Sticking to yesterday’s theme of food, check out ‘The Feeding of the Nine Billion‘, an excellent new paper by Alex Evans. Alex combines the skills of academic and consultant with his insider experience as a former special adviser to Hilary Benn, then UK Secretary of State for International Development. He specialises in what George Lakoff calls ‘reframing‘ – here he pulls together a number of trends into what he calls an ‘age of scarcity’ (of carbon, energy, water, land). These will together produce a ‘food crunch’ as the population rises to 9 billion over the next 40 years, unless we come up with a ‘global food security policy’.
For developing countries, that means reversing declining investment in agriculture; pursuing a new kind of ’21st Century Green Revolution’, but one that unlike its 20th Century counterpart, is intensive in knowledge rather than in inputs of water, fertilizer, energy etc; getting markets working properly; focussing on small farmers and getting serious on social protection as the best way to deal with the volatility of food prices.
At an international level, Alex advocates the equivalent of an International Energy Agency for food (the IEA was set up after the 1973 oil crisis to coordinate collective responses to future energy shocks); providing technical assistance to developing countries that are negotiating (and getting ripped off by) long term supply agreements like the notorious (and now abandoned) Daewoo-Madagascar deal; pushing ahead with agricultural liberalization in the developed countries; integrating security of supply into global trade rules and agreeing a comprehensive deal on climate change.
Oh, and he thinks the current fall in prices is temporary and prices are poised to rise again as soon as the global economy starts to recover.
For Alex’s own blog on the launch of the paper, see here. Declaration of interest – Oxfam helped fund the paper.