Ensuring food security means providing for the current generation but also, according to the UN, designing sustainable food systems that will deliver far into a future shaped by climate change.
Farmers around the world are already suffering from ominous shifts in the climate. More extreme weather events such as storms and droughts have devastated crops in some regions, or left livestock short of grazing land and water. Yields of some crops have been affected, especially in the tropics.
Longer-term changes in rainfall and temperatures risk rendering large areas of land unsuitable for agriculture or pastoralism, while higher carbon dioxide levels are expected to reduce the protein and micronutrient content of major cereal crops. Shifts in the distribution of pests and diseases will also harm agriculture in some regions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Farming is already one of the most unstable, volatile business enterprises there is, and climate change is making it even more volatile and unstable,” Dr. Haddad explains.
To reduce the risk of future crises, food systems need to become more resilient as well as more productive. Achieving this requires investment in areas including logistics and markets, growing a wider range of climate-adapted food crops, gene-editing to improve crop strains and livestock breeds, and precision farming methods that optimize the use of inputs such as fertilizer and water. Investments in handling, storage, and processing facilities are also important to reduce foodborne diseases and the presence of mycotoxins in staples like maize and wheat. Concentrating processing steps from intake to final product in one facility – often called a food park – helps to reduce food loss along the value chain from farm to packaged good. Fortification also plays a role in improving the nutritional value of staple foods. “Infrastructure and technology are absolutely critical,” says Dr. Haddad.