ALR Review—Women’s Food and Water Initiative

We were delighted to learn that the Women’s Food and Water Initiative used the five recommendations of the Garden City Lands Coalition Society’s input to the current ALR Review as a framework for WFWI’s input. Our Richmond situation and WFWI’s Port Alberni one are quite different, but we are working together to deal with some common concerns and achieve common goals. We are all stronger because of it.

I found it energizing and enlightening to read the WFWI letter to the Agricultural Land Commission members and the Minister of Agriculture and Lands. With WFWI approval, here it is as a guest post.

Hello Commissioners and Minister,

This input is from the Women’s Food and Water Initiative for a Sustainable Vancouver Island Bioregion (WFWI), a registered non-profit society based in Port Alberni. Our mandate is “securing food and water in a RAPIDLY changing climate” in the bioregion, with a primary focus on the West Island/Nuu chah nulth traditional territories.

WFWI asks the ALC Review to place their work in the context of the developing global food crisis. One of many factors, climate change, guarantees increasingly unstable and extreme weather, increasing difficulties for food producers, and increasing and more frequent crop losses. Farming in a water-stressed world will provide steep ongoing challenges. This could price imported foods out of economic reach. Each bioregion in BC will need adequate good-food-producing land with access to water resources to sustain the nutritional needs of local populations, visitors and refugees.

In the following comments, we are using, and building on, the recommendations—in red—from Richmond’s Garden City Land Coalition Society to the ALC:

Retain and strengthen the range of Agricultural Land Reserve uses—permitted uses.

 WFWI would like to see “providing and supporting the development of a good food system in a RAPIDLY changing climate” added to the list of permitted uses.

 We feel that community farms are the way to go forward, supporting established and new farming in their areas and assisting with transitioning to sustainable farming to establish local food security. These community farms need to be run by non-profit grassroots groups proactively involved in developing good food systems in close contact with the ALC and with the ongoing input of local food consumers, whether individuals, families or groups.

Obtain more funding so that Commissioners can be paid to study all available evidence and so that effective enforcement can occur. That would be double the current budget.

WFWI would like to see an increase and broadening of the source funding to include federal and provincial Public Safety ministries, bearing in mind that Canada’s grain production is down 17% from 2009 and the climate is changing rapidly. A changed climate is a changed agriculture.

WFWI would like to see a land-use point system approach that prioritizes the public’s food security concerns in every proposed land-use assessment process concerning ALR lands. We feel land-use processes need to be made more accessible and transparent to consumers of food in British Columbia.

As food prices increase, due to weather related shortages, as have the prices of wheat and rice already, British Columbians are going to look more and more to the wisdom of the previous stewards of the lands who had the foresight to legislate this ALR contingency into our current day reality. British Columbians will demand that the original intent of the ALR be revitalized and that province-wide, sustainable, good food systems, bringing down our GHG emissions and raising our level of resiliency to weather shocks, become reality.

In dealing with local governments, rely less on them, expect more from them, monitor more, and enforce more.

WFWI would like to see the ALC take into account the taxation and spending histories of the local governments involved in any local government application for ALR exclusion looking for patterns of misinterpretation of the intent of the original Agricultural Land Reserve Legislation.

Local governments could strike a standing committee that would address food and water security, liaising with the ALC with a view to enforcing the legislation and safeguarding its intent. We feel a matching budget should be set aside by local governments and the ALC to cover essential costs for the standing committee. Where these committees are non-functioning, the ALC will refuse hearing applications from that local government.

Listen to the wisdom and stakeholder concerns of citizens and their NGOs.

WFWI would like to see the ALC and all BC food security NGO’s working much more closely together, perhaps coming together in bioregional meetings at least once every 6 months to consult with one another and exchange concerns and information. The funding for this ‘Community and ALC Relationship-building’ should come from an ALC outreach budget.

Because of the intent of the legislation, these two groups—food security NGOs and the ALC—have common interests to pursue on behalf of the people of BC. It would be valuable to the provincial government, the ALC and local community members to have a reading on the sense of FOOD SECURITY URGENCY being felt by community members. The survey should include asking about the person’s source information. If ever there was a statistic worth trying to monitor, this is one.

Under the ALC’s mandate this kind of surveying, information gathering and sharing should be a priority.

Do not hear any applicant that has ignored previous ALC advice on the application matter.

WFWI would like to see the development of measured consequences for local governments involved in non-compliance to previously made conditions of release of lands from the ALR.

The legislation needs teeth to maintain the spirit of it’s intent and provide the food security it is capable of supplying at a time when the people of BC have few other options.

We believe that local farmers should have an input share, as they do now, through voting advisory panels, but we also assert that establishing a sustainable good food system has to be our focus or we may have food shortages we are unable to deal with.

Climate change is proving to be so challenging we cannot afford to take a wait and see approach. Now is the time for BC to utilize all its assets on behalf of its people and their families to establish sustainable good food systems. The ALR is one of our best assets to help us achieve this goal. Let’s not miss the boat by failing to understand the significance of this moment in time.

Jen Fisher-Bradley
Women’s Food and Water Initiative, Port Alberni

 Thank you, Jen and WFWI!

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