Food security: five key questions governments should ask themselves

#CHFoodFuture warmup – session 5

Burning questions on global food security will be addressed next week at the conference A Sustainable Future: production supply and consumption at Chatham House, London. The entire event is divided into five sessions and each could be a conference in itself. It’s important to warmup and enter the right mindset before the event begins next Monday 7th December 2015. To help do that, each day this week I will post an entry discussing each session. Click here to read session 4: Anyone with an interest in agricultural tech startups will find this session, golden.

Session 5 – Resilience of the Food System

The questions addressed are:

  1. Can the food system adapt globally to the changing geography of food surpluses and deficits? What infrastructure challenges does this percent?
  2. What are the main points of vulnerability for critical food infrastructure, e.g. storage, inland transport, ports and maritime corridors? How should the associated risks be shared and managed by the private and public sector?
  3. How well are the cascade effect of supply shocks understood, and how can this understanding be enhanced?
  4. How resilient is the food system, at global and regional level, to political disruption and protectionist trade policy, and how might these risks be better mitigated?
  5. What can be achieved at national levels to build resilience around food production and food security? What is the role of the insurance sector and other investors? Where is cooperative action needed at a regional or global level?

Although these questions are asked from a global perspective, answers will have to trickle into solutions implemented at a local scale. Here, the following phrase which I have heard the most from climate change scientists and activists comes to mind:

Think global, act local.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Lisa Delgado Castillo, used with permission.

Climate change is caused internationally and suffered locally. Communities are affected by decisions made by people miles away. For example, extreme weather events, which are caused by climate change (e.g. typhoons, tropical cyclones, droughts), displace individuals and families with no single entity or figure to blame or to hold accountable. We can say the same for food security. For example, by 2030 crop and pasture yields are likely to decline as follows (source): in Northeast Brazil, maize is expected to decline 10%, rice is expected to decline 14% and wheat is expected to decline 14%. In Central America, wheat is expected to decline 9%, rice is expected to decline 10% and bean is expected to decline 4%. In East Africa, maize is expected to decline 3% and bean is expected to decline 1.5%. Who is going to supply that calorie loss to communities at risk? Where/who are the communities at risk? What can they do about this today? Do they have enough resources (e.g. education, tools, infrastructure, information) for action?

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Lisa Delgado Castillo, used with permission

This tension between the macro and the micro is fundamental: how can we translate international challenges into public policy that can be executed with the resources and capabilities available at, for example, neighbourhood level? Decentralised action that follows one international agenda: the Sustainable Development Goals.


Dr Christian Häberli, Senior Research Fellow, World Trade Institute



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s