Geographers interested in the ‘foodscape’ (or, more plainly, the geography – – or geographies?! – – of food) have lots of online options when it comes to finding data and information, gleaning insights about recent changes, or keeping track of what’s going on right now. Below are ten of the best options – – I’m sure there are more and probably ones I shouldn’t have overlooked, but this is a start (if you want to point out some others, please leave a comment).
- The ‘Rome Three’, that is the UN’s Rome-based organizations dealing with hunger, food, and agriculture: the World Food Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organization, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. They each have their own remits but they often work together. There are plenty of resources within each site, including statistics on the FAO site, resources for students on the WFP site, and information on IFAD projects in numerous countries around the world. Related tho these actors, you should also have a good look at the work of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, especially its 2008 report.
- UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, is a great resource generally but it also has some highly relevant materials on food and agriculture, including a report on the global food crisis, and information on the role of agribusinesses within the 2009 World Investment Report.
- The World Bank has a lot to say about agriculture, including the role of agriculture in ‘development’, e.g. see the 2008 World Development Report. The WB also tracks food prices in its Food price watch site, which is worth keeping an eye on.
- Government web sites are another good source of information. Ireland’s Department of Agriculture (full name, of course, is Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) has links to reports and statistics and even a dedicated section on the agri-food industry. Also in Ireland there is An Bord Bia, which works to promote Irish food sales at home and abroad; or have a look at what the Food Safety Authority of Ireland does.
- There are lots of non-governmental organizations interested in food, in hunger, in agriculture’s role in development, etc. In Ireland, you can see what Trocaire does to end poverty and hunger or what Concern works on with respect to livelihoods or emergencies, including food crises. You might also consider looking at what Oxfam does in this area.
- Within the foodscape there are some very powerful corporate players (agriculture-based, suppliers, food and beverage companies, retail firms, and privately-owned sellers of seeds, food, etc.) and they all have websites with resources, often defending what they do and how they do it. Consider here the web sites of Sime Darby, BASF, Nestle, Wal-Mart, and Cargill. Or, look at the Table showing the top 25 TNCs in agribusiness industries on page 124 of the UNCTAD report on agribusinesses, mentioned above, and choose a firm you are interested in and see what they have to say for themselves! You might also enjoy reading what Irish corporations say, such as Greencore or Kerry Group.
- Within the foodscape there are some subaltern players looking to find more equitable ways to produce and distribute food. One that really stands out is La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement consisting of ‘millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world’. Their site has links to background information, events and actions, news, and much more.
- Alongside La Via Campesina, there are numerous observers and critics of the way food is produced and distributed around the world today. Worth checking are the sites of FIAN, the Transnational Institute, which has a lot to say about food issues, or GRAIN.
- There are some really good blogs you might consider reading. One is by Canada-based Haroon Akram-Lodhi, a leading scholar of agrarian political economy. There’s also ‘Another Countryside’, hosted at PLAAS, the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies in the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
- Finally, to really keep track of things happening right now, you should regularly visit Farmlandgrab.org, which gathers articles in numerous languages about what is widely referred to as the ‘global land grab’ (or, more benignly, large-scale land investments: for more on the debate, see this excellent overview by Borras and Franco).
Good luck studying the global foodscape!