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18 June 2013

Tällberg 2013 “What knowledge do we need to improve risk mitigation to ensure food security and nutrition“.

In the last three years SIANI has been participating and contributing to Tällberg Forums’ dialogues on Global Change. In this years event there were many interesting and inspiring seminars and discussions on the theme “How on Earth can we live together?” It was a space for researchers, decision makers, entrepreneurs and artists to meet, discuss and to exchange insights get a wider understanding of the challenges of our time.

The SIANI sponsored session called “Could better knowledge systems improve risk mitigation at the land/ water/ energy nexus”. Molly Jans, a Professor at the University of Madison, USA had the task to define and develop a Knowledge System for Sustainability Collaborative (KSS). The KSS is an informal network of thinkers and researchers across sectors and disciplines. The aim with the session was to outline the core ideas from the collaboration and solicit input from participants in the forum. Molly Jans presented the aim and the progress of the KSS as a “global“ attempt to understand the complexity of the food system in our changing world where we currently is producing enough food for all yet a billion people go to be hungry every night.  Moreover a billion people over-consume, increasing risks of getting chronic diseases. This malfunctioning food system is today, challenged by a fast global population growth and urbanization alongside with diets shifting towards higher consumption of animal products. In addition ineffectiveness of food system causes a negative impact on the environment, contributes to low productivity and generates an enormous amount of food waste.

According to Prof. Jans we are practically illiterate when trying to understand fully the complexities when we try to select and interpret data. As an attempt to increase the common understanding of the future risks and challenges US government has supported Prof. Jans to establish a community of practice to assemble knowledge across sectors and disciplines, collect accurate data and to use the landscape framework for analyzing the tradeoffs of the nexus in regards to energy, food and water demands.

The Tällberg Forum was perfect setting for meeting a global community of thinkers and decision makers with an open minds to take on the challenges as well as providing an opportunity to draw upon the gathered intelligence and knowledge in order to sketch out new trajectories which could potentially reduce some future risks associated with future food /energy and water security.

To develop these trajectories, a better understanding of the data are necessary yet there are still complicated barriers to access secondary data. The UN system does collect important data    however it is not fully reliable since nations tend not to report on failures. Nick Silver one of the global leaders on climate change highlighted the fact that we are facing huge risks in a system of uncertainties where no one is in charge, therefore there is a need to map, risks and actors to better to foresee shocks and avoid taking the wrong pathways when deciding on different land uses. Mike Grundy from CSIRO complemented that in certain contexts such as animal production there might be a better way of utilizing the Savanna and grasslands. Dr Grundy also made it also clear that it is important to understand that within certain countries there is no potential to enhance domestic food security and imports is an important component of the solution.

The discussion further developed around the risks related of food insecurity in Sahel will have a spillover effect on people on other continents due to our increasing connectedness.  Pavan Sukhdev from GIST (and TEEB), enquired about how ecological and smallholder farming was taken in consideration in this assessment? He was referring to studies pointing out the potentials for increasing yields and enhancing food security through investing in smallholder farmer, a majority of the food producers today. Pavan Sukhdev also introduced and presented an ongoing work within UNEP to develop a concept note for a The Economics of Eco Systems and Biodiversity (TEEB) focusing on the interactions between ecosystems and of Food and Agriculture.

Prof. Jans summarized the dynamic and interesting discussion by coming back to the original purpose that the gathering of the experts from many disciplines was to agree upon and conform a common language, develop a protocol and improve models that would be comprehensive across discipline resulting in enhanced capabilities of the knowledge system to improve risk mitigation.

SIANI will continue to be related to the KSS, follow the development and link up with knowledge institutions and practitioners across sectors in Sweden.