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Resilience is a building block of sustainable development, one that focuses on adapting quickly to and growing stronger in the face of change – a changing climate, ecosystem, market or socio-political situation. Where bouncing back from adversity has become our reality, resilience is our future.
As part of the afternoon, we spoke to Claudia Ringler, Shakuntala Thilsted and Christophe Béné who each work for one of the 16 centres which make up the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). We found out how they approach resilience from a scientific perspective and asked each of them to offer a resilient ingredient of their choosing.
Shakuntala is the Research Program Leader for Value Chains and Nutrition at WorldFish. Prior to joining WorldFish, she worked as an Associate Professor in the human nutrition departments of the University of Copenhagen and The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark. She has more than 25 years’ experience in research and has published many articles on food and nutrition security in low-income countries. At WorldFish, she helps to develop and promote aquatic food systems for healthy diets and healthy planet.
Shakuntala explains that balance is major factor in resilience. Currently our food systems have an imbalanced focus on land based produce with only 20% of water systems being used in food production. She introduces us to her resilient ingredient: dried small fish. In season, these fish are bountiful and so the abundance can be dried for future use. Dried fish does not have to be refrigerated and is easily transported. Drying the small fish concentrates the nutrients and makes it easy to add to recipes. For example, Shakuntala shows us her modified mango chutney which replaces mango with chopped dried fish. Introducing dried fish into regional recipes like this could help low income and remote population groups boost nutrition.
Claudia is Deputy Division Director at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). A thought leader on water for food, she manages IFPRI’s Natural Resource team, co- leads the Institute’s water research program and is a co-manager of Resilience and Competing Uses flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).
For Claudia, resilience is about how food systems retain functionality in the face of adversity, the time it takes them to recover from a shock and whether a they are able to bounce back stronger than before. A resilient food system is one with sufficient energy, resources and political will to make the changes necessary to overcome hardship. Claudia reminds us that there is no resilience without access to clean water; without water there is no food, and so ensuring water security is vital in maintaining robust and hardy food systems. Claudia highlights how different crops require different water intensities; further a crop’s water usage is also affected by their environment, so the same variety can present varying challenges depending on the region they are grown in.
Christophe is Senior Policy Advisor at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) based in Colombia. He has has 15+ years of experience in interdisciplinary research and advisory work focusing on poverty, vulnerability and food security. Most recently, Chris’ research has been on resilience analysis and evaluation of vulnerability reduction programs in relation to disasters and climate change.
For Chris, a key ingredient in the make up of resilience is the capacity of people to deal with adverse events, like the coronavirus pandemic. His research focuses on determining the most effective responses to such events, and looks into the implications on food security and poverty reduction. He hopes that he can support policy makers and individuals, particularly in poorer regions where options can be limited, by providing the information necessary to make the best possible decisions in the face of adversity. Chris’s resilient ingredients are sweet potato and cassava. In recent typhoons in the Philippines rice crops were destroyed but sweet potato and cassava persevered the subsequent floods, in large part because they grow underground.