Food Security and Land Use: The Telecoupling Challenge

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: The Centre for Environmental Policy


The Telecoupling Consortium, consists of four focal countries (Brazil, China, U.K. and U.S.), vulnerable spillover countries in Africa, two major CGIAR centers (CIAT and IFPRI) , FAO and extensive stakeholder involvement. We apply an
innovative integrative framework, Telecoupling - socioeconomic and environmental interactions among coupled human and
natural systems at different scales over great distances - that can transform how we think about collateral effects from
international trade on food security and land use dynamics. We address Theme 3 (Feedback Loops), focusing on major
commodities central to food security: rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, potato, biofuel crops (mainly sugarcane and corn) and
livestock. We will examine processes at different scales, from the international trade in major food commodities, to in-depth
studies at regional/local scales. The Consortium partners bring to this project a very large portfolio of food security and land
use projects, representing four continents, while providing a much needed framework to address how food systems change
across large distances, and to account for socioeconomic and environmental consequences of shifting forms of food
production, trade and distribution. The team includes leading scholars in social and natural sciences as well as influential
stakeholders in relevant sectors. The end result of this project will be enhanced capacity to predict effects from shifts in
food flows and land use; tools to facilitate policy changes to improve food security, while ensuring a more sustainable
environment; increased cooperation among major research and stakeholder groups in major food production and
consuming countries; and training a new generation alert to minimizing negative consequences from changes in land use
worldwide. The project will provide a comprehensive framework, a complex systems modeling approach and a Web-based
Decision Support System to finding solutions that enhance food security for all, while ensuring a sustainable earth.

Planned Impact

The Telecoupling Consortium will have a major impact on global food security by engaging a multilevel set of stakeholders in the co-design, co-production, and co-implementation of actionable science. Stakeholders will include the research community, food production, food distribution and government organizations, global gatekeepers such as FAO, and consumer organizations.

We will engage from the start of the project representatives of major commodity producers and food distributors, since food security is not just a production challenge, but also increasingly, it is a distribution challenge. Major companies, associations, and cooperatives play an important role in how food commodities move within a country and from one country to another, and have notable capabilities for contracting with farmers across many countries for their production, predicting harvests across the world, and making crucial decisions in food systems. Identifying key interactions in the global food system will enables these stakeholders to better understand the impacts of their actions and decisions on others, and how through feedbacks across space and time, those actions and decisions result in consequences for their own interests at layer points in time.

In each nation there is at least one ministry charged with overseeing national agricultural policies. Sometimes there are several that touch on agriculture since that sector produces not only food but also energy, and fibre. In each focal country in the project we will constitute a stakeholder group that will be consulted in the co-design of research and the co-production of analyses for each country to ensure that the results have relevance for the partner countries. Through this engagement, our research and findings will help government organizations to better understand the dynamics of the global food and land system such that possible policy levers can be identified to ensure food security and environmental sustainability.

Food consumers represent the demand side of the food system, and the ones who are ultimately vulnerable should the food system fail to deliver adequate food to meet human well-being. Consumers' demands are shifting as societies develop economically, and predicting the direction of these dietary preferences has a major role to play in how land use changes, and how food flows across the globe. Engaging with consumers ensure improvements in their understanding of the impacts of decisions often made far away from the point at which food is obtained, and how global food and land systems are linked and influence environmental sustainability.

Across all of these groups, the expected impacts of stakeholder engagement include providing a holistic systems views of food security and land use; prediction of collateral effects of food trade flows on vulnerable countries; facilitation of policy change and improvement; dissemination of research findings to multiple audiences through mass- and social-media worldwide; and the fostering of robust cooperation across major food producing countries to increase food production and distribution, income to farmers, and reduction of environmental impacts among others.
Description Preliminary finding: there are powerful linkages between food markets, driven by high level government policy decisions in China, and land use / land use change drivers in other countries, in particular Brazil.
Exploitation Route The Belmont Land Use and Food Security Project, will present its preliminary findings at the 2016 Gobal Land Project Open Science Meeting annual meeting, Beijing, October 24-28.
We successfully presented the preliminary findings at teh GLP Open Science Meeting in October 2016.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description The findings arising from the novel systems dynamics model developed were used to inform: 1) a peer-reviewed paper (Kline et al, 2016) on modelling the bioenergy and food security interactions arising from global to national bioenergy programmes; 2) a presentation made to the UK Energy Technology Institute's Strategic Advisory Group, in 2016. We demonstrated that the novel SD model which is based on a modified down-scaled Global Calculator and US Bioenergy driven land use change (BioLUC) methodologies embedded within the telecoupled global food trade framework, can be used to estimate the agricultural emissions and terrestrial carbon stock impacts in China and Brazil, arising from a plausible range of dietary choices in China. These dietary choices are linked via telecoupling mechanisms to Brazilian crop production (e.g. Brazilian soy for Chinese animal feed provision) and drive land and global market dynamics.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Title Novel Systems Dynamics model developed to assess the climate impacts of Chinese dietary choices using a telecoupled global food trade and land framework 
Description A novel Systems Dynamics model was developed, building on a US (Global) Land Use Change model ('BioLUC') (developed by the US National Renewable Energy Lab) to scope the potential climate impacts of Chinese dietary choices using a telecoupled global food trade and land framework. The main model developer was Steven Petersen (Dartmouth College) working in close collaboration with Jeremy Woods (Imperial College London). We assessed the potential to use a modified down-scaled Global Calculator methodology embedded within the telecoupled global food trade framework, to estimate the agricultural emissions and terrestrial carbon stock impacts in China and Brazil, arising from a plausible range of dietary choices in China. These dietary choices are linked via telecoupling mechanisms to Brazilian crop production (e.g. Brazilian soy for Chinese animal feed provision) and drive land and global market dynamics. 'Spill-over' impacts will also be assessed using the EU and Malawi as case studies. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We were able to model the impact of the 2012 US drought on global agricultural commodity markets and the structural changes in the productive capacities of regional production centres (e.g. in Brazil, China and the US). 
Description Global Land Project 3rd Open Science Meeting (GLPOSM16) - paper and presentation (October 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Our Telecoupling Challenge project provided a session at the Global Land Project 3rd Open Science Meeting (GLPOSM16), held at the China National Convention Center, Beijing, China, 24-27 October 2016. On the 25th October we presented a special session on 'Interactions between food security and land use in the context of global change: the Belmont Forum perspective' with Jeremy Woods co-presenting a paper outlining the preliminary conclusions drawn from a new systems dynamics model: 'Assessing the climate impacts of Chinese dietary choices using a telecoupled global food trade and local land use framework.' Jeremy Woods , Rajiv Chaturvedi , Alexandre Strapasson , James Millington , Steven Petersen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016