New research centre to tackle issue of food and water security worldwide

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Friday 13 January 2012

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A new research and development centre that will play a leading role in alleviating rural poverty and ensuring food and water security worldwide is being launched by Coventry University and charity Garden Organic.

The Coventry-based Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS) will help tackle the challenge of how to build resilient food systems worldwide, and will launch its work at Coventry University’s London Campus on Wednesday 18th January with a keynote speech by eminent agroecologist, Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Agroecology is a range of farming techniques that improve crop yields while conserving natural resources. The new centre (CAFS) is set to exploit the strengths of its two founding organisations: Coventry University’s academic expertise in applied research and rural development, and Garden Organic’s fifty years’ experience with technologies and research projects on organic and sustainable agriculture.

The launch marks the first step in an ambitious undertaking by CAFS, which aims, through research and professional consultancy, to make a significant contribution to the development of resource-efficient agricultural practices on a global scale.

Phil Harris, professor of plant science at Coventry University and director of the CAFS, said:

Climate change and carbon emissions may hog the headlines when it comes to the environmental concerns of today, but the reality is that unprecedented population growth and the associated issues with food production and water security are creating a crisis of equally profound proportions.

The Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, through the combined expertise of Garden Organic and Coventry University, aims to help break down some of the barriers to feeding the world’s growing population by promoting more resource-efficient farming practices based on agroecology. It is commonly agreed that the business-as-usual approach of industrialized farming cannot continue, and we need investment to develop more sustainable approaches.

Dr Margi Lennartsson, head of programmes at Garden Organic, said:

This initiative is an excellent opportunity for us to use our combined expertise to look at the challenge of building robust and resilient food systems in the UK and overseas, and to put our strong track record of developing agro-ecological solutions into practice. Garden Organic has over half a century of organic agricultural research knowledge and we want to look at how this can be utilised for the benefit of food security.

 With a clear remit for research and development, the core work of the new centre includes:

  • Transitional technologies – to develop technologies that sustain yields whilst ensuring food nutritional security and the health of ecosystems.
  • Stabilisation agriculture – to enhance the ability of agriculture to withstand and respond to natural and man-made disasters.
  • Fair routes to market – to enhance livelihoods through innovative approaches to production, distribution and marketing.
  • Food and communities – to explore the social, cultural, economic and political dimensions of people’s relationship with food.

>At the launch event, Professor Altieri will join a panel discussion with distinguished guests in the field of sustainable agriculture to explore and demonstrate the advantages of food and farming systems based on agroecological principles, and to debate how the uptake of these approaches could be accelerated across the world.

The event will bring together researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the agricultural industry to discuss ways to influence and inform agroecological policy and research agendas for the UK and internationally.

Agroecology is already a key area with which CAFS is engaged through its applied research programmes. The centre will become the University’s main driving force for its Grand Challenge Initiative in sustainable agriculture, which also draws expertise from the Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE), the Sustainable Drainage Applied Research Group (SUDS) and its sister Grand Challenge Initiative in Low Carbon Vehicles.

The CAFS launch is free to attend and will take place at Coventry University’s London Campus on Wednesday 18th January at 9am. Interested parties should register their attendance.