‘The future is female’: Biofach Congress highlights women’s impact on the sustainable food transition 

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In 2024, the Biofach Congress – part of the Biofach trade fair (13-16 February, Nuremberg) – will focus on the transformative and creative power of women in the food sector and their role in achieving a more sustainable future for our food system.

The theme was chosen by the event’s international patron IFOAM – Organics International, and national supporting organization, the German Federation of Organic Food Producers (BÖLW). 

Tina Andres, the chair of BÖLW, said: “When it comes to shaping the future of foodstuffs, the organic system plays a pioneering role. However, in many agricultural sectors it is still “business as usual”, which impairs our ability to feed future generations. Organic farming has turned the tide. And the same holds for women. We are seeing more and more women who are developing strategic, integrated, cost-effective solutions along the ecological supply chain to tackle the social, political and intergenerational change that is urgently necessary. We want to make women in the food and farming industry visible. Women who are independent and indispensable as change agents, key players and role models.” 

“The future is female,” Tina Andres, is convinced. “Highly motivated and creative women are permanently changing the future of food and agriculture. All over the world, women are breaking through glass ceilings with courage and resolve and are developing sustainable innovations to improve agriculture from field to plate. Women are building integrative teams that contribute a wide range of standpoints to the decision-making process, which ultimately increases our chances for success for humans and the planet. In this way, the organic sector will attract the talent it needs for its future viability.”

Steffen Waris, exhibition director of Biofach and Vivaness, said: “This year’s congress theme is specifically about inviting a change of perspective. Through this topic, the industry is highlighting the power and positive impact of gender equality on a sustainable future for this planet. In this context, women are a driving force, and in the spirit of gender equality, which is also one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations (SDG No. 5), it is important for all of us, regardless of gender, to work together to create diversity, inclusion and equity!”

Re-imagining agriculture and re-evaluating the economy
Kate Raworth has questioned conventional economic theories with her doughnut model. The ‘renegade economist” has extended the concept of satisfying the necessities of life within planetary boundaries to include human well-being. The “doughnut economy” encourages us to move away from the concept of endless growth and embrace an economic model that is regenerative and distributive. The aim is to create a safe and socially just space for everyone. As Kate Raworth writes: “A study of all 50 US federal states revealed that those states with significant power imbalances in respect of income and ethnicity have weaker environmental policies and do greater harm to the environment.” Moreover, a study in over 50 countries showed that the greater inequality in a country, the more likely it is that the biodiversity of its landscape will be under threat.

Karen Mapusua, president IFOAM – Organics International, said: “Equality of opportunity is not enough!” People have different starting points, therefore genuine inclusion and belonging call for equitable measures. Equality recognises that everyone has different circumstances and allocates the right resources and opportunities that are needed for an equal outcome. Equality means giving everyone the same ladder to pick mangoes from the top of a tree. Equity means that we recognise that we cannot all use the same ladder and that we need to give everyone different resources to reach the top in their own way.”

Women in the organic sector – what do the data say?
“Although it is known that there are more than 3.7 million organic producers in 191 countries on more than 76 million hectares of land, we do not have any data broken down by gender. This information would allow decision-makers to develop equitable political measures to improve the living conditions of male and female organic farmers everywhere,” says Tina Andres from BÖLW. “Business also has a role to play here, by creating and maintaining an integrative corporate culture to attract the next generation of talents and ensure that organic farming remains one of the fastest growing sectors in agriculture.”

Karen Mapusua, adds:“Organic farming plays a key role in shaping sustainable food systems. It can also play a leading role in ensuring that agriculture becomes more integrative and recognises and appreciates all forms of diversity. In this way, we can make sure that we can feed and employ future generations sustainably, and finally put an end to ‘business as usual’.”  

• Biofach and its partners are inviting ideas and suggestions to help shape the 2024 Congress. From mid-August you can submit your proposals at www.biofach.de/congress. The Call for Ideas will then begin.

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