About the theme: Scale issues in relation to food security and poverty

Last changed: 30 August 2016

Food security covers issues of both socio-economic and natural sciences dimensions. It is often seen as primarily concerning land access for adequate food production, but food security not only requires land, but also other kinds of resources, including e.g. solar radiation; wind and rain; fertile soil; valuable seeds for crop production and/or animal breeds for animal production; farming knowledge and skills; agricultural tools for different farming activities; external inputs of nutrients; and pest management. Many of these resources are created by processes that operate over a period of time (‘temporal scale’) and over a certain area of land or/and water (‘spatial scale’). The way, and to what extent, we as researchers integrate such scale issues in our research, we will also see different challenges and opportunities in our work on food security.

Another issue is the problem of how to ‘scale up’ new agronomic knowledge into farming practices. What impact will scaling up a new agriculture technique to global scale have on the global resource base? What direct or indirect needs for supporting non-renewable resources has the new technique? What are its impacts on the environment? Are there indirect socio-economic implications from scaling up the technique (e.g. on land tenure, financial investments needed, dependency on few agribusiness companies, etc.)? In what farming systems is the technique both desirable and feasible?

Farming is imbedded in a political and socio-economic environment that sets many of the conditions for farming, such as market economic conditions, the land tenure system, agricultural subsidy systems (directly and indirectly, locally and globally). Today, a major issue under discussion is how to transform small-scale farming systems to high yielding modernised agriculture, in order to retain more people in rural areas, with an acceptable livelihood from farming, and thus avoid uncontrolled urbanisation. What kind of market intervention and political subsidy systems will be needed for scaling up potential agricultural improvements to achieve such aims on a national or even continental scale?