Displaying items by tag: food security
The environment is currently in a dire situation. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report published on Feb 28, this year, highlighted that humanity might witness further environmental catastrophes in the coming decades as the world is expected to hit the global warming tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In other words, the world is already in a state of planetary emergency.
In the backdrop of these developments, the fasting month once again invites Muslims to not only rejuvenate their spiritual commitment toward God in terms of fasting and praying, but also enjoins them to improve their interaction with others, including the environment.
Renowned Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in his seminal work entitled Riayah al-Biah fi Shariah al-Islam (Preservation of the environment from the Shariah perspective), highlights the cardinal Islamic adage of "al-Din Muamalah" which roughly means "religion is (primarily concerned with) the treatment of others".
Although the phrase has not referred to a specific verse of the Quran or a saying of Prophet Muhammad, its spirit could be identified in many Islamic injunctions.
The hadith clearly conveys the message that merely fulfilling ritualistic obligations would not be sufficient if one is not duly observant of maintaining decent interaction with others.
Interestingly, al-Qaradawi also noted that the same applies to human interactions with nature and its elements.
Preservation of nature in all of its forms, including greening the earth by planting trees, nurturing and developing lands and prudent use of natural resources should be recognised as acts that lead a person closer to God.
Without due observance of these instructions, al-Qaradawi argues, the quality of their ritualistic deeds would remain questionable.
Reflecting on the purpose of these instructions, it should be noted with concern that during Ramadan, 10,000 tonnes of food is wasted on a daily basis.
It is estimated that around 15 to 25 per cent of all food purchased or prepared during Ramadan finds its way to the garbage bin.
This adds to the volume of food wasted every day, which comprises one-third of the overall amount of food produced daily.
Unfortunately, such a phenomenon takes place in spite of the stress on our food supply chains that has led to price hikes of food items such as chicken, vegetables and wheat flour.
While mountains of this food waste might rot away in landfills where they release methane gases and contribute to global warming, single-use plastic waste from food wrappers also exacerbate the environmental problem.
Internationally, some movements have started promoting "Green Iftar" campaigns.
Their primary aim is to educate Muslim communities in opting for sustainable and effectivebreaking-of-fast choices that are in line with Islamic ethics.
This includes using local or seasonal ingredients in food preparation in order to reduce carbon emission, judicious water usage, preparing simple meals with fewer animal products, avoiding unnecessary plastic bags or packaging by bringing one's own bag while buying meals for iftar, and making early arrangement to donate extra iftar food, especially to those in need.
Local governments and religious authorities in Malaysia may need to consider the possibility of adopting some of these instructions into policy guidelines for mosques, hotels and institutions that organise iftar throughout Ramadan.
It is critical to ensure that the spiritual month of Ramadan does not exacerbate the dire environmental crisis the world is currently facing.
The writer is acting deputy CEO, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Monday 18 April 2022
SINCE 2021, we have been witnessing sharp increases in the prices of vegetables, some almost 100 per cent. The same is happening to poultry products like chicken and eggs.
The continued price hikes will have ripple effects on other items and industries. Food manufacturers and restaurants will pass the burden to the end of the supply chain — the consumers.
Some experts and institutions have urged the authorities to enforce a strict price ceiling on essential products and implement price control throughout the year, but these solutions would be effective only in the short run.
Other experts have argued that a strict price ceiling may have negative effects, such as discouraging farmers from increasing production, creating artificial shortages and diverting supply to those who are able and willing to pay above ceiling prices.
While many factors contributed to the food price hike, it is arguably a symptom of the food crisis that has been predicted to strike worldwide due to climate change. As farmers now can't predict dry or rainy seasons due to climate disruption, crops are more exposed to diseases and ruin.
Fixing the food supply chain is critical for the survival of a country like ours. More importantly, we need to reimagine our food system to build resilient food resources for the nation. Food security is achieved by balancing boosting domestic production and developing smart partnerships with other producer countries.
In fixing our broken food system, we crucially need new approaches. In the long run, it is important to develop climate-resilient agricultural strategies and practices. These include an emphasis on soil health, diversified production systems, opting for ecological design and selling to high-value direct markets.
Diversified production that can preserve soil health can mitigate climate risk throughout the growing season as it can reduce losses from weather catastrophes and phenomena. Ecological farming that allows adaptation to the local landscape and climate may offer some buffer from weather-related disturbances. Finally, selling to high-value direct markets can increase profitability while creating social capital.
It is also crucial to shorten the food supply chain in the community. Other than eliminating middlemen to allow farmers to directly market products to consumers and reduce prices, shortening the food supply chain can also be done by developing a culture of community farming.
To transform our food system, we need to shift from conventional agriculture to agroecological systems that promote sustainable consumption while addressing land and resource degradation.
Policy-level initiatives are also crucial. As climate disruption poses risks to our food system, the authorities should consider enhancing policies on crop insurance (or takaful for Muslims) for food farmers in particular.
Such financial products can stabilise farmers' income, while offering protection against yield and price risks.
In the context of climate change, the authorities, producers and consumers need to be cognisant of its impact on food systems and take measures to adapt to and mitigate them. A resilient food system is undoubtedly a lifeline for the current and future generations.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Thursday 27 Jan 2022