BO-10-011 Scarcity and distribution


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Title BO-10-011 Scarcity and distribution
Period 01 / 2010 - unknown
Status Current
Research number OND1343457


The theme scarcity and distribution is a new theme in BO Cluster International 2010. It has its roots in the former themes Water for Food and Ecosystems and Biodiversity . The theme Food, feed and fuel was merged into the theme to give it a solid body. At present the theme has five subthemes:

. Raw materials (including Food, Feed and Fuel)
. Food security
. Biodiversity
. Water for Food and Ecosystems

The theme is elaborated through multilateral and bilateral projects. In general, multilateral projects focus on defining the objectives set out by EL&I, whereas bilateral projects are demand driven through national agricultural counselors. Emphasis is given to options to collaborate with other initiatives and to contribute to upcoming events.

Issues and Challenges
Recent estimates indicate that in the coming decades (up till 2050) agricultural production has to increase with 70% to meet the growing demands for food, feed and fibres (FAO, 2009). Considering the limited options for expansion of agricultural areas, agricultural production systems are expected to intensify worldwide. Intensification of agricultural systems will put the natural resource base under increasing pressure and result in more vulnerable agro-ecosystems. Intensive agricultural production systems largely rely on external inputs like energy, nutrients and water and intensification may result in social stress arising from unfair distribution of these resources. The objective of the current theme is to contribute to more fair distribution of natural resources, including land, in order to develop sustainable agricultural production systems that safeguard food security worldwide. Fair distribution of resources to establish sustainable socio-economic bases for living has a high priority in several international conventions and alliances, like the Millennium Development Goals, the UNEP conventions for the protection of natural resources and environment, the global water partnerships and the Commission for Sustainable Developments. All of these initiatives somehow aim at a fair distribution of natural resources and protection of the natural resource base. The term fair distribution differs from equal distribution . A fair distribution considers the social and political situation and aims at satisfying current needs. An equal distribution is based on a proportion of a specific indicator like population or area. One of the challenges for the theme scarcity and distribution is to cope with the weakly defined term fair .

Raw materials
The Netherlands has an unique position in the world by being a small country with a large share on the international agricultural market. This is caused by a highly specialized agricultural sector, but also because of the import of raw materials that are processed (soy, flour, sugar, etc) or used (e.g. fertilizers) in the Netherlands. As a transit trader the Netherlands have a strong position to steer international flows of production resources like land, water and fertilizers and raw ingredients like soy, grains, sugar, etc. Many raw material are becoming scarce (water, land, phosphate) and the consumption of raw material is under stress. There is a need for better insight into qualitative and quantitative effects of raw material supply on depletion of natural resources.

Food, Feed and Fuel
Closely related to the issue of raw materials is the issue of competing claims. Where the theme raw materials can be regarded as the effects of import of products, the theme competing claims is more related to the interactions between multiple demands. The term competing claims refers to the competition between multiple purposes of land, e.g. for the production of food, feed, fodder, fibre etc. and the conflicts that may arise from this competition. A clear example of competing claims was given during the food crisis in 2008 when many people regarded the production of biofuels from consumable products as unethical. A clear vision is needed that guide stakeholders in dealing with potentially conflicting interests for the use of natural resources. From an administration point of view, this theme will be managed under the theme scarcity and distribution.

Food security
There is a long tradition of trying the predict food security for a growing population. The first to do so was Malthus in 1798 and since then several experts have predicted global food security catastrophes. So far, these predictions have not become truth, because of innovations and expansions of agricultural areas (Rosegrant and Cline, 2003). At present, sufficient food is produced to feed the global population (IIASA food BO Cluster International Work plan 2010 20 production forecasts), but still 12.6% of the this population is undernourished (FAO, 2006). These figures illustrate that the first millennium development goal of the United Nations to end poverty and hunger, is an issue of distribution. The food crises of 2008 clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of local economies for global trade distortions. There are multiple causalities for this crisis, but most are transnational, which makes this an international issue. In the last years the position of agriculture in development programs has, partly as a result of the food crisis, received increased attention. In 2008 the Dutch ministries of EL&I and OS have submitted a policy brief to the Parliament entitled Agriculture, rural economic development and food security . In this brief several trances ( sporen ) are elaborated:

1. research and innovation for production improvement in a changing climatological context
2. public services and institutions
3. sustainable chain development
4. improved access to markets and
5. food security and transfer mechanisms.

Implementation of these topics is a shared responsibility of OS and EL&I, in close cooperation with developing countries, multilateral organizations, the Dutch business sector and organizations in civil society. The UNEP defines food security as being able to obtain a nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable diet at all times through local non-emergency sources. This requires both adequate food production or imports, and economic access to food at the household level, at all times, to ensure a healthy active life . This definition goes beyond the traditional concept of hunger, which is based on a caloric intake and requires a broader approach of food availability and food consumption. Guidance is needed on defining realistic strategies to increase food security in a broader context.

The understanding that biodiversity is crucial for regulating the stability of natural and agricultural ecosystems has gained ground in the past years. Recently, biodiversity loss was identified as one of the three variables for which the safe operating space for humanity was exceeded (Rockström et al., 2009), i.e. which threatens the stable global environment most. Current extinction rates are estimated at 0.1-1 extinctions per million species per year for marine life to 0.2 -0.5 extinctions per million species per year for mammals (Mace et al., 2005). These values exceed the proposed natural thresholds with a factor 100 to 1000, which has tremendous consequences for the resilience capacity of the earth system. Sustaining biodiversity is a global issue, because benefits of biodiversity services are often dislocated from its origin and/or at a different spatial scale, e.g. the contribution to climate control function of Tropical forests. Also, sustaining or improving biodiversity is viewed as an important poverty alleviating strategy because many small scale production system rely on ecosystem services for their survival. The Dutch approach to sustain biodiversity has its roots in the Convention on Biological Biodiversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992). Subsequently, many conventions have followed for specific subsystems and/or species. During the Johannesburg Conference of 2002 it was agreed to largely reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Strategies to reach these objectives include compensation mechanisms, creation of ecological corridors and the development of sustainable trade chains. Assistance is needed to fuel international negotiations and to develop alternatives for current consumption and production patterns.

Water for Food and Ecosystems
Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth's surface, but only 2.5% of the world's water resources are fresh and less than 1% is available for human use. Water shortage is identified as a major contributor to social stress, including boundary conflicts. Water shortage is expected to increase through the increasing number of livestock and because of increasing demand for biofuels and a growing population. Also, insufficient access to good quality water resource takes thousands of lives yearly. Water quality issues are most severely threatened by ongoing global urbanization and associated problems with waste water treatment and salinization and alkalization in irrigated areas. The dilemmas concerning the allocation of water are further stressed by increasingly erratic precipitation rates as a result of climate change. To tackle this issues integrated approaches are needed that capture water quantity, water quality and changes in climate and land use.

Central to the Wageningen UR approach is that the theme scarcity and distribution is assessed as a cross-cutting theme, with equal importance for people (social), planet (environmental) and profit (economic) aspects. This approach is reflected in the multiple scientific disciplines that are involved in the workplan 2010.

Abstract (NL)

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