Food Security and Land Use: The Telecoupling Challenge

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Zoology


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 ad 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.


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Description Work associated with this project has explored (i) the effect of climate change on diet-associated mortality; (ii) the health and environment consequences of transitioning to WHO-recommended diets, and (iii) the health and greenhouse gas consequences of imposing carbon taxes on food. Project members have been associated with reviews of system modelling in the food sector. A specific project has involved modelling the consequences of an African Swine Fever outbreak on global commodity markets.
Exploitation Route The results will inform policy making concerning global food security.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Healthcare

Description I am part of a Belmont Consortium without receiving direct funding for my research group. My engagement with the Project has advanced my thinking on a number of issues around food security that are reflected in the publications I've associated with this award. I declare also here that it has fed into my policy work with Defra (I chair their Science Advisory Council), BEIS (ISF Transforming Food Production Advisory Board) and the World Economic Forum (report on Alternative Proteins launched at Davos 2019).
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services