Resilience in the global food system


Ensuring food security requires food production and distribution systems function throughout disruptions. Understanding the factors that contribute to the global food system's ability to respond and adapt to such disruptions (i.e. resilience) is critical for understanding the long-term sustainability of human populations. Variable impacts of production shocks on food supply between countries indicate a need for national-scale resilience indicators that can provide global comparisons. However, methods for tracking changes in resilience have had limited application to food systems. We developed an indicator-based analysis of food systems resilience for the years 1992-2011. Our approach is based on three dimensions of resilience: socio-economic access to food in terms of income of the poorest quintile relative to food prices, biophysical capacity to intensify or extensify food production, and the magnitude and diversity of current domestic food production. The socio-economic indicator has large variability, but with low values concentrated in Africa and Asia. The biophysical capacity indicator is highest in Africa and Eastern Europe, in part because of high potential for extensification of cropland and for yield gap closure in cultivated areas. However, the biophysical capacity indicator has declined globally in recent years. The production diversity indicator has increased slightly, with a relatively even geographic distribution. Few countries had exclusively high or low values for all indicators. Collectively, these results are the basis for global comparisons of resilience between nations, and provide necessary context for developing generalizations about the resilience in the global food system.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Joel A. Carr
Marianela Fader, Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Ecologie Marine et Continentale (IMBE)
Matti Kummu, Aalto University
Miina Porkka, Aalto University
Michael Puma, Columbia University, NASA
Zak Ratajczak, University of Virginia
Maria Cristina Rulli, Politecnico di Milano
Samir Suweis, University of Padova
Alessandro Tavoni, London School of Economics
Environmental Research Letters