Module 11 analyzes the way in which food production and food systems are vulnerable to shocks and perturbations, such as extreme weather, a changing climate, and economic and political crises like those caused by wars. However, food producers like farmers, and food systems generally, don't merely absorb or suffer these shocks. Rather, farmers and other participants in food system exhibit adaptive capacity or capacities, part of a more general system property called resilience, which allows them to respond to and partially blunt the impacts of perturbations. In addition to forms of adaptive capacity such as migration, wage labor, and irrigated crops, which allow farmers to access food in difficult conditions, a major form of adaptive capacity we have examined in module 11.1 is that of agrobiodiversity: the different crops and crop varieties possessed by a community or society. This range of crops help these communities and a whole food system to respond over time to new and different conditions for food production and even escape extreme conditions.
However, as module 11.2 and the summative assessment indicate, there are situations where farmers become extremely vulnerable to shocks and economic marginalization. This may take the form of food insecurity and consequent malnutrition, a topic that was first introduced in module 3. There are also situations, such as the Somali famine of 2012, and earlier famines, in which a combination of climatic and political conditions become so extreme that widespread hunger and mortality occurs. Knowing about the principles of adaptive capacity and vulnerability, and the terrible consequences of vulnerability in famines may help you to act constructively to help global society to end acute hunger, as well as more chronic food insecurity around the world.
Reminder - Complete all of the Module 11 tasks!
You have reached the end of Module 11! Double-check the to-do list on the Module 11 Roadmap to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there before you begin module 12 where you will finalize your capstone project.
References and Further Reading
Chambers, R. (1989). Editorial introduction: vulnerability, coping and policy. IDS Bulletin, 20(2), 1-7.
Folke, C., Colding, J., & Berkes, F. (2003). Synthesis: building resilience and adaptive capacity in social-ecological systems. Navigating social-ecological systems: Building resilience for complexity and change, 352-387.
Gillis, Justin. A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself, New York Times. June 4, 2011. This article provides an insight into the efforts to adapt to climate change with more resilient crops, and maintain or increase production of crops in the next decades.
Hajjar, Reem, Devra I. Jarvis, and Barbara Gemmill-Herren. "The utility of crop genetic diversity in maintaining ecosystem services." Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 123.4 (2008): 261-270.
Nabhan, G.P. "Melting Glaciers and Waves of Grain: The Pamirs", p. 45-64, Chapter 3 in Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine. Washington: Island Press.