Five key actions to fight the food crisis
A new science brief from Stockholm Resilience Centre and Global Resilience Partnership launched during COP28 discusses why the current food crisis has escalated so quickly up to global proportions. The researchers list five key actions for policy-makers to address.
- Transforming the food system requires going far beyond conventional approaches for increasing food production
- It is a key leverage point for achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement
- What makes this food crisis different is the simultaneous occurrence of several interconnected drivers
“Transforming the food system in ways that support the most vulnerable places of the world, where climate, conflict and food insecurity are tightly interlinked, requires to go far beyond conventional approaches for increasing food production, says Cibele Queiroz, Head of Knowledge at the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP).
Queiroz and Centre researchers Amanda Jonsson, Amanda Wood, and Albert Norström have written a new brief titled "The current food crisis: Building resilience at the nexus of food insecurity, climate change, and conflict." Pdf, 4.5 MB. This collaborative effort between Stockholm Resilience Centre and Global Resilience Partnership coincides with the Food, Agriculture, and Water day at the UN Climate Conference, on 10 December.
The transformation of the current food system is a key leverage point for achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement.
Centre researcher Cibele Queiroz
“We need to address problems of injustice in food access and distribution, change agricultural practices towards more sustainable production that fosters resilience, and shift our diets, from animal to plant based products” says Cibele Queiroz.
“The transformation of the current food system is a key leverage point for achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement. Decreasing the food system’s dependency on fossil fuels for the transport of food and production of synthetic fertilizers reduce, would be a major contribution for reducing carbon emissions and Loss and Damage from climate change, and achieve the SDGs, she continues.
COP28 is held while climate change impacts are being felt around the globe, with increasing temperatures and a surge in extreme weather events. This has led to losses in food production with direct impacts on food security. Currently, 2,4 billion people suffer from food insecurity, which is an increase of 391 million people compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022 alone, 58 countries experienced food crisis conditions or worse.
What makes this food crisis different is the simultaneous occurrence of several interconnected drivers - the four C’s: COVID-19, Climate Change, Conflict, and Cost.
Centre researcher Amanda Jonsson
Violent conflict has also been on the rise, displacing people and limiting their access to fields. Conflicts have disrupted domestic and international food trade. The rising cost of food contributes both to the food crisis and is a result of it. 14 out of the 25 countries most vulnerable to climate change are also experiencing violent conflict.
“What makes this food crisis different than other past crises is the simultaneous occurrence of several interconnected drivers - the four C’s: COVID-19, Climate Change, Conflict, and Cost – acting upon a highly vulnerable anatomy of the current food system. ” says co-author Amanda Jonsson, Research assistant at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Amanda Wood, Researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre adds: “Not only are these four drivers interlinked and reinforcing each other, they are putting increasing pressure on a vulnerable global food system that is characterized by hyperconnectivity, simplification and consolidation.”
Applying the resilience principles
The authors of the brief state that building a resilient food system is possible by incorporating the seven resilience principles: manage connectivity, maintain diversity and redundancy, manage slow variables and feedbacks, apply adaptive system thinking, encourage learning, broaden participation, and promote polycentric governance.
These principles underscore the need to invest in diverse food landscapes, food cultures, and actors, as well the need to promote broad participation in decision making, the design, and implementation of solutions.
“Food is special, as it is so attached to culture and identity. Transforming the food system will require adapting cultural habits and traditions and finding new more healthy and sustainable ways of consuming and preparing food, anchored on local and regional identities and food cultures. This poses an additional challenge, but can also be a real source of innovation with gastronomy actors playing a key role, as we are already seeing today,” says Queiroz.
Actions for policymakers
The authors present five critical aspects to be integrated into the design and implementation of policies and investments aiming to build up the resilience of the global food system.
- Food needs to be considered as a fundamental human right, meaning that solutions and approaches for addressing the impacts and root causes of the food crisis need to build on principles of equity and inclusivity.
- The global food system is a large, integrated social- ecological system. Thus, no true change towards increased resilience can be achieved by addressing single parts of the system. For example, building food system resilience implies going beyond agricultural practices to also address consumption patterns and questions of food-related health and access.
- The anatomy of current global food systems – i.e., hyperconnected, simplified, and concentrated – is contributing to food system vulnerability. Thus, no investments in resilience will be effective if they don’t target the change of this configuration. For this it is necessary to:
- Actively invest in the diversity of food landscapes, food cultures, and actors.
- Foster a moderate level of connectivity, ensuring that local and regional food systems are neither isolated or overconnected. For that, we need among other things to support a diversification of markets at different scales, as an alternative to the overreliance on the global trade market.
- Promote broad participation in decision making and the design and implementation of solutions. Polycentric forms of governance and increased collaboration between different actors across scales and regions need to be encouraged in order to ensure coordinated efforts and the design of solutions that are inclusive and pluralistic.
- Drivers of the current crisis, including climate change, violent conflict, COVID-19, and increased food prices, are complex and interlinked. Only with this awareness in mind will be possible to abandon siloed-perceptions and become aware of potential synergies and feedbacks among solutions.
- Transformative change addressing the root causes of a crisis always implies risks, such as unintended consequences. However, risk should not be a hindrance for change, but rather an incentive for fostering adaptive knowledge and the monitoring of solutions outcomes over time.
FACTS - Impacts of the current food crisis:
- Currently, 2.4 billion people suffer from food insecurity.
- In 2022, 258 million people were estimated to experience food crisis conditions or worse across 58 countries.
- More than 40% of people living in food crisis conditions or worse are located in five countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Yemen.
- 14 out of the 25 countries most vulnerable to climate change are also experiencing violent conflict.
- Women, children, and people living in rural settings in the Global South are the ones more strongly affected.
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