Book Review: The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food

No Nonsense Guide To World Food cover image

The global food system is complex. Wayne Roberts' new book, The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food, is an accessible overview of how the system works - and how it can be fixed.

The problems we experience can often be linked to an invisible food system that is 'hidden in plain sight'. When we become aware of this food system, new ways of understanding food controversies and smarter ways of solving food problems start to become clear.

This pocket sized book is the latest in the series from The New Internationalist's No-Nonsense series. It clocks in at just under 200 pages and is a great primer for how the global food system really works. Roberts' experience coordinating the Toronto Food Policy Council and serving on the boards of the Community Food Security Coalition and Food Secure Canada have afforded him a broad view of the food system and unique qualifications to write this book.

Roberts uses examples from Cuba and Malawi, among others, to illustrate how motivated governments can help alleviate hunger and hurdles to overall food security.

Cuba was pushed to adopt organic agriculture practices after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the sudden end of their supply of agrochemicals and machinery. Cubans took the opportunity in this crisis to show how organic urban agriculture could feed a population.

In Malawi, President Bingu wa Mutharika realized it would cost his nation less to buy fertilizer for local farmers rather than to purchase food aid, which 5 million of his nation's citizens relied on to stave of hunger after the corn crop failed in 2005. Not an organic solution, but by 2007 the nation had enough of a surplus to feed the population and sell $120 million of corn to the export market.

Roberts touches on emerging issues like food sovereignty, Brazil's Zero Hunger movement and the power of organizations like the international peasant movement, Via Campesina. Examples from the Global North are also highlighted, but Roberts points south for the leading edge in getting the international food system back on track.

When food is of, by and for the people, then food security lies in food sovereignty. When we understand the food traditions of indigenous peoples and peasants in the Global South, the ethic of community-based food systems and food sovereignty starts to become clear.

The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food is published by Between the Lines in association with New Internationalist Publications.

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