Global Food Security blog

Contributors to this blog include academics, policy makers, farmers and end-users. To join the community of authors please email web@foodsecurity.ac.uk including details of your expertise, experience and a short synopsis of your proposed article.

Framing the big picture: going round in circles

GFS Champion Tim Benton explains how engaging with people has shifted his views.

Tim Benton

I am very privileged in the role of Global Food Security (GFS) Champion to meet many people and discuss the challenges raised by global demand for food outstripping supply. I have had such discussions with a large range of groups in different government departments: Health, Defra, DFID and the FCO in the UK as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments.
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The whole package for Africa’s women farmers

It’s not enough to sing their praises: let’s work on legal rights, market access, community-based support, and more equitable households say Melinda Fones Sundell and Marion Davis.

Melinda Sundell and Marion Davis

If you know anything about agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, you know that women grow the majority of food crops. In Ghana, for example, women produce 70% of the nation’s food crops, provide 52% of the agricultural labour force, and contribute 95% of the labour for agro-processing activities. Across the region, 62.5% of women work in agriculture, compared with 36.4% globally (report p.57, A8).

Yet women farmers often work under very difficult conditions. Many don’t even control the land on which they grow their families’ food, and their access to fertilizers, tools, equipment and other inputs is also constrained. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that if women had access to the same productive resources as men, they could increase their farm yields by 20-30%.
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Investing sweat equity to harness ecosystem services

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. Andrew MacMillan reflects on home-grown food.

Andrew MacMillan

A couple of months ago, the United Nations launched the International Year of Family Farming. Hopefully, by the end of the year many more people around the world will come to appreciate the enormously important role that family-run farms play in producing our food in sustainable ways.

When I was turning my compost heaps a few days ago to speed up the processes of decay and have lots of organic fertilizer available for the spring-time planting of vegetables, it struck me how often we risk creating confusion with the difficult words scientists and economists use to describe the kinds of things that small-scale farmers do, let us say naturally, every day.
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The need for science in food security

In this video blog, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney makes a case for research from the Oxford Farming Conference.

Simon Coveney

“My name is Simon Coveney, I am the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and I am here at the Oxford Farming Conference today with a very clear message about the importance of the linkage between science and agriculture and the agri-food industry generally.

The reality is that we have an enormous challenge, but also an enormous opportunity for this sector over the next 10-50 years, because globally we have to find a way of producing significantly more food from the same, in fact less, natural resources as we see the availability of agricultural land shrink by about a percentage a year.

And at the same time we see the consumption demand for food dramatically increasing.


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Waste not, want not

GFS Champion Tim Benton looks to the New Year and considers food waste on national and personal levels (including his own recipes).

Tim Benton

I enjoy cooking, so do the kitchen duty when I am at home. And, of course, Christmas is the most intensive cooking festival. I just totted up that I prepared 141 meals, spread over 32 mealtimes. No wonder coming back to work seems restful!

As food waste is such an issue, we worked hard to minimise waste over the period through a concerted effort of planning, inventorying and negotiation over how to eat left overs. As a result, we threw away very little that was avoidable, perhaps though at the expense of over-consumption!
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Christmas is traditionally a time of celebrating via food. GFS Champion Tim Benton explores the question of whether we should be more self-sufficient in producing it.

Tim Benton

One of the questions asked in Westminster is “should the UK be more self-sufficient in food production?” According to government (PDF) data about 62% of our food is produced in Great Britain.

Last August, 62% of the way through the year, the National Farmers’ Union had a Back British Farming campaign pointing out that were there no international trade our “larder would be bare” from August onwards – definitely a problem for the Christmas feast then  – and so growing more food locally would be benefit  our food security by increasing self-sufficiency.
Continue reading Season’s greedings: self-sufficiency and the UK food system

In pursuit of a common dream

What kinds of collaborations lead to increased food security? Anne Radl wants to hear your success stories.

David Hume

An economist, a lawyer and a community activist walk into a plant laboratory… it sounds like the beginning of a joke – one with a punchline that relies on the listener knowing that these three people have fundamentally different, irreconcilable ways of seeing the world.

But at the October 8 launch event of The Humanitarian Centre’s Global Food Futures Year, held at the Sainsbury Plant Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, economists, lawyers and activists (and many others) came together to mark our year-long focus on food security.
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Farmers can be researchers too

Second call from Soil Association ‘field labs’ seeks food growers with innovative ideas to test. Tom MacMillan reports.

Tom MacMillan

Back in April on this blog, I made the case that public funding for agricultural R&D should do more to support innovation by farmers.

The past few years have already seen welcome steps to help farmers become more vocal ‘research clients’, with the industry’s priorities increasingly reflected in the research agenda. But farmers are so much more than just clients, buying and using the bright ideas and technology that scientists have come up with. They have their own ideas; they develop and adapt techniques and technology, and many trial new approaches informally before they adopt them fully across their business.
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Open source solutions for food security

We need to share high- and low-tech technologies to diversify production, says Tyler Reed.

Tyler Reed

con·straint  /kən’strãnt/

noun

  1. a limitation or restriction.

“the availability of water is the main constraint on food production”

An internet search for the word constraint returned this definition. The example usage is surprisingly apropos considering the nature of this post, because water is certainly a constraint on food production. Traditional farming techniques, with plants growing in open plots of soil, can require substantial amounts of water while other techniques require less.
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The price is right? Wrong!

We have learnt a lot from the 2007/8 food price spike, but the future will be a bumpy ride says GFS Champion Tim Benton.

Tim Benton

The historical era of falling food prices is over. Global demand for food is continuing to increase while production growth has slowed in recent years, leading to significant upward pressure on prices.

It is well recognised that world’s biological and ecological resources (its ’natural capital‘) provides ecosystem services that subsidise production costs: think about how soil fertility, promoted by soil biodiversity, pollination, natural pest control and the climate support agricultural production. Fully investing in sustaining the natural capital, via management of soils, biodiversity, water and carbon emissions would raise food production costs and add to prices. 
Continue reading The price is right? Wrong!