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Global Food System - How are our melons grown? classroom resources



Through the video students are introduced to a large melon plantation in Brazil. The video looks at the environmental and social issues the plantation presents within Brazil and highlights the interconnections of the global food chain.

Key Issues

- Where our food comes from.
- The interconnectedness of the global food chain and how our shopping decisions affect people and the environment in Brazil.
- Intensive commercial farming, the use of fertilizers and water scarcity.
- Working practices and conditions around the world.


This example from Brazil highlights the interconnections of the global food system. Agricola Famosa produces over 400,000 tonnes of melons each year and almost all are destined for European shops.  These farms are very important for the local economy and provide crucial jobs for migrant workers and local farmers who find it hard to grow in the arid conditions. Even though the work is hard and the wages often seem low the company does offer opportunities including English lessons to its employees making it a better option than many other employers. Agricola Famosa, like most intensive commercial farms, uses large quantities of water to irrigate the melon plantations as well as chemical fertilisers to increase productivity. With the possibility of increased drought due to climate change there are question marks over whether using this much water for irrigation in an increasingly arid region is sustainable.


Starter Activities

  Bring in some items of food and ask the students where in the world they think they were produced.
  Ask students for their favourite foods and identify where each one comes from. What wouldn’t we be able to eat if we just ate food grown in the UK?


Enquiry Questions

 - Is it better to grow melons in greenhouse in the UK, or import them from Brazil?
 - What would happen if we stopped importing products like Brazilian melons? Who would it impact and how?
 - Would you like to work on the melon farm? How does it compare to jobs in other LEDCs?
 - What impact might this farm (which uses so much water) have on the local area?
 - How do our shopping choices affect farms and workers like the ones in the film?

Lesson Activities

The video throws up a number of different issues and could be incorporated into a variety of main lesson activities. Here are a few examples:

  • Ask students to bring in some food packaging from a meal as homework (or bring them in yourself or use an imaginary basket of food based on images). Plot where they come from on a map. You could use the food miles calculator to obtain distances (see worksheet activity 2). Get groups to plan a meal based on short distance ingredients only.
  • Rearrange the photos to find out how a melon reaches your plate (see worksheet activity 4).
  • Examine the pros and cons of food produced using fertilisers against organically produced food. Imagine that you are a farmer in an LEDC, struggling to feed your family, write a short piece explaining why you use fertilisers.


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