Creating a climate for food security: the business, people & landscapes in food production.

Synthesis and Integrative Research Program
Angela Wardell-Johnson
Curtin University
Year Started: 

This project will identify and interview stakeholders including producers, businesses, community and government in agricultural areas in south-west WA and south east Qld to identify risks, current productivity and approaches to adaptation related to climate change in agricultural production, and test approaches to strengthening resilience in agriculture in these areas.

This research compared horticulture and dairy production systems showing the importance of including triple-bottom-line values in planning for resilience to climate change in agri-food systems.

View the main report from this project

View the governance and policy document developed from this report

Final report abstract

Balancing human and environmental needs is urgent where food security and sustainability are under pressure from population increases and changing climates. Requirements of food security, social justice and environmental justice exacerbate the impact of agriculture on the supporting ecological environment. Viability of the Australian rural economy is intrinsically linked to food production and food security requiring systematic evaluation of climate change adaptation strategies for agricultural productivity.

This food-systems research drew on global climate change literature to identify risks and adaptation. The transdisciplinary team applied specialist experience through collaboration in social science, economics and land-management to provide comprehensive methods to engage researchers and decision-makers making decisions across the food-system. Research focus on the dairy and horticulture sectors in the SW-WA and SEQld provided a comparative context in food-systems and regional economies. Expert knowledge was engaged through a series of panel meetings to test and challenge existing practice applying conceptual and empirical approaches in Structural Equation, Value-Chain, Supply-Chain modelling and Analytical Hierarchy modelling. This iterative action-research process provided immediate generation and transfer of expert knowledge across the involved sectors. The scenarios and adaptive strategies provide evidence-based pathways to strengthen food-systems; account for climate change mitigation and adaptation; and weather-proof regional economies in the face of climate change. 

The triple-bottom-line provided a comprehensive means of addressing social, economic and ecological requirements, and the modelling showed the interacting dynamics between these dimensions. In response to climate change, the agricultural sector must now optimise practices to address the interaction between economic, social and environmental investment. Differences in positions between the industry sector, the government and research sectors demonstrate the need for closer relationships between industry and government if climate change interventions are to be effectively targeted. 

Modelling shows that capacity for adaptation has a significant bearing on the success of implementing intervention strategies. Without intervention strategies to build viability and support, farm businesses are more likely to fail as a consequence of climate change. A framework of capitals that includes social components - cultural, human and social capital-, economic components -economic and physical capital - and ecological components -ecological and environmental capital - should be applied to address capacities. 

A priority assessment of climate change intervention strategies shows that strategies categorised as ‘Technology & Extension’ are most important in minimising risk from climate change impacts. To implement interventions to achieve ‘Food Business Resilience’, ‘Business Development’ strategies and alternative business models are most effective. ‘Research and Development’ interventions are essential to achieve enhanced ‘Adaptive Capacity’.

The individual components of TBL Adaptive Capacity can be achieved through ‘Policy and Governance’ interventions for building ‘Social Capital’ capacity, ‘Research and Development’ will develop ‘Economic Capital’, and ‘Business Development’ strategies will build ‘Ecological Capital’.

These strategic interventions will promote food security and maintain resilience in local food systems, agricultural production communities and markets, global industrial systems, and developing world food systems. Climate change mitigation and adaptation interventions reflect a rich conceptualisation drawing from the Australian context, but also acknowledging the moral context of global association.

Please cite this report as:

Wardell-Johnson, A, Uddin, N, Islam, N, Nath, T, Stockwell, B, Slade, C 2013 Creating a climate for food security: the businesses, people and landscapes in food production, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, pp. 144.