Knowledge for better food systems

Starving for answers: Why hunger and thirst don't have to doom the world

These two articles in Foreign Policy discuss the role of power and agency to solve our global water and food problems. In the first article “Don’t Let Food Be the Problem - Producing too much food is what starves the planet” Professor Olivier De Schutter reflects on lessons learnt during his work over the past 6 years as UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. He argues that international action cannot solve the food crises without local responses. He writes “These interconnected systems of overproduction won’t feed the world.

In fact, it is both what ails humankind and what starves it. Although its Goliath-like scale might make it appear invincible, its very ungainliness and failure to meet human needs could yet be its undoing. Indeed, big food has already been met with resistance in the form of an idea steadily gaining traction at the grassroots level: food sovereignty.” He highlights the increasing adoption of agroecological practices around the world.

In the second article: “Don’t Let Water Be the Problem - If Iran and the United States can cooperate on water issues, anyone can,” Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst, discusses how important international cooperation is on water issues – even among adversaries. 

Read the full articles here.

In the context of these articles you may also find our recent blog-post series by Professor Michael Hamm interesting.  In it he discusses the value of city-region food systems and critiques both the notion that large scale, conventional agriculture produced largely in concentrated areas is the only way to feed the U.S. and the world as well as the idea that smaller scale and alternative production strategies will provide the answer. He argues, rather, that we need a middle path characterised by diversity in scale and production systems. The first Part I conceptualises the issues and Part II discusses who the farmer of the future will be and how the United States might be fed in 2050. Part IIIA discusses various views on scale and production strategy while the final Part IIIB goes on to argue for a middle path.

You can find more resources related to scale and production strategies in the research library’s overarching categories Primary production: agriculture and Agricultural and aquatic systems. See also the keyword categories on intensive/confined systems, sustainable intensification, production efficiency/intensity as well as food sovereignty.

You can read related research by browsing the following categories of our research library:

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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