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Resilience enhances food security and sustainable transition of the food system

Finnish and global food systems need to adapt to changing climatic conditions and extreme weather events, as well as rapidly changing markets and policy. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine have revealed that the global food system is vulnerable to diverse disturbances, including Finland’s food system.

Food security is grounded in diversity across the food system

Multidisciplinary research team at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) has revealed that Finnish agriculture is dependent on many imported inputs, especially fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, feeds, energy, and foreign workers. The availability of these inputs needs to be improved through cultivation systems and technologies, and by means of agricultural and trade policy.

Food system experts were interviewed about the key aspects of food system resilience. They emphasised the importance of diversity across the food system and among actors, good collaboration between actors and the different parts of the food system, and systems thinking (Fig. 1). Resilience is fundamentally based on viable and profitable farms that are able to maintain the ecosystem services necessary for agriculture.  

Decision-making support

Knowledge of the risks regarding the availability of critical inputs has helped decision making on farms, agricultural extension, and decision making at the national level, in order to obtain an overview of the vulnerability and risks in primary production. The results have been presented to various committees of the Finnish Parliament, including the Agriculture & Forestry Committee, Future Committee, Foreign, Security & Defence Policy Committee, as well as Finnish National Supply Agency.  Luke’s researchers have actively contributed to the public discussion and debate on these issues through various channels, including two open webinars with over 600 participants.

New directions for food system research

Food systems—including Finland’s—are threatened by new global challenges. Recent global events have brought to attention the critical importance of resilience research and a systemic understanding of the causal relations and interdependencies in food systems.

To meet these needs, the systemic approach is being deepened and the research expanded for example from the availability of inputs to the SMEs’ risk management and logistics within food system. This increasingly calls for collaborative research between researchers with diverse expertise and other actors of the food systems. It is also important to better understand how to promote sustainability transition and transformation while improving the resilience of food systems as they are interconnected in a crucial way.

"Resilience is fundamentally based on viable and profitable farms that are able to maintain the ecosystem services necessary for agriculture", says professor Pasi Rikkonen.

Photo: Eetu Ahanen

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