Food security and the value of water

Food security and the value of water

The United Nations strive for ‘zero hunger’ in 2030. Meanwhile, the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition has increased on a global scale over the last years. 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 toward a sustainable food system. The main challenges 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, develop and asses new insights for shaping transitions towards sustainable food security.

Food System Approach as a framework

Central to our research is the Food System Approach, an interdisciplinary framework to analyse 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 for 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 to feed the population: agricultural production, harvesting, packing, processing, transforming, marketing, consuming and disposing of food (UNEP, 2016; van Berkum et al., 2018).

Thematic Areas

The Food security and Valuing water programme focusses on research, development and assessment of new insights that shape transitions towards to 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.

Blog series: Food systems

This blog serie is based on elements from the ‘Kennisbasis’ (KB) research programme on Food Security and Valuing water carried out by WUR. More information and results on the entire programme can be found on this page.

View the entire blog series

Related information

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Bangladesh Delta Plan

On April 20 2022, a team from Bangladeshi TV visited WUR, in the context of a programme about the Delta Works in the south of the Netherlands.

The broadcast in Bangladesh on May 21 received much attention and positive


Posters Food System Community Day 2022

Overview of posters

  • A healthy diet for Ugunda
  • Biodiversity and Food Systems
  • Deltas under Pressure
  • ERA-NET Cofund on Food Systems
  • Extreme events Food Systems Seismology
  • Feeding cities and migration
  • Food system resilience
  • Food system boundaries how they are defined and what that implies for research outcomes and policy recommendations
  • Green ERA-HubThe Food Loss and Waste Research Agenda
  • Informal midstream
  • Just Transition scientific base for bringing the principles into practice
  • Localising value chains and food system
  • Mobilising informal business to enhance food system outcomes
  • Multiple scales
  • Nature-based adaption patways for climate-resilient and safe food systems
  • The Food Loss and Waste Research Agenda
  • Transition Pathways
  • Using Multi-Objective Optimisation for Mixed Smallholdings in Amhara Region, Ethiopia, for Food Systems Transitions
  • Water Quality and Food Security