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Handpicked: Stories from the Field

Presented by the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Handpicked: Stories from the Field is a podcast series that showcases research that drives positive change in our food systems—ways we produce, gather, eat, understand and dispose of our food. Produced and hosted by Amanda Di Battista and Laine Young, the series presents compelling, real-life stories of food practitioners, such as farmers, policymakers and activists. Episodes follow researchers and community partners in their efforts to make their food systems more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Sep 8, 2023

In this episode of Handpicked: Stories from the Field, your hosts speak with Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer about the UNESCO Chair on Food, Biodiversity, and Sustainability. Dr. Blay-Palmer tells us about the priorities of the Chair (sustainable food production, Indigenous and traditional foodways, & transitions to just food systems) and some of the projects supported through the network. We also speak with some attendees of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity’s COP15 meetings in December 2022 about agroecology, biodiversity, and their hopes for the future with the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).  


Co-Producers & Hosts: Amanda Di Battista & Laine Young
Producer: Charlie Spring
Sound Design & Editing: Laine Young & Narayan Subramoniam

Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer
Lauren Baker
Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje
Marie-Christine Cormier-Salem
Tammi Jonas
Sabrina Masinjila

Support & Funding
Wilfrid Laurier University
The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
Balsillie School for International Affairs

Music Credits
Keenan Reimer-Watts

Moving Beyond Acknowledgments- LSPIRG
Whose Land
Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
UNESCO Chair on Food, Biodiversity & Sustainability Studies 
UNESCO Chairs Programme 
Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) 
Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) 
Handpicked Season 1, Episode 1 - “Because Everybody Eats”: Exploring Sustainable Food Systems for a Better World, feat. Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer
Handpicked Season 1, Episode 5 - “Change Worth Striving For”: International Agreements as Levers for Food Systems Change, feat. Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer 


Connect with Us:

Twitter: @Handpickedpodc 
Facebook: Handpicked Podcast


Glossary of Terms 

Agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems within which people can exercise choice over what they eat and how and where it is produced.” 




“Agroforestry is a collective name for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are deliberately used on the same land-management units as agricultural crops and/or animals, in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence. In agroforestry systems there are both ecological and economical interactions between the different components. Agroforestry can also be defined as a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels.” 



“Biological diversity — or biodiversity — is the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms, from genes and bacteria to entire ecosystems such as forests or coral reefs. The biodiversity we see today is the result of 4.5 billion years of evolution, increasingly influenced by humans. Biodiversity forms the web of life that we depend on for so many things – food, water, medicine, a stable climate, economic growth, among others.” 


Conference of Parties (COP) 

“The Conference of the Parties is the governing body of the Convention (on Biological Diversity), and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings.” 


Food sovereignty 

"Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems." 


Industrial Food System 

Large scale, intensive agriculture or animal production systems that rely on chemical fertilizers, and practices that lack diversity, such as monocropping and genetic modification. These systems are built to maximize production and profit, often at the expense of biodiversity and the health and wellbeing of animals.  

Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework  

“The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted during the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) following a four year consultation and negotiation process. This historic Framework, which supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and builds on the Convention’s previous Strategic Plans, sets out an ambitious pathway to reach the global vision of a world living in harmony with nature by 2050.” 

"Monocropping is planting and growing one type of plant in the same place, year after year. It’s the type of planting that occurs under a type of agriculture called monoculture... Monoculture is an agricultural system that involves the planting of a single crop, over and over.” 


Sustainable Food System 
Food systems that are “socially just, support local economies; are ecologically regenerative, and foster citizen engagement.” 


UNESCO Chairs Programme 

“A UNESCO Chair is a team led by a higher education or research institution that partners with UNESCO on a project to advance knowledge and practice in an area of common priority. The partnership is formalized through an agreement between the Director-General of UNESCO and the head of the institution hosting the UNESCO Chair (Rector, President, Vice-Chancellor). Established within a teaching or research unit/department/faculty of the higher education or research institution, the UNESCO Chair is led by an academic head referred to as the Chairholder. The Chairholder is supported by a team of faculty members, lecturers, researchers and students from the host institutions and personnel from other partner organizations (e.g. other institutions, NGOs, public and private sector, authorities) in the host country and in other countries who are associated with the activities of the Chair.” 


United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 

“The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the international legal instrument for ‘the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources’ that has been ratified by 196 nations. Its overall objective is to encourage actions, which will lead to a sustainable future.” 


Discussion Questions 

  1. What are some connections between food systems, sustainability and biodiversity? 

  1. In what ways might biodiversity help address challenges related to climate change?

  1. How does agroecology help to address the 3 pillars of the UNESCO Chair (sustainable food production, traditional and Indigenous food systems, and transitions to just food systems)? 

  1. What is the role and purpose of networks like the UNESCO chair? 

  1. Why is it important to include both western science and traditional knowledge within these networks?

  1. Why was it so important for smallholder farmers/peasants, Indigenous people, youth, and women to be involved in the development of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)?