Blog Understanding Cali's food system today to plan for the future

After 2 years of research, we presented the Cali city-region food system profile (available only in Spanish) through a Facebook Live event with the main stakeholders consulted for building this profile. We collected here some highlights of their voices.

Last Thursday, July 22, we had a conversation via Facebook Live to tell the city of Cali about our main findings on its food system, after 2 years of research. There we learned, through the voices of some of the main stakeholders consulted for building this profile, the most significant data that the study yielded around four components: socioeconomic, environmental, health and supply. Their reflections and conclusions, summarized below, represent valuable inputs for planning the future of this food system, as well as the steps to be taken, which we hope to implement through the Coalition for Food and Land Use, a public-private initiative open to the participation of all, which aims for an inclusive, resilient and sustainable city-region food system to feed all members of society.


Jarrisonn Martínez, sub-secretary of Productive Services and Collaborative Trade of the Secretariat of Economic Development of Cali. 
“The pandemic has put on the table the importance of reviewing the Health and Food and Nutrition Security policies in Cali. The city already has a policy, but the moment poses decisive reflections on what to do to strengthen food security, given that most of the food comes from other departments: how to increase food production conceiving a city-region and supporting short circuits for that production; to also reduce the environmental impact of the system. Studies like this will help us make new public policy decisions to guarantee and enhance food security in Cali. In this sense, the Secretariat of Economic Development today envisions elements such as the importance of greater diversification of agricultural production in the department of Valle del Cauca; a coalition that conceives the city in a city-region framework; the increase in municipal food production by strengthening urban agriculture; the need to strengthen the distribution network, marketplaces, farmers' markets; and the need for an institutional framework that allows us to conduct and guide the policy."



Ruby Castellanos, professional in charge of the Childhood, Adolescence and Youth team of the Secretariat of Public Health of Cali and professor at the National School of Sports.  
“The food system in Cali needs to be strengthened, because if it can be strengthened in terms of sustainability and inclusion, the health status of the entire community will improve. Mortality due to malnutrition is very telling regarding the human development of a territory. It is the result of how many aspects of a society function. It is something we need to continue to work on so that the gap of inclusion and food inequity continues to decrease in the territory, and cases of malnutrition and mortality due to malnutrition cease to exist. Malnutrition is a consequence. It is a consequence of a daily routine, of habits, of economic access, of how the food system works, and of food prices. This last point is an alarm for the health sector; we know that when food prices rise there will be a negative consequence. Food quality and quantity are the first to be affected when household incomes decrease or when food prices increase, and this has a direct consequence on health."


Carlos Alomía, manager of CAVASA (Central Supply Center of Valle del Cauca) 
“I invite you to have an integrated vision of the agri-food system. Everything that happens throughout the food geography is very important. If we assume that we are part of an agrifood chain, we will understand very well the connections that exist from the production area to the final consumer. This transcends Cali. Cali is not alone, it is part of a whole system of intermediate cities and surrounding municipalities, which create a very important focus of consumption. It is a necessary bet to be able to produce in Valle del Cauca what is consumed locally; this would be a driver of peace, employment, clean and better-quality food, but it must be done with a view to making profitable agricultural investment in the Valle department, so that farmers can stay in their places of origin. The strategy must be to sell in order to sow, knowing first who the consumers and buyers are in order to decide, from there, a specific sowing process and guarantee a much closer site for food supply [...] Faced with this scenario, we can also: (1) Organize consumption and consumers, organize the economy from the demand side: estimate the demand by socioeconomic class, segment the purchases that are made from the different fronts. In lower-low, low, and upper-low classes, there is a large fragmented and dispersed purchasing capacity; it is there where inclusive businesses can be developed. (2) Reduce intermediation, which is costly and generates inequity factors. Generating a consumer network that can enable organization of the economy from the consumers’ side is a very interesting option to reduce market asymmetries, where some have a lot of information and power and others do not. The only way to reduce these asymmetries is to increase consumer purchasing capacity, not only through individual purchases but also by increasing the capacity for collective purchases through cooperatives, employee funds, family groups, residential communities. (3) Disseminate information on prices and markets. At CAVASA, we have an information system that we make available to the public, producers associations, consumers, so that they can find out which products are trending up and down. It is important to have this information to plan better. One of the main challenges is to build community around the food issue, as it is key to developing collective solutions.”


Verónica Manzi, Associate Professor at Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, PhD in Sanitary and Environmental Engineering.
“There are two cross-cutting challenges facing the city's food system from the environmental point of view: (1) improving the quantity and quality of information, as we do not have more information on the losses and waste within the system; and (2) preserving an integrated vision, considering each of the system's components, as this leads us to broaden the panorama of its environmental effects. What can we do in the face of this? On the supply chain: improving technical capacity and keeping up with technological changes; moving more towards sustainable agriculture, efficient use of water, energy and adequate use of fertilizers; good storage, distribution and marketing practices; good packaging practices to prevent spills; keeping a focus on urban agriculture, reducing reliance on other territories; and strengthening short circuits in the city-region. On losses and waste: real implementation of a circular economy and integrated solid waste management, prioritizing prevention over treatment options as well as energy recovery and controlled final disposal of residues. On consumer behavior: we refer to changes in cultural habits that lead us to make responsible purchases, improve storage practices, better manage our inventory - from home to large consumption centers - better plan our meals to reduce waste and be mindful of energy efficiency and water use in food preparation. Surely there are many more things that can be done, but these can be starting points to begin the discussion on how to mitigate the environmental impacts of our food system.”


At the close of this conversation, Mark Lundy, research area director for Food Environment and Consumer Behavior at the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, said:
"This is a complex issue that brings the whole world together, and one to which we can all, from our diverse perspectives and positions in the food system, contribute. We hope that this study will serve as an entry point for actions in the future. It is necessary to know where we are, but what is really important here, as the panelists have highlighted, is to move and look for ways to collectively build an inclusive food system, where all people can access sufficient healthy and nutritious food; a system that allows rural populations and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods to live in dignity. A resilient system that can respond to climate and social shocks and is sustainable. For us it is a great pleasure to keep working on this issue under the model of the Alliance for food and land use, Cali city-region, to which all stakeholders are welcome to participate. 

The longest journey begins with the first step, and I hope this is the first step towards consolidating a different vision of our food system."


sara_rankingSara Rankin Cortázar, research associate at the Food Environment and Consumer Behavior Research Area, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. (