domestic and export markets.

The global food system emits 20–30% of total human-made greenhouse gases (GHGs). These cause global warming and climate change that impacts the sustainability of the current and future posterity. It makes it your affair to reduce your carbon footprint.  A simple way is to become a locavore; who eats mostly, or only locally grown foods.

In this post, we make a case of why you need to grow, buy and eat local food more often. You will reduce the distance of miles that food is flown from the farms to the fork. Second, you will reduce the number of food products transported by air, food waste and energy utilization. The above measures will have an impact on cutting GHGs emissions and increasing local food production, among other benefits.

Why you need to stop eating imported food

dining
To reduce food waste and GHGs emissions, eat locally grown food. You will also save money, enjoy fresh vegetables as you boost local investments and job creation in your area.

Sourcing your food from far has disadvantages on the environment, economy and health. These are;

Industrial farming aims at efficiency and profits. On the downside, it has a high emission of GHGs.  The bulk of it is factory or caged livestock and production of fertilizers, pesticides and animal feeds.

If you rely on food sourced from far, you have a larger emission volume compared to someone who buys food from nearby. Its Post-harvest stages like transport, storage, and processing have significant amounts of GHGs. It required more energy to refrigerate, pack and retail. Besides, it has high food waste and disposal during its catering and consumption.

You may enjoy “stale” food, which has lost its flavour and nutrition qualities in the long transit.  Canned and preserved products are not better, they use preservatives to slow down on its spoilage, and these may be toxic to eat.  Lack of control on the value chain exposes you to food contamination with pathogens or food chemicals.

Global value chains are more vulnerable than local ones. A slight disruption in transport or logistics can have an enormous impact on food supply and prices. During the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns; countries dependent on imported food had such shocks.

Buying food from foreign farms reduces local wealth. You fail to boost farmers and businesses in your state affecting its economy.

Finally, Food imports have to comply with set standards in the country of destination. If it has not followed the set growing packaging or shipping rules like moisture content and appearance, it will be rejected. Though, it may be fit for human and animal consumption. These rejects lead to income and food loss and emission of GHGs.

Why need to eat more locally-grown food

Container garden for vegetables and herbs
Grow greens and herbs for your salad at home. If space is limited, raise them in containers as shown

There are various benefits if you shift to grow your food, or buy from local farmers. You will save money, enjoy fresh and quality vegetables as you boost local investments and job creation in your area. Besides, it’s a chance to reduce food waste and the emission of GHGs.

Growing your organic food has eco-friendly benefits.  You will reduce the use of commercial animal feed, chemical pesticides and fertilizers. When you buy fresh products, you cut on food transport, storage, and processing. Local foodsheds have a moderate amount of food losses. All these measures cut on GHGs emission per individual.

Raising your food is a frugal way to cut expenses on food. You can grow it in your backyard, containers or a kitchen garden. Use the savings to invest in other areas.

Local food is cheaper for you. Fresh produce has a shorter supply chain, as farmers make direct sales to consumers. This cuts on transport, processing and packaging costs. Plus, few brokers cut marginal profits that they pass as a cost to the ultimate consumer.

As a locavore, you will access fresh food direct from your own or neighbour’s farm. You can enjoy its flavour, taste, and nutrition quality.

Spending money to buy or eat on local food will boost the local investment. By the multiplier effect, it will grow the micro and macro economies. As you enjoy them, you will create job opportunities for people across the entire local food value chain/shed.

How to be a locavore

Reusable shopping bag
Reduce packages waste by bringing your reusable shopping bags and consider buying the unwrapped products

As shown above, eating more locally-grown food will cut on your carbon footprint and food waste. To become a locavore cheaply, you will observe several dietary patterns and consumption practices as follows;

Home gardening;

Where you can, grow some greens for a salad. Cut on using synthetic fertilizers by doing home-composting. Control pests and weeds using organic measures like inter-cropping and mulching to reduce on use of farm chemicals. Another tip in kitchen gardening is to plan and grow only what you will eat to reduce on post-harvest food wastage.

Shopping;

 As you shop for local fresh produce, have a chat with farmers and traders to understand how the food was grown. Promote the ones with similar values in sustainability and transporting food over short distances by sea or road.

Reduce packaging wastes by reusing and recycling food packages like airtight containers. Buy more of unwrapped food and bring your grocery shopping bags.

Limit buying (imported), cooked and processed products. The above use large amounts of energy to make and distribute that hurts the environment.

Dining;

Substitute some livestock products with plant foods. On average, beef and dairy cattle emit most (40%) to the total GHGs from livestock. Non-ruminants such as pigs and chickens contribute less while grains and cereals have the least contribution.

Fruits vegetables and whole grains meals have quality nutrition and are way cheaper than meat products. A lifestyle change to eating them raw has an impact on your health and emissions.

Cook more at home to limit the times you dine out. Make it for multiple people or make several servings of food at once to save on energy.

The businesses and governments need to adopt better policies and add Investments to develop production, handling and supply of local food supplies.  It can be favourable taxation, subsidies or infrastructural support.

Shifting to grow your food, and buying from local farmers remain the best choice to reduce food waste and GHGs emissions.

Samuel K

Samuel Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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