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Special Issue "Food Security and Environmental Sustainability"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2010)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Hilary Tovey (Website)

Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin, 1-3 Foster Place, Dublin 2, Ireland
Interests: nature-society relations and dynamics; food and rural development; social movements around environmental and food issues; knowledge use and knowledge dynamics in sustainable development policies and projects; natural resources management and history; animal-human relations

Special Issue Information

Dear Collegues,

Food security and environmental sustainability are both key policy goals in the contemporary global arena, but there is no necessary congruity between them. This Special Issue welcomes papers which address the possible conflicts and contradictions which may arise when actors (global, national or local) seek to achieve both security in food supply and delivery, and sustainability in the use of the natural resources needed to produce food. It also welcomes papers which discuss attempts at reconciliations between the two goals.

The encouragement of a ‘productivist’ orientation to food production has often been justified on the grounds that we need to feed the hungry of the world, but has been challenged by environmental interests who emphasise how productivism degrades nature. Equally, the introduction into rural areas of new socio-technologies, for instance for renewable energy generation, driven by environmental interests, may help to undermine the social sustainability of such areas in ways which threaten continued food production. Proponents of genetically modified foods claim that their modification techniques can greatly increase yields and thus help to alleviate world hunger, while opponents see such new technologies as putting the survival of non-modified crop varieties, and hence of the whole food chain, at risk. The problematic effects on food production of turning over large tracts of farmland to the production of crops for biofuels are already much debated, while the question of how attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change may impact on the food security of the poor and marginalised is also coming into the foreground. Behind these lie other questions too, about rural conservation and its impacts on farm livelihoods, and about rural-urban relations more generally.

Paper authors are welcome to focus on presenting and discussing empirical cases, or to develop a more theoretical analysis of the issues. In all cases, however, they are encouraged to use their material to reflect further on the idea of ‘sustainability’, and its use in strategies and policies for both food security and environmental sustainabilty.

Hilary Tovey
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • new uses of rural natural resources
  • rural-urban relations
  • South-North relations
  • agro-ecology and food security
  • climate change and ‘climate justice’
  • hunger
  • rights to food
  • food supply systems
  • environmental management of natural resources

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Ecosystem Management: Tomorrow’s Approach to Enhancing Food Security under a Changing Climate
Sustainability 2011, 3(7), 937-954; doi:10.3390/su3070937
Received: 25 April 2011 / Revised: 16 May 2011 / Accepted: 8 June 2011 / Published: 28 June 2011
Cited by 15 | PDF Full-text (375 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper argues that a sustainable ecosystem management approach is vital to ensure the delivery of essential ‘life support’ ecosystem services and must be mainstreamed into societal conscience, political thinking and economic processes. Feeding the world at a time of climate change, [...] Read more.
This paper argues that a sustainable ecosystem management approach is vital to ensure the delivery of essential ‘life support’ ecosystem services and must be mainstreamed into societal conscience, political thinking and economic processes. Feeding the world at a time of climate change, environmental degradation, increasing human population and demand for finite resources requires sustainable ecosystem management and equitable governance. Ecosystem degradation undermines food production and the availability of clean water, hence threatening human health, livelihoods and ultimately societal stability. Degradation also increases the vulnerability of populations to the consequences of natural disasters and climate change impacts. With 10 million people dying from hunger each year, the linkages between ecosystems and food security are important to recognize. Though we all depend on ecosystems for our food and water, about seventy per cent of the estimated 1.1 billion people in poverty around the world live in rural areas and depend directly on the productivity of ecosystems for their livelihoods. Healthy ecosystems provide a diverse range of food sources and support entire agricultural systems, but their value to food security and sustainable livelihoods are often undervalued or ignored. There is an urgent need for increased financial investment for integrating ecosystem management with food security and poverty alleviation priorities. As the world’s leaders worked towards a new international climate change agenda in Cancun, Mexico, 29 November–10 December 2010 (UNFCCC COP16), it was clear that without a deep and decisive post-2012 agreement and major concerted effort to reduce the food crisis, the Millennium Development Goals will not be attained. Political commitment at the highest level will be needed to raise the profile of ecosystems on the global food agenda. It is recommended that full recognition and promotion be given of the linkages between healthy, protected ecosystems and global food security; that sufficient resources be allocated for improved ecosystem valuation, protection, management and restoration; and that ecosystem management be integrated in climate change and food security portfolios. We will not be able to feed the world and eradicate extreme poverty, if we do not protect our valuable ecosystems and biodiversity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Toward Food System Sustainability through School Food System Change: Think&EatGreen@School and the Making of a Community-University Research Alliance
Sustainability 2011, 3(5), 763-788; doi:10.3390/su3050763
Received: 7 March 2011 / Revised: 28 March 2011 / Accepted: 19 May 2011 / Published: 24 May 2011
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (489 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper describes the theoretical and conceptual framework and the research and practice model of Think&EatGreen@School, a community-based action research project aiming to foster food citizenship in the City of Vancouver and to develop a model of sustainable institutional food systems in public schools. The authors argue that educational and policy interventions at the school and school board level can drive the goals of food system sustainability, food security, and food sovereignty. The complex relationship between food systems, climate change and environmental degradation require that international initiatives promoting sustainability be vigorously complemented by local multi-stakeholder efforts to preserve or restore the capacity to produce food in a durable manner. As a step towards making the City of Vancouver green, we are currently involved in attempts to transform the food system of the local schools by mobilizing the energy of a transdisciplinary research team of twelve university researchers, over 300 undergraduate and graduate students, and twenty community-based researchers and organizations working on food, public health, environmental and sustainability education. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Food Relocalization for Environmental Sustainability in Cumbria
Sustainability 2011, 3(4), 692-719; doi:10.3390/su3040692
Received: 14 February 2011 / Accepted: 10 March 2011 / Published: 20 April 2011
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (407 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In the past decade, many European farmers have adopted less-intensive production methods replacing external inputs with local resources and farmers’ skills. Some have developed closer relations with consumers, also known as short food-supply chains or agro-food relocalization. Through both these means, farmers [...] Read more.
In the past decade, many European farmers have adopted less-intensive production methods replacing external inputs with local resources and farmers’ skills. Some have developed closer relations with consumers, also known as short food-supply chains or agro-food relocalization. Through both these means, farmers can gain more of the value that they have added to food production, as well as greater incentives for more sustainable methods and/or quality products, thus linking environmental and economic sustainability. These systemic changes encounter difficulties indicating two generic needs—for state support measures, and for larger intermediaries to expand local markets. The UK rural county of Cumbria provides a case study for exploring those two needs. Cumbria farmers have developed greater proximity to consumers, as a means to gain their support for organic, territorially branded and/or simply ‘local’ food. This opportunity has been an incentive for practices which reduce transport distances, energy costs and other inputs. Regional authorities have provided various support measures for more closely linking producers with each other and with consumers, together developing a Cumbrian food culture. Going beyond the capacity of individual producers, farmer-led intermediaries have maintained distinctive product identities in larger markets including supermarket chains. Although Cumbria’s agro-food relocalization initiatives remain marginal, they counteract the 1990s trend towards delocalization, while also indicating potential for expansion elsewhere. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Scotland’s Food and Drink Policy Discussion: Sustainability Issues in the Food Supply Chain
Sustainability 2011, 3(4), 605-631; doi:10.3390/su3040605
Received: 23 February 2011 / Accepted: 29 March 2011 / Published: 31 March 2011
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (398 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The purpose of the paper is two-fold. First, to identify the main sustainability issues that Scottish food supply chain actors are concerned with and any differences that exist between primary producers, processors and distributors and consumers; and second, to explore the implications [...] Read more.
The purpose of the paper is two-fold. First, to identify the main sustainability issues that Scottish food supply chain actors are concerned with and any differences that exist between primary producers, processors and distributors and consumers; and second, to explore the implications of respondents’ views for the direction of food and drink policy in Scotland. The analysis was based on a dataset assembled from the written responses to the National Food Policy discussion in Scotland, which contains opinions on the different dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) from a broad range of individuals and organizations representing different segments of the Scottish population. The empirical analyses involved comparing the responses according to two criteria: by food supply chain stakeholder and by geographical region. The results indicated that whilst there were differences among the studied groups, the importance of social and economic sustainability were strongly evident in the foregoing analysis, highlighting issues such as diet and nutrition, the importance of local food, building sustainability on sound economic performance, the market power of supermarkets, and regulation and support in building human and technical capabilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Sustainable Food Production Systems and Food Security: Economic and Environmental Imperatives in Yam Cultivation in Trelawny, Jamaica
Sustainability 2011, 3(3), 541-561; doi:10.3390/su3030541
Received: 2 September 2010 / Revised: 13 February 2011 / Accepted: 18 March 2011 / Published: 23 March 2011
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1112 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Members of the genus Dioscorea, food yams, were introduced to Jamaica from Africa during the slave era and have remained a staple in local diets and national cuisine. Yam cultivation has also been an important economic activity providing employment for thousands of [...] Read more.
Members of the genus Dioscorea, food yams, were introduced to Jamaica from Africa during the slave era and have remained a staple in local diets and national cuisine. Yam cultivation has also been an important economic activity providing employment for thousands of rural Jamaicans. Until the 1960s yams were grown for local use by subsistence growers for home consumption or by commercial growers for sale in local produce markets. Since then, however, yam has also grown to become an important export crop. With its value added potential virtually untouched, this crop possesses intriguing possibilities from the standpoint of food security and rural livelihoods in yam growing areas of Jamaica. At the same time there are concerns about the ecological and economic sustainability of yam farming under current conditions. In this paper we will analyze the sustainability of yam cultivation and consider concrete strategies for increasing the environmental sustainability and enhancing its contribution to food security. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Demand and Supply Structure for Food in Asia
Sustainability 2011, 3(2), 363-395; doi:10.3390/su3020363
Received: 6 December 2010 / Revised: 17 January 2011 / Accepted: 19 January 2011 / Published: 31 January 2011
PDF Full-text (719 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In the late 1990s, the author conducted research entitled “Modeling the demand and supply structure for food in Asia”. The research was based on a system dynamics method and, using time series datasets up to 1998 to estimate the parameters, tried to [...] Read more.
In the late 1990s, the author conducted research entitled “Modeling the demand and supply structure for food in Asia”. The research was based on a system dynamics method and, using time series datasets up to 1998 to estimate the parameters, tried to figure out the demand and supply structure for food until the year 2010. In this paper, the author introduces an overall research structure and compares previous study results with the latest statistical data provided by the Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations (FAO). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Agricultural Biodiversity Is Essential for a Sustainable Improvement in Food and Nutrition Security
Sustainability 2011, 3(1), 238-253; doi:10.3390/su3010238
Received: 26 November 2010 / Revised: 13 December 2010 / Accepted: 10 January 2011 / Published: 14 January 2011
Cited by 61 | PDF Full-text (146 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Agricultural biodiversity has hitherto been valued almost exclusively as a source of traits that can be used in scientific breeding programs to improve the productivity of crop varieties and livestock breeds. We argue that it can make a far greater contribution to [...] Read more.
Agricultural biodiversity has hitherto been valued almost exclusively as a source of traits that can be used in scientific breeding programs to improve the productivity of crop varieties and livestock breeds. We argue that it can make a far greater contribution to increased productivity. In particular, a wider deployment of agricultural biodiversity is an essential component in the sustainable delivery of a more secure food supply. Diversity of kingdoms, species and genepools can increase the productivity of farming systems in a range of growing conditions, and more diverse farming systems are also generally more resilient in the face of perturbations, thus enhancing food security. Diversity can maintain and increase soil fertility and mitigate the impact of pests and diseases. Diversity of diet, founded on diverse farming systems, delivers better nutrition and greater health, with additional benefits for human productivity and livelihoods. Agricultural biodiversity will also be absolutely essential to cope with the predicted impacts of climate change, not simply as a source of traits but as the underpinnings of more resilient farm ecosystems. Many of the benefits of agricultural biodiversity are manifested at different ecological and human scales, and cut across political divisions, requiring a cross-sectoral approach to reassess the role of agricultural biodiversity in sustainable and secure food production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Cassava: The Drought, War and Famine Crop in a Changing World
Sustainability 2010, 2(11), 3572-3607; doi:10.3390/su2113572
Received: 18 October 2010 / Revised: 12 November 2010 / Accepted: 17 November 2010 / Published: 19 November 2010
Cited by 30 | PDF Full-text (924 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Cassava is the sixth most important crop, in terms of global annual production. Cassava is grown primarily for its starchy tuberous roots, which are an important staple for more than 800 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, but also in other parts [...] Read more.
Cassava is the sixth most important crop, in terms of global annual production. Cassava is grown primarily for its starchy tuberous roots, which are an important staple for more than 800 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, but also in other parts of Africa, Asia, the Pacific and South America. Cassava is important for both small-scale farmers and larger-scale plantations due to its low requirement for nutrients, ability to tolerate dry conditions and easy low-cost propagation. It is sometimes referred to as the “drought, war and famine crop of the developing world” and reliance upon this crop is expected to increase in the coming years as the global climate changes. As with all crops, cassava presents some challenges which need to be addressed, especially if its production is to continue to expand. We highlight here a number of key issues around the continued and increased reliance upon cassava as a staple food crop. Cassava contains cyanogenic glycosides that release hydrogen cyanide and many cultivars are toxic if not processed before consumption. The degree of toxicity is altered by plant breeding, agricultural practice, environmental conditions and methods of food preparation. We conclude that use of cassava has the potential to help many countries achieve food security in a sustainable manner, in the face of significant environmental change, but that its introduction should be accompanied by appropriate education about its toxicity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Ecosystem Services and Food Security: Economic Perspectives on Environmental Sustainability
Sustainability 2010, 2(11), 3520-3548; doi:10.3390/su2113520
Received: 26 October 2010 / Revised: 10 November 2010 / Accepted: 16 November 2010 / Published: 17 November 2010
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (250 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Food security in developing countries depends in part on the sustainable use of natural resources. Food security is usually examined through three dimensions, namely the availability, access, and utilization of food. Ecosystems directly and indirectly support each of these dimensions through the [...] Read more.
Food security in developing countries depends in part on the sustainable use of natural resources. Food security is usually examined through three dimensions, namely the availability, access, and utilization of food. Ecosystems directly and indirectly support each of these dimensions through the provision of critical ecosystem services that facilitate agricultural production, create income-generating opportunities, and provide energy for cooking. However, in some cases, household uses of natural resources undermine particular elements of food security, hindering national poverty reduction strategies and threatening the sustainability of critical ecosystem functions. I examine the role of ecosystem services in rural food security through the lens of its three dimensions, and highlight the tensions that stem from household-level interactions and uses. In some cases, uses of resources and services that support the access and utilization dimensions may undermine the ecosystem functions that support food availability. The conclusions underscore the importance for the integration of ecosystem services into food security plans and poverty reduction strategies in developing countries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability, Food Security, and Development Aid after the Food Crisis: Assessing Aid Strategies across Donor Contexts
Sustainability 2010, 2(11), 3354-3382; doi:10.3390/su2113354
Received: 30 August 2010 / Revised: 21 October 2010 / Accepted: 26 October 2010 / Published: 28 October 2010
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (301 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The most recent global food crisis has forced development agencies in the global North to rethink the nexus between agricultural development, food aid, and food security, and how development assistance strategies can enhance food security to more effectively respond to or prevent [...] Read more.
The most recent global food crisis has forced development agencies in the global North to rethink the nexus between agricultural development, food aid, and food security, and how development assistance strategies can enhance food security to more effectively respond to or prevent such crises in the future. Central to this rethinking is the concept of sustainability, though the term has shifting and imprecise meanings across different institutional and strategic contexts. Analyzing the strategic response of major state and multilateral development agencies to the global food crisis, this paper examines the diverse and slippery meanings and uses of sustainability in the post-crisis development assistance architecture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Food Security and Conservation of Yukon River Salmon: Are We Asking Too Much of the Yukon River?
Sustainability 2010, 2(9), 2965-2987; doi:10.3390/su2092965
Received: 6 August 2010 / Revised: 3 September 2010 / Accepted: 12 September 2010 / Published: 15 September 2010
Cited by 20 | PDF Full-text (538 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
By the terms set by international agreements for the conservation of Yukon River salmon, 2009 was a management success. It was a devastating year for many of the Alaska Native communities along the Yukon River, however, especially in up-river communities, where subsistence [...] Read more.
By the terms set by international agreements for the conservation of Yukon River salmon, 2009 was a management success. It was a devastating year for many of the Alaska Native communities along the Yukon River, however, especially in up-river communities, where subsistence fishing was closed in order to meet international conservation goals for Chinook salmon. By the end of summer, the smokehouses and freezers of many Alaska Native families remained empty, and Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell petitioned the US Federal Government to declare a fisheries disaster. This paper reviews the social and ecological dimensions of salmon management in 2009 in an effort to reconcile these differing views regarding success, and the apparently-competing goals of salmon conservation and food security. We report local observations of changes in the Chinook salmon fishery, as well as local descriptions of the impacts of fishing closures on the food system. Three categories of concern emerge from our interviews with rural Alaskan participants in the fishery and with federal and state agency managers: social and ecological impacts of closures; concerns regarding changes to spawning grounds; and a lack of confidence in current management methods and technologies. We show how a breakdown in observation of the Yukon River system undermines effective adaptive management and discuss how sector-based, species-by-species management undermines a goal of food security and contributes to the differential distribution of impacts for communities down and up river. We conclude with a discussion of the merits of a food system and ecosystem-based approach to management, and note existing jurisdictional and paradigmatic challenges to the implementation of such an approach in Alaska. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Sustaining World Food Security with Improved Cassava Processing Technology: The Nigeria Experience
Sustainability 2010, 2(12), 3681-3694; doi:10.3390/su2123681
Received: 24 October 2010 / Accepted: 24 November 2010 / Published: 26 November 2010
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (65 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Cassava is a very important food crop that is capable of providing food security. However, a lot of problems prevent the development and use of modern equipment for its production. Most of the cassava produced still comes from peasant farmers who depend [...] Read more.
Cassava is a very important food crop that is capable of providing food security. However, a lot of problems prevent the development and use of modern equipment for its production. Most of the cassava produced still comes from peasant farmers who depend on manual tools for their field operations and these farmers have made Nigeria the world’s largest producer of the crop. An increase in production of cassava to sustain the world food security needs improved machinery to allow its continuous cultivation and processing. Reasons for the low success recorded in the mechanization of cassava harvesting and processing were traced, and the attempts that have been made in the recent past by various engineers in Nigeria researching towards achieving mechanized harvesting and processing of cassava are well explained. The machinery required for cassava production in Africa, the development of new machines, and the need for more research and development in harvesting and processing machineries, which can reduce poverty worldwide and make food available and accessible for all, are also discussed. Research efforts made and the challenges facing the engineers, farmers, scientists and food processors towards achieving mechanical harvesting and processing of cassava are presented. Breeding a cassava variety with a regular shape for easy mechanization is one solution that could help the engineers worldwide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)
Open AccessReview Climate Change and Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Literature Review
Sustainability 2010, 2(8), 2719-2733; doi:10.3390/su2082719
Received: 10 July 2010 / Revised: 24 July 2010 / Accepted: 24 August 2010 / Published: 24 August 2010
Cited by 20 | PDF Full-text (148 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In recent years it has become clear that climate change is an inevitable process. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the expectation is that climate change will have an especially negative impact, not only a result of projected warming and rainfall deficits, but also because [...] Read more.
In recent years it has become clear that climate change is an inevitable process. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the expectation is that climate change will have an especially negative impact, not only a result of projected warming and rainfall deficits, but also because of the vulnerability of the population. The impact upon food security will be of great significance, and may be defined as being composed of three components: availability, access, and utilization. To further investigate the link, a systematic literature review was done of the peer-reviewed literature related to climate change and food security, employing the realist review method. Analysis of the literature found consistent predictions of decreased crop productivity, land degradation, high market prices, negative impacts on livelihoods, and increased malnutrition. Adaptation strategies were heavily discussed as a means of mitigating a situation of severe food insecurity across the entire region. This is linked to issues of development, whereby adaptation is essential to counteract the negative impacts and improve the potential of the population to undergo development processes. Findings additionally revealed a gap in the literature about how nutrition will be affected, which is of importance given the links between poor nutrition and lack of productivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Security and Environmental Sustainability)

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