The Food Security Hub (FSH) seeks to identify emerging technologies to optimize efficiency flows, bring new technology to market, and to accelerate deployment of eco innovation.
FSH involves expert working groups identifying new approaches and and priority areas. A key theme arising from CEC workshops is concern about the efficiency flows and consequent possibilities for innovation. The need to understand the efficiency flows, environmental impacts of food and the risks that these present to food security set the directions for the ‘Sustainable Food System’ pilot initiative for CEC.
Regular access to healthy eating, noting that access is fundamentally dependent on secure food supplies. The objective of food security requires attention to efficiency flows, potential risks and challenges to the ongoing security of food supplies, where ‘security’ refers both to ‘provision’ and to ‘access’.
Over the coming decades, climate change is likely to pose a major challenge to agriculture; temperatures are rising, rainfall is becoming more variable and extreme weather is becoming a more common event. Researchers and policymakers agree that adapting agriculture to these impacts is a priority for ensuring future food security. Strategies to achieve that in practice tend to focus on modern science. But evidence, both old and new, suggests that the traditional knowledge and crop varieties of indigenous peoples and local communities could prove even more important in adapting agriculture to climate change.
Adapting Agriculture With Traditional Knowledge (IIED October 2011)
Significant concern about efficiency flows has stimulated numerous CEC partner projects worldwide. We take the economic, environmental and social aspects into account to achieve sustainable food systems that will meet the food demand. This will require efficiency flow considerations, investment and implementation of new innovations in the entire food production and consumption chain. At CEC our goals include:
- Support farmers in developing sustainable food systems;
- Create new micro-finance instruments to small-scale farmers;
- Optimize efficiency flows using discards, capture and recycling of post harvest losses and waste;
- Use higher generation biofuels based on waste.
Food has been described as the ‘key link’ to the survival of a society and therefore Food Security is a leading indicator of the strength of this link. Food security is “the state in which all persons obtain nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable, safe foods regularly through local non-emergency sources.”
As the farmers attempt to expand the harvest, the trends that negatively affect production are partly offsetting advances in technology. The question is, which is ahead and will advancing technology be enough to combat these challenges and improve food security.
Food security is being increasingly challenged by resource constraints such as energy, water, land, oil, agricultural inputs and environmental risks such as climate change. At CEC we see that significant concern about food security and supply worldwide has stimulated numerous CEC partner projects. It is a serious issue with possible impacts on the local food systems, and food security occur worldwide.
Responses to environmental risks, and the need to reduce the environmental impacts on the food system, will present new challenges. The impacts of climate change are already and will continue to be a significant driver for change in production, packaging, transportation and distribution of food.
Higher temperatures reduce crop yields and water supplies, affecting food security. Agricultural scientists have drawn a correlation between a temperature rise of 1 degree celsius above the optimum during the growing season and a grain yield decrease of 10 percent. Heat waves, droughts, and floods can cause drastic cuts in harvests. Mountain glaciers, which are shrinking worldwide as a result of rising temperatures, supply drinking and irrigation water to much of the world’s population.
Malnutrition has also been growing since the mid-1990s; and In 2008 was affecting almost one billion people. These trends are expected to worsen given high food prices, and structural issues relating to the recent downturn in the global economy.
Adequate measures must be taken to provide a level of food security for people who go hungry every day. Policy makers, and the development and foundation communities must be attentive to the complex linkages between the global economy, agricultural sectors and presence of food insecurity.
A Sustainable Food System
Agriculture is ultimately a process of energy conversion: converting solar energy, along with various chemical and fossil energy inputs, into food energy that will sustain a human population. A series of technological changes in agriculture over the past century have greatly increased yields, but have also increased the amount of energy that is consumed in this conversion process. Many of the tasks that were formerly performed by the plant (extracting nutrients, restraining disease and insects) or by animals (self-foraging of feed) have been taken over by the farmer through the input of external energy (fertilizers, pesticides, fossil fuels). What’s more, human labor in the agriculture of developed countries has been largely replaced by fossil fuel driven machinery. As a result, modern agriculture has developed a strong dependence on industrial inputs and industrial (largely fossil) energy.
Thus, while agricultural technology has allowed greater yields in terms of bushels per acre as well as bushels per man-hour of labor, more primary energy is consumed in producing the same amount of food.
Yet, it is not only agricultural production that is a large consumer of energy in the food system. Industrial energy goes into supplying food, processing and packaging of food and household storage and preparation require energy inputs of near or greater magnitude than agricultural growing and production.
Agricultural production of food in the U.S. accounts for only 20% of the total energy consumed in the U.S. food system. Given that nearly 40% of U.S. agricultural production is exported, this fraction should likely be smaller. The manufacturing of chemical fertilizers and pesticides makes up almost 40% of the energy allocated to agricultural production. Another 25% is diesel fuel consumption. Over the same period, the value of U.S. agricultural output increased by almost 47%, causing the ratio of energy use to agricultural output to fall by 50% between 1978 and 1993. By this measure, agricultural production has become more energy efficient.
Key lessons learned include the following:
- Water management is a limiting factor to better agriculture and livelihoods and the range of water technologies must also consider improved soil management and agro-forestry options for sustainable water supply.
- Sustainable intensification of crops through organic agriculture can provide higher yields with a minimum dependence on external inputs but this requires linkage to markets and building marketing groups and farmers’ skills.
- Diversification of income sources comes with improved management skills and access to new assets. Even where markets are not strong, household nutrition levels can be improved with indigenous crops and home and school gardens.
- People are central but their knowledge and organizational capacity must be improved to achieve better use of available resources or to identify new opportunities. Building Food Security Hubs and community organizations includes expert working groups, savings groups, multipurpose cooperatives or contract farming of various types.
The growth in food demand is the result of the combined effects of world population growth to over 9 billion by 2050, rising incomes and dietary changes towards higher meat intake. Meat production is particularly demanding in terms of energy, cereal and water. Today, nearly half of the world’s cereals are being used for animal feed. Each day 200,000 more people are added to the world food demand, and each year, nearly ten million people die of hunger or hunger-related diseases.
Food production has increased substantially in the past century, as has calorie intake per capita. Increased fertilizer application and more water usage through irrigation have been responsible for over 70% of the crop yield increase in the past years. Current projections in food demand suggest that cereal demand will increase by almost 50% towards 2050. This can either be obtained either by increasing crop yield, continued expansion of cropland by conversion of natural habitat, or by optimizing food or feed energy efficiency from production to consumption.
Food supply is not only a function of production, but also of energy efficiency. Food energy efficiency is our ability minimize the loss of energy in food from harvest potential through processing to transport to actual consumption and recycling. By optimizing this chain, food supply can increase with much less damage to the environment, similar to improvements in efficiency in the traditional energy sector. However, unlike the traditional energy sector food energy efficiency sector has received little attention.
Recycling of waste and the use of waste provides a great potential for alternative sources of animal feed. With new technology, waste along the human food supply chain can be used as a substitute for cereal in animal feed. This will support sustainable agriculture greatly reducing pressure on water resources and biodiversity, truly a win-win solution.
Food from Waste
There has been surprisingly little focus on salvaging food already harvested or produced. Meeting the future demand for food needs to include enhancing efficiencies of existing production areas and processes, converting wasted food to animal feed and energy and restoring the ecosystems that underpin our ability to feed ourselves. With New production and distribution processes, consumption patterns, and by using discards such as waste and other post harvest losses, the supply of animal and fish feed can be increased and be sustained without expanding current production.
Food From Fisheries and Aquaculture
The worlds fisheries have steadily declined since the 1980’s. At present marine capture fisheries yield 110-130 million tonnes of seafood annually. Of this, 70 million tonnes are directly consumed by humans, 30 million tonnes discarded and 30 million tonnes converted to fishmeal. Eutrophication combined with unsustainable fishing leads to the loss or depletion of these food resources.
The coastal nations have pledged to create national networks of marine reserves or parks that would cover 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2012. We are learning that there are biological hotspots that contain an unusual diversity of species in the oceans as well as on land. The challenge in marine conservation is first to identify these marine hotspots and breeding grounds and then to incorporate them into marine reserves.
Food from Meat
Meat accounts for about 8% of the world calorie intake. Dietary shifts towards more meat will require a much larger share of cropland for grazing and feed production for the meat industry. Livestock sector is estimated to be responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transportation. Alternative feed sources provide huge potential for increasing the availability of cereal for human consumption. The use of waste provides a great potential for alternative sources of animal feed.
Packaging is second only to the cost of labor in the food marketing bill: estimated 9% of the food dollar goes into packaging. Thirty three percent of the total packaging expense is due to cardboard boxes, used extensively for shipping processed foods (i.e., packaging that does not go home with the consumer). While recycling efforts have greatly increased in the past decade, food packaging is still a major contributor to municipal solid waste.
The “packaging material” component of the energy that goes in to making packaging for food and beverages. While the recycling of glass, steel, and aluminum containers aids in reducing the energy requirements for making food packages out of these materials, food grade plastics must be virgin material and thus require large amounts of petroleum based energy as feedstock.
The transportation component of energy in transporting raw and processed foods from manufacturing and distribution sights to areas of retail distribution as well as the estimated energy consumed in household food shopping trips. Transportation energy in the food system is a strong function of the distance between areas of production and areas of consumption.
The large quantities of off-farm inputs used in today’s agriculture (seed, fertilizer, pesticides, animal feed) contribute to the energy consumed in transportation. Given the volatile nature of current energy prices, transportation and distribution are extremely vulnerable sectors of the current food system. While a recognizably simplified analysis, locating areas of production and handling of food physically close to areas of population density has great potential in reducing energy consumption and therefore improving the sustainability of the food system.
While it may be argued that “superstores” make shopping more convenient and reduce trips to multiple stores, they also displace local neighborhood groceries that would be accessible to more people by foot, bicycle, or public transportation. It is likely that a distribution-centered system also adds delivery and personnel efficiency. Yet, the sheer scale limits market access for smaller food processors, and tends to concentrate capital as it moves up the ownership hierarchy, removing it from the communities that generated that capital. Because of the sheer volume of sales handled, distribution-centered superstores are less likely to buy direct from local producers, instead relying on large concentrated processors and distributors. On the other end of the retail food spectrum, the number of farmers’ markets, which provide consumers direct access to locally grown produce, has grown substantially over the last several decades.
Food Price and Oil Price
Energy and agricultural commodity prices are increasingly correlated with each other. Rising oil prices increase fertilizer costs and freight rates. The emerging biofuel market strengthens these interdependencies, while a higher oil price increases demand for biofuels. The agricultural commodities used nowadays for biofuels, were previously used for feed and fodder. As demand for agricultural commodities will increase as factor inputs increase.
Fertilizer alone accounts estimated 50% of historical increases in production. As the cost of fertilizer, is strongly correlated with oil prices, the future prices of oil will have a great influence on the accessibility of farmers to commercial fertilizer. As the cost, and subsequent use of fertilizer is strongly correlated with price, a potentially higher oil price would lower the use of fertilizer or further increase the food price.
Fuel price is one of the main determining factors for fisheries. Rising energy prices have strong impact on capture as well as on aquaculture (for the production and transport of fish feed), and lead to higher cost during processing, transport (particularly air freight), and distribution of fish products. Small scale fisheries, which depend on outboard motors and small diesel engines, have especially suffered from the rise in fuel prices.
Alternatively, biofuels could have significant impact on food prices if oil prices remain high and or the cost of biofuels production declines.
Organic management is a knowledge-based approach requiring understanding of agro-ecological processes. Access to knowledge is the major bottleneck when converting to organic management. Inexperience and lack of adequate extension and training for knowledge-intensive management systems and location-specific science require long-term investments in capacity- building. With the objective of creating a critical mass and the necessity to strive in settings with limited opportunities, many organic communities have responded by establishing collective learning
The strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on local mechanisms, innovators and ecological entrepreneurs. The necessity of group organization e.g. to cut down on certification costs) and planning farm rotation usually has resulted in improved performance and co-determination, community ownership of seeds/breeds, valorization of indigenous knowledge and overall control of agriculture and food systems.
In some countries, organic farms preserve cultural landscapes with a highly rated economic potential. Increasingly, urban dwellers are coming back to the countryside for leisure and re-discovery of Re and traditional food cultures. Organic labels are increasingly found next to labels of geographical denomination of origin, specialty foods or protected areas. Furthermore, organic farms within or near protected areas offer ecotourism and rural hospitality activities. More and more organic farmers are becoming involved in agritourism or local catering of specialty food.
The Role of Diet Change
The production of cereals, including wheat, rice and maize, plays a crucial role in the food supply, accounting for about 50% of calorie intake in humans. Any changes in the production of, or in the use of cereals for non-human consumption will have an immediate effect on calorie intake of a large fraction of the population.
A sustainable food system must be founded on a sustainable diet. In the most general sense, this would be a diet that matched energy intake with energy expenditure while supplying necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. However, consumers make dietary decisions based also on economical, physiological, psychological, sociological, and even spiritual considerations. Eating becomes more than just a biological necessity, often being a focus of social, business, and family events or a simple act of pleasure.
Nutritional problems of a century ago that resulted in deficiency diseases such as scurvy and rickets have been replaced with problems of nutritional overindulgence: obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension. Recent reports provide a good starting point for understanding the complications of dietary choices. Certainly, a life cycle evaluation of a sustainable food system must also include the effects and impacts of the dietary choices that drive that system.
Agritourism is the practice of attracting visitors and travelers to agricultural areas, generally for educational and recreational purposes. Due to economic hardships and changes in the farming and livestock industries across the globe, many farmers, especially those with small, family-owned farms, have found they must supplement their agricultural business model and explore new ways of generating income.
Likewise, as the distance between the production and consumption of agricultural products grows, so too does consumer interest in how crops and livestock are raised. People want to reconnect with the agricultural practices of the past.
These two needs come together in agritourism which helps rebuild a relationship between producer and consumer that has all but vanished with the rise of heavily-industrialized farming methods.
The Food-Water-Energy-Climate Nexus
Water security is the gossamer that links together the web of food, energy, climate, economic growth, and human security challenges that the world economy faces over the next two decades.
Global grain harvests and food security depend on water availability. Analysis suggests shortfalls of up to 30 percent in cereal production by 2030 which may trigger a serious food crisis. Water-scarce countries may be largely depending on food import or on land-lease deals.
At the same time, there are more people to be fed: The world's population is expected to grow from 6.8 billion today to 8 billion in 2025. Not only will the increased number of people having to share the water resources worsen the situation but also their increased standard of living will contribute.
Securing Water for Food
Partners in Education
Health = Wealth
We are working with school curriculum to engage educators, children and families in food security and healthy living issues not only at home, but in classrooms. Educators will get valuable lesson plans that match their classroom learning goals and allow children to actively learn about food, water, energy, environmental issues, geography and cultures, while still having fun.
By investing in your nutrition you will invest in your health.
Sports and Exercise Nutrition
We appreciate the importance of sound nutrition in sporting performance and health. Our experts deliver expert nutrition advice service to sports people and individuals with active lifestyles. We work within the catering industry and are experienced in organizing catering for events. We specialize in sports dietetics and childhood nutrition. We serve athletes at professional and amateur level, and sports organizations and schools. We publish articles to sports community, and provide a nutrition consultancy to improve the health and general well-being of athletes.
You can achieve your best sporting performance through experts advice and our tailored sport nutrition services to extend your competitive edge, increase your stamina, strength and endurance; body composition and physique.
The first CEC-sponsored science-based education program entitled, Edible Lab (www.EdibleLab.com) became available in Q1 2012. Your participation can constructively improve an understanding of complex food and healthy living issues, advance knowledge and promote an ongoing working relation between children, adults, families, educators, professionals, business and policy leaders in communities.
Sustainable Food Systems
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