What constitutes a resilient food system?

The rising demand for food, occurring against a backdrop of population growth and global environmental change is testing the resilience of food systems worldwide. Earth has to produce more food when the planet is close to tipping points that may transform it in ways that are undesirable from a human perspective. Solutions to the food crisis are broadly presented in two forms: continuation of large-scale industrial agriculture supported by advances in biotechnology to supply the global food market; or learning to work with nature to develop small-scale agro-ecological systems that produce food for local markets. These alternative approaches to food security are strongly supported by their proponents, often with arguments about which approach can feed most people and which is most sustainable.

Resilience assessment tools provide a relatively new view of sustainability and are being applied to the study of food from a complex systems perspective. One part of resilience assessment is concerned with attributes that determine the general resilience of a system to unknown shocks such as climate change, peak phosphorus and land expropriation.

This workshop will draw on cases from the Chaco region of South America that compare and contrast traditional food systems with industrial agricultural systems, a summary of rights issues relevant to the production and marketing of food and a simplified resilience assessment framework to generate discussion around the issue of food for sustainable livelihoods. Presentations will be relatively short and used to prime a round table discussion that draws on participants experiences of different kinds of food system, threats to those systems and possible interventions to enhance their resilience.

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