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Food and Agriculture

  • Date Submitted: 12/19/2010 01:30 AM
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© UNEP / Still Pictures Rice cultivation in Asia.

5. Food and Agriculture

T

he search for green employment opportunities in agriculture is faced with several formidable obstacles. The worlds of agriculture are many and varied, and the range of activities is vast—so much so that any findings may be highly particularistic and ultimately misleading. Moreover, specific and focused research on the subject of green employment in agriculture is quite sparse. And while the interest in sustainable agriculture has grown in recent years, employment is not always a central theme or consideration. Perhaps a further challenge is the rapid and dramatic changes currently taking place in the way food is produced, sold, and consumed, which makes agriculture something of a moving target (or a series of moving targets) as far as this type of research is concerned. All told, the obstacles to sustainability are perhaps far more formidable in the case of agriculture than they are in any other economic sector, and the possibilities for green employment need to be viewed against a set of extremely challenging scenarios.

This section of the report is divided into four parts. The first part looks at the environmental footprint of the global food system. The second offers a highly compressed “plough-to-plate” scan of the present global food system, with the emphasis on changing employment patterns.2 In the absence of existing studies that focus on green job creation in agriculture, the intention here is to provide a survey of the challenges to green jobs posed by the present system, in order to better frame the discussion on green alternatives. The third part looks at the potential for green job creation (and retention) in food and agriculture within the present framework. And the fourth part steps outside the existing agro-industrial model to examine the job-creation potential of local food systems, organic production, urban agriculture, and small farming systems.

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