Actors, policies and programs in all parts of the food system strive to advance sustainability and food security for all. Botanical gardens have not traditionally been seen as key players in the agrifood network, but their role as educators, plant conservation experts and research allies makes them increasingly important to amplify practices. reproducible and scalable food industry.
While we have both been involved in food security and sovereignty for many years, until 2017 we never had the chance to meet, let alone collaborate, despite being in the same university. This may be an indication of how the discourse and associated research around food security and sovereignty is divided between those who focus on issues of political-economic and social justice and those who focus on environmental sustainability and biodiversity.
We were brought together as part of a project funded by the Horizon 2020 initiative of the European Commission, which brings together botanical gardens, mainly European, to promote “responsible research and innovation” in the field of food safety. . Go by the nickname Big picnic, the aim of the project is to create value from knowledge and engage the public through exhibitions, constructive dialogue and other interactive learning activities. These include scientific cafes and the facilitation of participation in international events such as the 6th World Botanic Gardens Congress of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, which was held in Geneva last summer. Given the explicit importance of food security within the UN Sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015, the project’s work is an important program to engage the public in the global challenges of food security and biodiversity.
The integration of agroecology and biodiversity in agriculture, fisheries and forestry is gaining ground and receiving international support. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently announced a multi-stakeholder dialogue at FAO headquarters in Rome from 29 to 31 May 2018. The dialogue will bring together stakeholders from all sectors with the aim of integrating actions for the conservation, sustainable use, management and restoration of biological diversity in all agricultural sectors.
Last summer, one of us (Gisèle) was invited to become a member of the International Consolidation Group (an advisory board) for Big Picnic, which prompted her to reach out to the other. (Tara), who is associate director of the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens. The interaction between the two of us was a revelation of how those of us in the food movement need to work more intentionally and effectively to connect the dots between communities of activists, researchers and educators that could be considered. as traveling companions, aiming at the goal of healthy food for all within a framework of long-term environmental, economic, cultural and social sustainability.
The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden is home to Vancouver’s oldest food demonstration garden. It has an extensive research and education program on agri-food issues, including participation in an exciting new international initiative on cultivate wild relatives focused on the genetic conservation of the wild relatives of domesticated plants. The garden was selected as UN 2017 Feed your city recipient of Home Gardens, and collaborates with the American Public Gardens Association to lead the food and farming community, a forum where gardening professionals can explore and collaborate on the many aspects of changing food systems.
Many actors have approached food, agriculture and nutrition issues through the prism of political economy and, to some extent, broader issues of well-being and sustainability. The themes of law, access and ecological footprints tend to dominate the food discourse and are, of course, central issues but not the only ones. The Big Picnic project sheds light on issues of plant biodiversity as a cornerstone of food security and the role that botanical gardens can and do play in terms of promoting the diversity of wild and domesticated plants, particularly in view of the importance of diet for present and future food security.
Take the Kroussia Balkan Botanical Garden (BBGK) in Greece. Founder and curator Dr Eleni Maloupa, agronomist and plant scientist, noticed a few years ago that there was a decrease in the variety of traditional medicinal, aromatic and food plants in Thessaloniki nurseries. His goal in creating the BBGK was to protect and conserve these endangered species and varieties in the region and to reintroduce them in a sustainable manner.
Botanical gardens, as institutions with both a research and educational mandate, have a key role to play in the conservation of genetic resources in the public interest in a world where private control and ownership of genetic resources and associated intellectual property is a growing problem. Many members of local agrifood movements would be reassured that state-funded botanical gardens play a leading role in the management of plant genetic resources as opposed to private interests. And while the Botanical Gardens were (originally in the 19th century) designed as elite bourgeois institutions, they now strive to be more connected to popular movements through public engagement and education programs. inclusive.
Contacting and collaborating with botanical gardens provides opportunities for the global food movement to expand the network of actors in the exciting and growing world of progressive agrifood policies. With more than 500 botanical gardens in 96 countries, these institutions are uniquely positioned to support the food security movement through their global, national, regional and local plant conservation efforts.
And botanical gardens are actively involved in encouraging and supporting new entrants to horticulture, agriculture and biodiversity through their programs, events and collections. While feeding the world of today and tomorrow clearly depends on redistributing resources and reducing food waste, among other measures, it also relies on plant biodiversity and related issues, such as pollination. Botanic gardens have a key role to play as sites in advancing food-related conservation, education and research.