Human ecology and food systems: Insights from the Philippines

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Journal Article
Human Ecology Review, 2018, 24 (1), pp. 23 - 49
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© 2018, Society for Human Ecology. All rights reserved. Feeding the world sustainably requires balancing social, economic, and environmental concerns. The food systems concept guides the study of social and environmental processes that influence food and nutrition security. Human ecology conceptually offers insights into the social components of a system and its interaction with environmental change. This paper demonstrates how human ecology helps identify the dominant discourses that influence dominant social drivers in food systems. This is done through documenting the historical legacies of agricultural commodity production systems in the Philippines since Spanish colonization, and the human and ecological implications of this history. The analysis shows the presence of a maladaptive system influenced by market-oriented food security as a dominant discourse. Alternative discourses focused on sovereignty and participation exist in the Philippines, however these are often marginalised from dominant policy and research programs. The paper discusses how weak feedback processes provide possible intervention points in policy or farmer-led activities to explore alternative pathways to food and nutrition security. The paper concludes with highlighting how human ecology offers useful framework for advancing food systems analysis into social, political, and policy dimensions of food activities. Such analysis can help develop new research and policies that require managing the competing discourses of how to achieve sustainable food and nutrition security.
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