Our coordinator, Juancho Pons, participated at a round table included in an event during the World Food Day in Madrid
Last October 17th, the event “Hacia una educación aliada con la producción sostenible de alimentos” (Towards an education allied with sustainable food production) about sustainable food systems, especially in the agri-food sector, took place at the ETSIAB Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos y Biociencias (Agricultural Engineering and Bioscience School) from the Polytechnical University of Madrid. There, several experts gathered to talk about the current situation and problems that the sector is facing.
Firstly, José Manuel Palacio (Director of the school) presented the event and invited Jorge Jordana (PhD in Agrifood and Alumnus of the school) and Fidel Rodríguez (Vicecounselor of Universities, Science and Innovation of Madrid) to have a small presentation about the agri-food sector.
Jorge Jordana talked about the invisibility of the word “food” and the food sector setting an example through a graphic of the evolution of searches from the moment Google started existing until today. The number of searches decreased drastically according to the graphic and this is, according to Mr. Jordana, because people are not interested, and this is a worrying fact. If society doesn’t care about agriculture, the governments do not, too. Climate change and other problems have affected the food production in countries like Spain, to add problems. Therefore, education of society in food problems is key, as general public doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about the agrifood system anymore, like it used to before. That is why education is mandatory.
Fidel Rodríguez highlighted the difference between safety and security, as millions of children die because of malnutrition and derivate illnesses. That is why our work needs to keep on going for more people to have access to safe and healthy food every day, respecting the production chain. What is the solution of eating and eating well? Innovation. It is the best weapon to tackle the biggest challenges in humanity. Also, water, energy… All of these topics should be jointed to the 17 SDGs. Innovation comes from people and, of course, from knowledge and health systems. All stakeholders involved in agrifood systems must collaborate to achieve healthier, better, safer and more innovative food. One of the worst epidemies in our time is obesity and there must be a shift in the way we think about food.
José Manuel Palacios (Director of the ETSIAB). World Food Forum from FAO has a global event that tackles several topics. People sitting here, in these chairs, are the future and their education is important. The engineering of these systems depends on them: better production, better environment and healthier food, which requires engineering and communication. This is the only way to add value to what we eat and people who produce food. Food waste is also a huge problem, as between 15% and 20% of food production is wasted. Young people in schools are the target that we need to reach, for them to have knowledge about these topics.
After these presentations, the audience asked some really interesting questions such as:
- How to address education about the agri-food system and how to raise awareness on its problems? How to change its image of a non-profitable business?
- How to produce in a sustainable manner, given all the restrictions and rules of the present time in Spain? And how to do it according to the Farm2Fork strategy of the EU?
After a debate about these and other questions, Mr. Palacio (Director of the School) introduced the round table moderated by Jesús López, from Editorial Agrícola. The group of was formed by Juancho Pons, our coordinator from DELICIOUS project and R&D Manager at EDELVIVES; Caridad Calero, promoter of the project Conocer la Agricultura y la Ganadería; Juan Ignacio Senovilla, from the agri-food association ALAS (Alianza para una Agricultura Sostenible); Pablo Rodríguez, Professor and researcher at the ETISIAB; and Adolfo Bartolomé, Professor from the CTIF Madrid Sur.
Jesús López asked several questions to all experts and, in turns, they gave their opinion on several topics around education about the agri-food sector.
The general conclusions were that:
- Education about the agri-food sector is important, but also “selling” the importance of the sector to the general public. Just like tourism, Spanish primary sector is key, but often overlooked.
- Young people and adolescents are not really aware of agri-food problems and sometimes they don’t even know how food is produced or where does it come from.
- The closer the school is to the countryside, the more children and adolescents know about the food chain.
- Maybe a complete subject about the primary sector (agriculture and animal breeding) is too much, as students at secondary school have already a huge studying curriculum, but definitely, some knowledge about this matter would be beneficial for all parties.
- For primary school students, school gardens are a good alternative, but the problem is their maintenance, which mostly lays on janitors and teachers with biology or agricultural studies.
Juancho Pons spoke a little bit about the importance of the food and nutrition education among students and highlighted the importance of events like #JornadaEducaAgrícola and projects like DELICIOUS for youngsters. These are good ways to raise awareness on good nutrition and sustainable food production. He also talked about the importance of having a system to measure sustainability in the food production sector, like the Life Cycle Assessment that Contactica will perform at DELICIOUS. Juancho insisted, too, in providing the teachers and professors with tools and information about the food chain, so they don’t have to look for them, as they have already enough in their plates with the resources they have available in a daily basis. As a summary, he concluded: “science and innovation are the ways to help both in food production and in education”.
After the round table, there was also time for some questions and answers from the audience and, them, for some networking with food and drinks at the ETSIAB’s hall. A perfect way to end up all discussions and comment all the opinions and knowledge spread during the event.