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Episode 13: Felipe Roa-Clavijo on "Feeding the village, nation or world"

[Intro music]

Samara 0:06

Welcome to Feed a food systems podcast presented by Table. A collaboration between the University of Oxford, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Wageningen University. I’m Samara Brock.

Matthew 0:18

And I’m Matthew Kessler. Today we’re speaking with Felipe Roa-Clavijo, who is currently a researcher at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and a visiting research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, monitoring the Rural Reform of the 2016 Colombian Peace Agreement. Felipe completed his PhD at the University of Oxford in international development, and has a book coming out in October 2021 called “The Politics of Food Provisioning in Colombia: Agrarian Movements and Negotiations with the State”.

Felipe  0:45

And all of the sudden I found myself sitting on the back of a room seeing how the Minister of Agriculture was negotiating their agenda points with the agrarian movements. And that was really bringing like my research alive, in that they were discussing about food security versus food sovereignty. They were discussing subsidies for the countryside and for poor farmers having access to bank and finances.

Samara 1:15

Today we dive into the Colombian food system, and the different scales at which food is produced and consumed. We discuss different narratives about food provisioning in Colombia, and find out which groups are promoting these different visions - to feed the village, feed the nation and feed the world.

Matthew 1:30

We explore why these kinds of debates offer valuable entry points to addressing systemic issues. We also chat about what is unique about the Colombian food system and how it compares to the rest of Latin America.

Samara 1:42

We don’t delve too deep into the complex history and background surrounding the violence and the peace talks in Colombia, as we try to keep the conversation focused on the agrarian movements and food system, but of course, these are somewhat inseparable from each other so we’ll provide some context throughout.

Matthew 2:00

And before diving into the conversation we first asked Felipe for a quick introduction by way of describing his favorite Colombian meal!

Felipe  2:10

So thank you very much for the invitation. I’m thrilled to be here in the program with you guys. My name is Felipe Roa-Clavijo. And I am based in Bogota, Colombia. My favorite Colombian dish is called Ajiaco is potato soup with chicken. It's a very Andean dish, because it uses three different types of potato. So sort of white potato, brown potato and a yellow potato. And then it makes all in a in a big soup with chicken, and you add sour cream, capers, and of course corn, which is one of our most important crops here. And it's a delicious dish that I really like.

Matthew 2:58

It sounds fantastic. And one day when we're not all doing remote interviews, it would be nice to share a meal with you. So Felipe, we're very excited to speak with you about your new book, Politics of food provisioning in Colombia, agrarian movements and negotiations with the state with centers what sounds like a simple question, but certainly isn't. How should Colombia feed itself? So as I understand writing this book was a development from your PhD dissertation, can you share your own personal journey of how you came to focus on this topic?

Felipe 3:28

My journey started 15 years back, when I was a development practitioner working in southern Colombia, one of the most affected areas, by the violent conflict. In this context, I met agrarian leaders working at the grass grassroots level. And they were working in all sorts of development projects to help bring about peace in these very conflict prone regions. And many of these projects were about food, we're about feeding the villages, the cities that were around. And I was blown away by their creativity, by their vision, and by their hopes for the future. At that stage. I was a very young professional at the time. But interestingly, 10 years later, we met again, this time, I was a doctoral student at the University of Oxford. And I met these leaders, again, in the context of the agrarian negotiations. So these leaders that I had met at the local level, in doing grassroots work, were now at the national level, having conversations face to face with the government, in the spirit of bringing opportunities to the countryside, which has suffered of poverty and inequality, and violence. So that's in a nutshell, the journey and how I got started with this.

Samara 4:54

So chiming in here with a very abbreviated background. Colombia has been in different stages of armed conflict since the 1960s, with clashes between the government, far-right paramilitary groups and far-left guerilla groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC. Many believe that it was the re-distribution of land in the 1920s that precipitated the structural inequalities which have caused this longstanding conflict over the last half century.

Matthew 5:23

And you’ll hear Felipe refer to the Agrarian strike and negotiations that began in 2013 where hundreds of thousands of farmers blocked roads and cut off supply chains. They were demanding government assistance and support for farmers. As we discussed in previous episodes in relation to other contexts, the price of food and income for farmers remained stagnant in Colombia during this period, while the costs of fuels and other agricultural inputs continued to rise.

Felipe  5:49

My book studies the agrarian strikes of 2013 and 2014. And the negotiations thereafter, between 2014 to 2018. And the main questions I'm asking in the context of this agrarian uprisings a few years back, are where are the emerging debates of food In Colombia? Colombia has had a tradition of focusing a lot on land distribution, because that's a huge structural problem. There's a lot of inequality in land distribution in Colombia. And that has been an important focus along with human rights. But what I found in the book, and my main question is, what are the new debates of rural development, food and agriculture In Colombia? And particularly, what are the new narratives of food that emerge in the context of these agrarian strikes?

Samara  6:45

We'll dive into those narratives in a bit. But before sort of getting into ideas about the future of the food system, I thought it would be important to try and understand the history. So can you talk about how the Colombian food system has changed in the last 50 years and what it looks like today?

Felipe 7:02

So there are, I would say, five main areas of transformation and you asked for how has it changed. In fact, there are things that have changed, and things that have not changed at all. And I see these through five main lenses. So first one is rural poverty and inequality. It’s one of the elements that has not changed. Rural poverty is higher than in the cities is higher than the national average. There are 12 million people in the countryside. So we live in a country that is 50 million people, and 25% of those, so more or less 12 million people, live in rural areas. That these people in rural areas are poorer than those living in the cities. And this is a historic problem. Of course, the country is today mostly urban. So almost 80% of the population live today in the cities. So the 12 million people living in the countryside. I like to think of it as a country that's the size the population size of Switzerland, or Sweden. And so I like to think of the Colombian countryside as a country. But a country that has been left behind mainly by poverty, social services, infrastructure, and economic development.

Matthew 8:23

The second lens Felipe looks at is hunger and malnutrition. More than half of the Colombian population, 52%, are experiencing some level of food insecurity – either in the form of obesity or undernutrition .

Felipe 8:37

The third lens that I like to highlight is the environmental impacts and biodiversity loss. So Colombia has been focusing a lot on agricultural development, export-oriented agriculture because of all of the opportunities that free trade agreements bring, and also because there's demand of food, but this is driving biodiversity loss. And that's hugely concerning, because activities such as agro-industrial crops, or livestock, cattle ranching are driving deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Matthew 9:15

The fourth driver Felipe points out is violence and rural transformation. In the last 50 years, the violent conflict has killed over 2 million people and displaced around 7 million people, which has especially impacted those living in rural areas.  

Felipe 9:30

And the fifth and last element of this food system transformation is – and I like to use this phrase from Professor Tim Lang and Michael Heasman -  is the emerging battle for ‘mouths, minds and markets’. So because Colombia is today a mainly urban country, and it has expanded its 50 million population. There are different actors, trying to gain access to markets, trying to sell food. And this battle has gone beyond the national borders. And it's now like a global battle now for these mouths, minds, and markets. And so we see that the food industry sector has expanded rapidly, particularly in the last decade, and is not only having actions or impact here in Colombia, selling for example, processed foods, but also in other countries of South America, Central America, and even in the US. So I think these five elements: rural poverty, hunger and malnutrition, environmental impacts and biodiversity loss, violence and rural transformation, and these emerging battles for mouths, minds, and markets have marked important milestones in this transformation over the last 50 years.

Samara 10:53

Thanks for such a comprehensive overview, picking up on the mouths, minds and markets piece and thinking about the future of Colombia. Given this context that you've laid out for us, how do you think about sort of the regional, national or international food provisioning when it comes to the country? And what are the different narratives taking place that will shape that future?

Felipe 11:15

So that was one of the main focus of my book. One of the main questions I was asking was what were the main narratives that have emerged? And what do these narratives tell us about how the country has changed over the past decades? So what I found is that there is a dominant narrative or a mainstream narrative that says, we should feed the world. Columbia is a food powerhouse that is able to feed the world. And so the narrative goes, Colombia should become a world breadbasket. What this means is that the country should have an export-oriented agriculture and should focus on the demand that countries across the world are generating. So that's a narrative that has been promoted mainly by the state, by the private sector, mainly in large corporations, and supported by the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank. So there's like a huge opportunity, a huge market opportunity for food in Colombia and abroad.

Matthew 12:23

So while the Feed the World narrative is outwardly promoted, Felipe also found two other narratives connected to the different agrarian movements he was speaking to.

Felipe 12:32

So a second narrative, it's about feeding the country or feeding the nation. And with these agrarian movements, which are not what we will think Columbian agrarian movement will be because we are talking about here of entrepreneurs, people who are focusing on the market who are profit oriented. And so they are looking at the domestic market, and all the opportunities that it creates. But then there's a third narrative, second alternative narrative. And this is from movements that are mostly made by indigenous communities, African-Colombian communities, and farmers. And who are often landless, marginalized, and often very poor. What this agrarian movement is proposing is to feed the village or feed the local spaces. So they're thinking actually in starting at the very local level, and trying to promote self-sufficiency, and domestic agriculture about the very local level. So these three narratives, and I like to call this feeling the village, the nation, or the world.

Samara 13:42

So, it’s important to put these narratives into a historical context. Can you talk about what you call in the book the “hidden battles” of food provisioning?

Felipe  13:52

Sure, so what I try to do in the third chapter of my book, the hidden battles of food provision is I tried to historicize food. It is a very new debate, we are still getting familiar of what it means to speak about food today and the future of food. But in this chapter, I go back in time to try to reconstruct the history of food. And what I found was fascinating. On the one hand, you know, there have been several attempts of land reform in the past. The first being in the 70s, another one in the 80s, and another one in the 90s, and all of them failed. Mainly because of the land owners opposition to this land reform. So there was no way of having a comprehensive land reform in the past years. So these failures also mark this story of the importance of food. Because later on, in the 90s, there were perhaps one key moment, but two divergent paths. The first one was Colombia renew its constitution. And the last Constitution was written in 1886. So it was quite outdated. And so in 1991 the country rewrites its constitution, and to show how the country had changed to include a significant rights approach to the country and to the Constitution. And one of the rights that was established in the constitution was the right to food. And the right to food included protecting domestic agriculture, protecting farmers and fostering agricultural production as a priority of the country. But in opposition to that, and at the same time, the country followed the Washington Consensus, which was recommending, you know, to open the economy, to liberalize the economy to stop subsidies to small farmers. So, in practice, what happened to these policies was the opposite of what the constitution was just saying. So, what happened in practice was national or domestic production was not prioritized anymore and this is when the new food imports start arriving in the country, particularly grain imports coming from the US and Canada. All the support to smallholders also stops and all investment in science, technology and innovation for the countryside also stops. So the 90s mark, very important period in bringing about a structural conflict that we are seeing today. On the one hand, the free trade agreements that are very important, very strong today and on the other hand, millions of small holders that have been left behind.

Matthew  16:52

First I’d like to understand better who's involved in these debates and who's pushing these narratives. You've already named some of those food systems actors, but I'm sure the on the ground reality is a bit more complicated than that too. Perhaps a way into this topic is to ask you about how you conducted your research for your book, especially the fieldwork part. So who did you decide to interview? And what did you learn about some of these relationships, such as the negotiations between the government and agrarian movements?

Felipe  17:18

So in my research design, I decided to interview - since I was studying the strikes, and then the agrarian negotiations. I interviewed 138 people across Colombia, mainly in the capital city of Bogota, but also in the department of Nariño. And in the department of Meta. And I interview people from both sides, I interview agrarian leaders from two main agrarian movements that emerged in the context of the agrarian strikes but I also interview government officials. And while I was in this process, I also gained access to the negotiations that were ongoing as I was doing my fieldwork. And I found this fascinating, all of a sudden, I found myself sitting on the back of a room seeing how the Minister of Agriculture was negotiating their agenda points with the agrarian movements, and that was really bringing like my research alive, in that they were discussing about food security versus food sovereignty, they were discussing subsidies for the countryside, and for poor farmers having access to bank and finances, there were there were a lot of things they were discussing. But for me, it was very special to be part of these negotiations as an observer. And it also helped me to provide more details and to identify who was participating in all of this. And I found that while I thought there was, you know, a single body or a single agrarian movement involved in in the protest, I found that there were, in fact, two agrarian movements involved. One of them is called Cumbre Agraria and congregate area is a coalition of indigenous African Colombian and peasant groups, mainly coming from marginalized backgrounds. The second agrarian movement is called Dignidad Agropecuaria. And it has a different organization. So it's not organized by - it's not an identity group as is Cumbra Agraria. But this is organized by value chains. So they have a coalition of value chain representatives. And among others, there were milk producers and all their stakeholders, they were potato producers and all the stakeholders, they were tomato producers and all the stakeholders around so it's an agrarian movement, or a coalition where agrarian value chains participate. And then on the other side of the table was the government, mainly the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Interior, as the main representatives of the national government, engaging in conversations with agrarian movements. I also interviewed the local governments. So municipal governments and departmental governments were also involved. And what I found is there are different visions, even within the agrarian groups, and between the agrarian groups, and it happened on the state side, there were different visions and different interests in the national government, within the national government, but also between the national and local governments. So it was a quite complex scenario. But I think in my book, I managed to analyze and address this complexity of actors and their interests.

Matthew  20:43

I don't know if you're allowed to discuss this or not. But I'm really curious, what was the feeling like in the room during these negotiations? Did it feel like a formal process was a tense for people shouting, can you describe a little bit of the vibe or the environment?

Felipe 20:57

It changed from time to time, so I was able to attend several negotiation sessions. One thing that I found striking was that most of these negotiations started with the human rights situation. So even before they could start addressing their agenda, the agrarian movements will start saying, we need to address the Human Rights situations, because there are killings of social leaders in the field, in the countryside. There are people being displaced. And so the environment could be tense when it started, like many times, the negotiations could not be actually started with what was on the agenda, because they were still discussing human rights situation. But I really like the breaks, like in between the breaks, the Minister of Agriculture will go out and smoke a cigarette, take some fresh air, and then there will be all of the sudden laughing with the agrarian leaders. So as long as there is dialogue is there very deep conflict and historical conflict. It's sitting at the table, more than 50 years of battling conflict, 50 years of land inequality. And yet they were able to set at the same table and have formal conversations without the use of violence.

Samara 22:16

So you said that through your research, you were able to identify some of the key interests that different groups had, in your book us sort of complicate binaries like food sovereignty versus food security, and also try and complicate things like food regime theory, and focus more on narratives. Can you tell us what you think it is about narratives that can help us understand where different people are coming from in food systems debates?

Felipe  22:42

I used narratives as a unit of analysis. In my book, I found that narratives are extremely useful because it allows you to better understand how people frame progress, and actually what parts of the food system they're looking at. So I follow a little bit the pathways approach of the STEPS center, which proposes that there's not a single agri-food system, or there's not a single view of the food system, but rather, there are different and competing views of the food system. Because it depends on who you're talking to, what their interests are, and what their visions are, they may prioritize different components of the food system, they may have different solutions of the food system. And of course, they have different interests. So through the narratives that I identified, mainly, the narrative of the national government and the narratives of the agrarian movements allow me to look closer to what their interests are, and what their visions are. So that's a little bit of why I use the narratives as a unit of analysis.

Samara  24:00

And do you think that frame could help people engaged in those debates, understand where each other's coming from and try to come to a more productive discussion about what's underlying conflict and misunderstanding?

Felipe 24:14

Definitely. The food narratives are emerging ones in Colombia, because a few years back the focus from both academics, like me, or from policymakers or from agrarian movements was we have to address the issue of land inequality. Because the land inequality is huge in Colombia. So little people have most of the land. And most of the farmers in Colombia have very little land. And that was the conflict a few years back. The food debates are emerging ones. And it also it's reflecting how the country has changed in the past years. And what I found in my book is that when we talk about food it can actually bring actors together around the same table, which the land debates cannot, if you ask people here in Colombia, I can go out and speak to policymakers, the private sector and say, we have to discuss how we're going to address the problem of land, and then just a few people will come. Probably the landless of course will come, the state may or may not come but then some private sectors, land owners will not come to address this problem. What I found is that if we speak about food, and how can we feed either the village or the nation or the world, how can we better feed ourselves? And how can we better implement sustainable practices in food production that brings people around the table. And for me, that's, that's one of the key findings. There are different narratives, yet they can bring us together around the negotiating table to discuss the future of food in the country.

Samara 25:57

A part of your book that I found very interesting was when you discussed what different people thought about food. We talk a lot about food systems, and food and agricultural debates without really understanding what people think of when they think about food. So can you tell us a little bit about what the different stakeholders that you talk to - how they conceptualized of food?

Felipe 26:21

There are very different visions about food. I really like speaking, for example, with indigenous communities or  with African Colombian communities. When I spoke about food with them, or example, indigenous communities, were telling me that they approach food from their myths, their traditional knowledge. So for them, it's all about the meanings that the food has, the spirits of Mother Earth, the importance of the seeds, as part of the of the food process, and they're thinking about feeding their families and their villages and they say, “Yes, it's very nice that the government is offering us, you know, to export food to other places, but we were able to provide food first for our families and our neighbors. And then later on, we can think about providing food for other countries.” So there was conflicting visions there between the national government and indigenous communities. When speaking with African Colombian communities, the forest and the jungle and the coast, because they are on the Pacific Coast, mainly on the Pacific Coast is a combination of the coastal line, but also the tropical forest. And so they were speaking about the importance of hunting, and the importance of fishing, and how the arrival of crops such as cacao, for example, or soy has impacted their livelihoods. Because they were actually hunting, for example, some animals from the tropical forest, but in fact, they were also preserving them. Because they were taking account of how these animals grow, develop their populations, whether they're small, or they're adults. And so they were actually not affecting the wildlife of the tropical forest by actually preserving it through food. So I found these visions really, really interesting. But when speaking with farmers, they approach food from a more political perspective. So they were thinking our approach to food is being against neoliberal policies that are affecting our food sovereignty. And so also, they not only speak about food sovereignty, but they also speak about seed sovereignty, in the sense that they see the trading of seeds by multinational companies as a threat to their own systems of seed conservation that they have had for decades at the very local level.

Samara  29:06

So, we wanted to jump back into – we mentioned food security and food sovereignty. And this is something we've talked to past guests about so we wanted to dig in into this a little bit with you. These are different frameworks to reduce hunger that have different sort of repercussions for who has the right to control provisioning processes. Do these frameworks map neatly on to the Colombian context?

Felipe  29:36

I set out to explore the differences between food sovereignty and food security with a binary perspective and thinking that there will be a clash between the two. But in practice, what I found is that these two terms or these two practices live together, and they're actually quite intertwined. Particularly I found interesting the government side of food security and food sovereignty, because and I'm going to refer now to the peace accord, which I have touched very little on so far. So the peace accord was negotiated between 2013 and 2016, between guerrilla group FARC and the national government. So in these negotiations, the very first chapter of the peace negotiations was Rural reform. And in rural reform of course, includes and it addresses the issue of land distribution. However, food plays a very important role in these peace negotiations, because there was FARC, the guerrilla group FARC. They brought the term of food sovereignty, and they wanted to frame the rural reform chapter under the principle of food sovereignty. And by that they were meaning the importance of domestic production, the importance of agroecological production, the importance of people deciding what to eat in the country. But the government didn't like that term, they thought it was not appropriate to frame the peace accord, Rural reform chapter in terms of food sovereignty, so they brought the framework that the Colombian government has been using, which is food security. And food security, they find along the terms of the FAO, and that was a policy that was established in Colombia from 2008.

So there was a clear clash between the terms of food sovereignty and food security, in the context of the peace negotiations. What happened they were not able to reach an agreement on which of these terms was going to be used. And so they found common ground by using the term of the right to food. And I think this is quite interesting, because they're right if it actually embraces elements from food security, and embraces elements from food sovereignty. So a framework under which the peace accord is now established, and now operating is the Right to food.

Matthew 32:11

And if you’re curious to learn more about these concepts and the debates surrounding them, you can visit our website and check out the TABLE explainer ‘What is food sovereignty?’ where we draw out some differences between Food sovereignty, food security, agroecology and the right to food. 

Samara 32:26

Felipe’s own research really showed how fluid some of these concepts as he found speeches from the Colombian Minister of Agriculture wishing to recover the food sovereignty of Colombia, and agrarian movements also speaking about the importance of food security.

Felipe 32:41

And this is a little bit where what Jennifer Clapp argues in her research is they cannot exclude each other, they actually can complement each other. And the importance is how do we go about producing food in sustainable terms, and in inappropriate social conditions. Just to add to what I just mentioned of these debates, when speaking for example to an African Colombian leader, he said, I really don't know about this thing of food sovereignty. This is just the name others are using. So we use it to we can communicate, but you know, we were doing this eating locally, and preserving our food and these traditions, even before the food sovereignty term arrived. And so yeah, I thought that was that was really interesting.

Matthew  33:30

That's really interesting. And just to kind of stay on this a little bit longer. Academics tend to use tools or language that they know. And they apply it on to different contexts. And we just did that with the food sovereignty and food security. But of course, it also has real implications, especially when an unexpected actor would use a term that you wouldn't think would align with them as much as wondering if you had any other examples of people trying to put a certain academic framework or context onto the Colombian food system landscape.

Felipe  34:00

Yes, so one of the terms that I applied in my research was the approach of food regime, and food regimes in terms of these global food circulation patterns that change in different points of time. And what I found - I wanted to apply this to a case of Colombia. And it's somehow applied in terms of, “Yes, there, Colombia is exporting, you know, tropical products to the US and importing food from the US.” But I think you can miss the point in several parts because it does not include, for example, the interests of the private sector, or the domestic diversity. So these are terms that are used in a broad sense to describe global processes. But very often, these ideas can also miss what's happening in a domestic level, and at the very local level. So what I found was, in fact, there are diverse views. And there's a lot of diversity on the ground, that is not necessarily speaking to these global processes. So global processes are occurring, are happening, can be somehow explained by certain theories, but in terms of the food regime approach, I found that it was missing some points what particularly when analyzing the more national and local levels.

Matthew  35:25

So we're just talking about how things might get mistranslated across scales. Sometimes, Latin America is portrayed as this kind of homogeneous landscape. And certainly, every nation or even where the borders are drawn could be contentious. And there's different histories within the region. So I was wondering what is unique and different about Colombia’s story compared to the rest of Latin America, and what is similar, and perhaps what lessons can be learned from each other?

Felipe  35:53

So there are a few elements that we can draw from my analysis. If we touch on food sovereignty, for example, countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua had very vibrant agrarian movements that advocated for food sovereignty in their countries a few years back, and they manage to include food sovereignty, either in their constitutions, or in their national policies. And these are ongoing processes in each of these countries that I just mentioned. My perspective is that Colombia wanted to follow that path of formalizing or institutionalizing food sovereignty, and hence why agrarian movements were advocating for creating food sovereignty policies. But that was not possible. So Colombia's story starts to change a little bit compared to the other countries in the region. In terms of now the framework that it's going to be used from 2016 onwards is the right to food and we will have to wait a few years to see what the implications are, but this is what the state is.

Secondly, Latin America is the top agricultural producer of the world and this is important to mention for a few reasons going Latin America is today producing more agricultural products than the US and Canada together, or than the European Union together. And this is mainly driven by demand of food, feed and fuel globally. And the elite countries in this production are Brazil, of course, because it's a huge country, a huge agricultural powerhouse and by Argentina, and so what other countries in the region, including Colombia want to do is follow that path of becoming agricultural powerhouses for exporting food, feed and fuel around the world.

Not only Latin America is the top producer, but it also has the most biodiverse region of the world, which is the Amazon. And agriculture and food are threatening deforestation and biodiversity loss in the region. This expansion of agriculture is also exacerbating social inequality. And so I think the lessons that we can learn, is Latin America going to be able to fit their nations feed the world continue this economic or agricultural expansion, without affecting biodiversity, and addressing the social inequalities that have been exacerbated over the last years? So Colombia tells an important story of Latin America, and that is trying to follow the path of food provisioning, and there's a lot of politics involved in that process.

Samara  38:58

And also a question we like to ask all of our guests is do you think that there's issues in food systems debates that are getting too much attention? And sort of counter to that, are there things that we should be discussing more?

Felipe  39:10

Yeah, I think at least in Colombia, one thing that that is not getting much attention is where is food coming from. Maybe in other places this is getting more attention, right. But for example, the flatbread, the Arepa that we eat here is just like a flat piece of bread made of corn or made of wheat, it's an essential part of our dishes, we're very proud of it. And it features in every other dish that we eat here in Colombia. But what we are not realizing and is what is not being in the debate is where is the primary produce coming from. So now, we're very proud of this flatbread and many other dishes. But these are imported agricultural products. So I think that's a very important part that we're not thinking about. Also, the traceability of food, there was a recent report by a think tank, that show how the meat that is being consumed, like sold here in the supermarkets in Bogota, is actually coming from the outskirts of the Amazon region, which is a national protected part. And so people are going very happy to supermarkets to buy their lunch, to buy their food, to buy meat, that people are not realizing where that meat is coming from. And so, I think we need to speak more about traceability and where is food coming from.

Matthew 40:43

And one more question that we ask our guests is what knowledge and evidence to draw from in your own research and work,

Felipe 40:50

I find that there are different types of knowledges involved in this context. The indigenous knowledge is very important, because they have been preserving agrobiodiversity for 1000s of years. So, that knowledge probably is not always accepted by Western perspectives of food, but I think that should be respected. I as an academic try to draw on different knowledges that I find in the field and I try to value them all because they're all contributing important elements.

Matthew  41:33

How do you think your personal background impacts how you understand the history and the present?

Felipe  41:40

I think that's an essential part of reasearch. I think had I not met these agrarian leaders 15 years back, my research would have been very different. So my own professional journey of being in the field meeting these agrarian leaders, even before I was doing academic research impacted my own work because now I know there are stories, and there are people behind the politics, behind the terms, beyond all of these sometimes superficial terms and debates that we're talking about. There are people and there are  stories of these people that have struggled for years. And so I think it has actually enriched and contributed a lot to my own research journey.

Matthew  42:28

Thank you so much for speaking with us, Felipe.

Felipe  42:32

Thank you for having me. It's been delightful to be with you guys.

Matthew 42:42

And just a reminder, if you’d like to get much more into the weeds than we did in this conversation, you can of course pre-order Felipe’s book and visit the book’s website at where you’ll find some very positive reviews and additional material that did not make it into the book.

Samara 43:00

And that wraps another episode of the Feed podcast presented by TABLE. Thanks as always for tuning in. If you liked what you heard, please rate and review us wherever you listen. And if you have a comment or question – you can reach out to us on our website –

We’re going to be wrapping up our theme of Scale in the food system in a few more episodes. We’re trying something new and would love to hear from you to help shape our final episode. Did you learn anything new, surprising, or something that challenged your preconceived notions of scale? Did you strongly disagree or agree with something you heard? You can either send us an email or you can record yourself in a quiet room and send your message to We really look forward to hearing from you!

This episode was edited and mixed by Matthew Kessler, with invaluable help as always from extended Table community. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. And we’ll be back in your Feed in a few weeks.