Food security and the value of water

Food security and the value of water

The United Nations strive for ‘zero hunger’ in 2030. Meanwhile, over the past years, the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition has increased on a global scale. Furthermore, food systems are vulnerable to climate change and are required to feed an ever-increasing population. These facts are felt primarily by the lower and middle social strata in Africa and Asia. Providing every world citizen with sufficient and healthy nutrition demands a transition towards sustainable food systems.

Through the research programme Food security and Valuing water, Wageningen University & Research aims to develop new routes towards a sustainable food system. The main challenges in achieving this goal are the depletion of freshwater resources, climate change, land management, soil degradation, declining biodiversity, migration, the increase in agricultural production and changes in international trade. Not just the amount of food, but its availability and affordability are crucial. In this programme, we develop and asses new insights for shaping transitions towards sustainable food security.

Thematic Areas

The Food security and Valuing water programme focusses on research, development and assessment of new insights that shape transitions towards sustainable food security that can be applied in multiple middle and low-income regions across the globe. A characteristic of this programme is that we combine knowledge and experience from several disciplines in each project. In every project, researchers with backgrounds in social, technological and natural sciences work together.

The research activities in the KB35 programme are organised along three inter or transdisciplinary research areas and each consist of several projects:

  • Land – water interfaces
  • Changing role of (informal) actors, consumers and rural-urban linkages in transitions
  • Future scenarios and navigating trade-offs and synergies

Visit Food and Water Security for more details of the individual projects.

Food System Approach as a framework

Central to our research is the Food System Approach, an interdisciplinary framework for analysing the cohesion between the different parts of the food system and its outcomes in socio-economic and environmental terms, as well as creating a better understanding of the feedback loops between the different elements of food systems. For example, we look at the efficiency of production and processing and its impact on environmental aspects (e.g. water, soil) as well as the income of the local farmers. Furthermore, we analyse the role and consequences of labour, informal actors, income, and the influence and dependence of food production on biodiversity and climate.

Food systems are highly complex systems which encompass all the stages of feeding the population: agricultural production, harvesting, packing, processing, transforming, marketing, consuming and disposing of food (UNEP, 2016; van Berkum et al., 2018).

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