Global Security Requires Sustainable Food System

Global Security Requires Sustainable Food Systems

As climate change intensifies, the world’s food supply becomes increasingly at risk; and as the ensuing crisis in Ukraine demonstrates, widespread food insecurity and global instability will exacerbate one another. Though global leaders recognize the increasing threat, the question remains as to what a sustainable food system looks like in a globalized world. A report released by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GAFF) may present a new model for state and non-state actors to transform and stabilize national food systems based on the analysis of initiatives undertaken by 14 countries worldwide.

Why This Matters

Food supply around the world is already in jeopardy due to planetary warming and global conflict. According to the most recent IPCC report, global yields of staple crops such as rice, corn, and wheat are likely to drop by 10-25% for each degree of warming above 1.1 degrees Celsius. Additionally, given the globalized nature of food systems, food shortages will reach far beyond the geographical region where production occurs. Ukraine and Russia, for example, ordinarily produce 30% of the world’s wheat. With farmers currently unable to produce at optimal levels, countries across the Middle East and North Africa face severe food shortages.

MSNBC: War In Ukraine Threatens To Cause Global food Shortage, March 21, 2022.

Four Case Studies

Food systems are powerless to external forces (like conflict and climate) while also responsible for a large portion of global emissions. For these reasons, the GAFF study suggests localized, regenerative food systems to increase resiliency and decrease climate impacts. According to DW, four countries included in the report have food systems that could serve as models.

  • Bangladesh is one of the world’s leading rice and fish producers, but climate-change-powered flooding has severely impacted production. To improve resiliency, the global nonprofit WorldFish is working to intertwine these two processes in a community-based production system. Also, farmers are beginning to use fish droppings as natural fertilizers, which provides many benefits including lowered agricultural emissions.
  • In Egypt, a country composed almost entirely of desert landscapes, reliance on food imports is becoming increasingly unstable. A sustainable development initiative called SEKEM is currently working to increase self-sufficient production in the country through "desert greening” measures, such as tree planting to increase soil fertility.
  • Senegal is one of the only countries with climate targets that explicitly address the issue of sustainable food production. By undertaking measures relating to soil restoration, supply chain efficiency, and localization, the country has progressed in addressing agricultural emissions and widespread food insecurity.
  • Many US communities suffer from food insecurity. Still, 35% of all food goes unsold or uneaten. Cutting wastage could be beneficial for emissions, and nonprofits such as ReFED are working to address this systemic issue. Additionally, decreasing meat production and consumption within the country is vital to emissions reduction.

Through these case studies, lowering agricultural emissions, cutting waste, and improving resiliency along with community-based production are key actionable items presented by researchers.

NASA: Climate Change Could Affect Global Agriculture Within 10 Years, November 1, 2021.

Cornell University: Climate change reduced farming productivity by 21% since 1961, April 1, 2021.

DW: The future of farming in Africa - Fighting climate change and conflict, May 29, 2021.