World Scientists Tackle Food Insecurity

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By Dr. Christine Negra

Dr. Christine Negra is the Secretariat of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.

Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished, while millions suffer from chronic diseases due to excess food consumption. Global demand for agricultural products is growing and food prices are rising, yet roughly a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Climate change threatens more frequent drought, flooding, and pest outbreaks, and the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation. Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution on the planet.

Investments in sustainable agriculture, such as financial and technical assistance to improve smallholder food production, are needed to address food insecurity in the face of climate change. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Clearly, humanity must transform the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed in response to changes in climate, global population, eating patterns, and the environment. “To operate within a ‘safe space’ for people and the planet, we need to balance how much food we produce, how much we consume and waste and how much agriculture contributes to further climate change,” explains South African Commission Professor Bob Scholes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

To address these alarming patterns, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released today a detailed set of recommendations to policymakers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes, and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.

Chaired by Sir John Beddington, the Commission draws upon the diverse expertise of its members which include senior natural and social scientists working in agriculture, climate, food and nutrition, economics, and natural resources in governmental, academic, and civil society institutions in Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.

To understand the path forward, the Commission reviewed the major components and drivers of the global food system including the role of changing diet patterns; the link between poverty, natural resource degradation, and low crop yields; the need to address inefficiencies in food supply chains; gaps in agricultural investment; and the patterns of globalized food trade, food production subsidies, and food price volatility. The Commissioners concluded that humanity’s collective choices related to agriculture and food systems must be revisited if we are to meet our food needs and stabilize the global climate.

For each of their 7 major recommendations, the Commission’s final report characterizes the current policy landscape, the major opportunities for positive change and the roles that specific communities can play. These include treaty negotiators, global donors, agribusinesses, farmers’ associations, multilateral agencies, researchers, national governments, and others.

The report weaves together issues that have commonly been ‘stovepiped’ into different scientific disciplines, economic sectors, policy processes, and geographic regions. And it outlines a more integrated approach for dealing with the urgent, globally interconnected challenges. These multiple emergent challenges—food insecurity, climate change, increased competition for energy, water, degradation of land, and biodiversity—are connected in complex ways and demand an integrated management approach. Efforts to alleviate the worst effects of climate change cannot succeed without simultaneously addressing the crises in global agriculture and the food system and empowering the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“We must create an enabling environment for all stakeholders, from small farmers to national governments, to invest in the economic and environmental resiliency of their land resources,” reports Commissioner Professor Tekalign Mamo, state minister and advisor to the Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture.

The Commission’s Action points (full details elaborated in Final Report document)

1. Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies

2. Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade

3. Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture

4. Target populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity

5. Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide

6. Reduce loss and waste in food systems, particularly from infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits

7. Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions

The Commission was set up by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) with additional support form the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. Learn more about the Commission at http://ccafs.cgiar.org/commission.

For more information on climate change and food security, see: Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change, Community Livelihood Strengthens Food Security at Grass Root LevelFour Billions New Reasons Why Food Will Become a Local Government IssueBridging the Gap in Climate Change StrategiesAgricultural Development Key to Ending Hunger in Africa.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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