VIDEO: Rajul Pandya-Lorch explains food security means today. Recorded at authors’ workshop in Ottawa in October 2011. (English only)

Our understanding of agriculture and its links to food security has greatly evolved during the past half-century. Thinking in the 1950s and 1960s focused on agriculture as being simply a source of staple foods such as maize, wheat, and rice. Today it is viewed as the means to meet satisfy food security, including food availability, access, and human nutrition and health.

This goal is threatened by shocks, such as volatile food prices and financial crises, climate change and volatile weather, floods and earthquakes, and conflicts. Such shocks appear to have become more frequent and disproportionately affect poor countries, communities, and people, impacting their food and nutrition security.

Resilience in agriculture is hearty crops that thrive even in poor-quality soil and water. It is also farmer managing risks and rural families with secure livelihoods.

In response to this barrage of shocks, the international community is increasingly turning to the concept of resilience. Resilience is a systems-oriented way of helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks. Not only to bounce back to where they were before, but become even better-off.

Applied to agriculture, resilience is understood in different ways. Resilient agriculture can be crops that are able to withstand weather variability and extremes, and thrive even with limited or low-quality soil and water. It can also be smallholder farmers having access to instruments for managing risks. And it can be rural families having access to diverse and nutritious diets, quality healthcare, and secure livelihoods. Essentially, resilience ensures that a one-off shock does not translate into long-term despair. Finally, resilience can be a global food system with efficient and well-regulated trade that can protect countries and regions from globalizing shocks.

As 2015 begins, and the world considers new Sustainable Development Goals to guide investment priorities and actions, the concept of resilience seems to offer a way not only to address the challenges raised by shocks, but also continue to transform agriculture in still more virtuous and useful ways.

— Study Guide Theme
Environment and Health
— Study Guide Chapter
Agriculture and Food Security