Dismantling and Rebuilding the Food System after COVID-19: The 5Ds of Redistribution

February 23, 2021

2021 Wall Scholar Hannah Wittman organized an online Roundtable on the impact of COVID-19 on the food system in September 2020, in which experts discussed redistributive policy tools that may be used to build a more resilient system. A recording of the presentations is available here, and an excerpt from their joint publication is provided below.

Sharing crop news near Kandeu, Malawi

Excerpt: The COVID-19 crisis presents a renewed urgency to place food systems transformation front and centre of post-pandemic recovery plans. It has reminded the world of the essential nature of food while shining a light onto some of the major environmental and social problems present in food systems. Importantly, it has also demonstrated the capacity for states to mobilize and shift resources on a massive scale in times of crisis.

Market day, Fort Portal, Uganda

The current pandemic is a wake-up call for states to find new ways to facilitate food system resilience and address the risks embedded within the current, highly specialized and concentrated, food system. We have suggested that this entails a process of both dismantling and rebuilding, facilitated through the state-mediated redistribution of land, capital, and profits accrued by key actors in the corporate food regime — large agrifood corporations, financial institutions, and states — in line with the principles of decolonization, decarbonization, diversification, democratization and decommodification.

We have also argued that a different set of principles are needed to guide the rebuilding of a new food future and counter the values embedded in neoliberal capitalism (privatization, competition, rationalization, etc.). Here, we have looked to teachings rooted in Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies to inform the 5Rs of Regeneration: Relationality, respect, reciprocity, responsibility, and rights. While not exhaustive, these proposed 10 principles offer a guiding framework to start to dismantle and rebuild a food system in line with the demands of the food sovereignty and Indigenous food sovereignty movement.

Source: Dismantling and rebuilding the food system after COVID-19: Ten principles for redistribution and regeneration, James, D., Bowness, E., Robin, T., McIntyre, A., Dring, C., Desmarais, A., Wittman, H., JAFSCD 1–23, 2021.

Images: Amber Heckelman (India), Sieglind Snapp (Malawi), Amy Panikowski (Uganda)