Congress of the World Public Health Nutrition Association with
Abrasco (the Brazilian Association of Collective Health)
to be held in Rio de Janeiro, 27-30 April 2012
One of the many themes of Rio2012: local equitable sustainable food systems.
A market in the North; cashew fruit; seed preservation on a cooperative farm
Rio de Janeiro. So much of the news of events that impact on nutrition these days, is ominous or bad. The price of staple foods is soaring again. This has been one cause of the uprisings in Saharan Africa. Food insecurity is as great a menace in sub-Saharan Africa as ever. All types of malnutrition are apparently intractable in many parts of the world. And so on. These are all reasons why Rio2012, our congress in April next year, will focus on good and inspiring news. One general theme of the congress is all about what communities can do in their own localities. This brings in all the dimensions of public health nutrition – the physical health of humans, and also social, cultural, economic and environmental health, including sustainable rural livelihoods.
Brazil is an ideal country in which to explore this theme, from scientific and also practical points of view. Just to take one example, the richness and variety of tropical fruits in Brazil, particularly in Amazonia, close to the equator, is staggering. The pictures above give a glimpse of this. On the left is an open-air market in Tocantins in the North, in a village of the Kraho people. The baskets contain the palm fruit bacaba, which can be made into a drink like chocolate. The middle picture is of caju (cashew), a staple crop in North-Eastern states, especially Ceará. Outside Brazil most people are familiar only with the nut. This grows inside the purple comma-shape appendage to the fruit itself, which is fragile, with a unique delicious peppery-sweet taste, and is made into juice marketed throughout Brazil. On the right are seeds used and also preserved at the Grande Sertão farmers' co-operative near Montes Claros, in the backlands of Minas Gerais, a South-Eastern state.
Globalisation of food supplies has proved to be problematic, and all the more so when much of the food and products that come from rich countries are subsidised, so that terms of trade are not fair. The results, as well as what is now pandemic overweight and obesity, including in children and young people, include losses of national and local identity and culture, losses of employment security, the acceleration of movement from rural to urban areas, and increased inequity. There is now a rapidly growing movement towards countries becoming able to be self-sufficient in food. This is one of the topics that will be explored at Rio2012.