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Global food security in focus

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Written by Ian Caldwell

Thursday, 03 November 2011 14:02

Cassava - a staple crop in Ghana. Photo: Gates Foundation/Flickr

How will 9 billion people be able to eat without undermining the very basis for food production? A seminar in Stockholm on the 7th of November will take on the grand challenge of Global Food Security, in the context of a growing population and diminishing natural resources, a challenge that the Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative (SIANI) refers to as “the 21st Century Food and Farming Challenge”.

Agriculture covers 40% of the earth's total ice-free land area, accounts for 70% of global fresh water use, emits more greenhouse gases than any other human activity, employs 3/4 of the world's poorest people and feeds all of us. It is the key foundation of human civilization and it is also where most of our present day development problems such as poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and climate change converge.

High pressure on land and resources
Ensuring food for an increasingly prosperous global population of more than nine billion people in 2050 will put tremendous pressures on our already very strained natural resources as well as on the world's two billion poor smallholder farmers. Add to that the increasing pressures on agricultural lands from non-food sectors such as bio-energy and textiles and then picture these growing and multiple demands on agriculture against the background of climatic unpredictability. The imagery of “a perfect storm”, as the UK government’s Chief Scientist Sir John Beddington has put it, is easy to conjure up.

The seminar, which will be held at the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, will bring together international leaders with early-career researchers working on global food security from both biophysical and socioeconomic perspectives. Keynote speaker Jonathan Foley from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota will articulate the key challenges to global food security and highlight the latest trends and projections, while the early-career researchers will present empirical work addressing these challenges. The goal is to strengthen connections between academic researchers, government policymakers and practitioners in working towards a shared agenda of a more sustainable and equitable global food system.

Jonathan Foley, together with SEI’s Executive Director Johan Rockström and others, is co-author of the article “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet”, published in Nature on the 12th of October.

Register for the event on SIANI’s website »

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