How we can strengthen lo­cal food se­cu­rity?

Dorset - - THE GREEN MAN -

‘In 1984, the UK pro­duced 80% of its food: by 2018 this was only 60%’

Alan Heeks ex­plores the up­sides and down­sides of cli­mate change for Dorset’s food econ­omy

Food se­cu­rity means hav­ing re­li­able ac­cess to enough good qual­ity, af­ford­able food. Coron­avirus has shown us how shaky global sup­ply chains can be; most glar­ingly for med­i­cal equip­ment, but also for food ba­sics.

For years, ex­perts have said that Bri­tain’s food se­cu­rity is poor. Coron­avirus makes it worse be­cause many pro­duc­ers in Bri­tain, and coun­tries we im­port from, de­pend on sea­sonal work­ers and mi­grants to get their crops to mar­ket. Al­ready these pro­duc­ers are warn­ing of se­ri­ous short­ages be­cause their usual work­force are in lock­down.

There is quite a risk of fur­ther pan­demics, and con­tin­u­ing threats to food pro­duc­tion. By now, you may be des­per­ate for some good news: it’s in the next para­graph! First, I need to add that one of the big­gest ex­pected im­pacts of cli­mate change glob­ally in the com­ing years and decades is re­duc­ing food sup­plies (see the Jem Ben­dell link later in this fea­ture).


Whereas Mediter­ranean coun­tries can ex­pect on­go­ing droughts and a per­ma­nent re­duc­tion to food out­put, in the UK the out­look is more promis­ing. The re­cent pat­tern of milder, wet­ter win­ters and hot­ter, drier sum­mers is likely to con­tinue and in­ten­sify. The up­side is that this weather pat­tern can sup­port good lev­els of food pro­duc­tion with adap­tive cultivatio­n prac­tices.

I’ve been in­ter­ested in food and farm­ing since I set up an or­ganic farm and ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre in West Dorset in 1990 (mag­dalen­ In re­cent years, my work on re­silience to cli­mate change high­lighted food se­cu­rity as a ma­jor threat, so I com­mis­sioned some re­search to ex­plore what pos­i­tive steps we can take to adapt to this threat, es­pe­cially in Dorset and South­West Eng­land.

The re­port Grow­ing through cli­mate change, has just been pub­lished. It’s avail­able free of charge from fu­tures­can­ and cov­ers four main top­ics: • Which lo­cally grown and im­ported foods are most at risk in the fu­ture from cli­mate change?

What adap­tive cultivatio­n prac­tices could help, for any­one from an al­lot­ment holder to a large-scale farmer?

How vul­ner­a­ble crops, or sub­sti­tutes, could be grown in South-West Eng­land

Case stud­ies from our re­gion, and sug­ges­tions on next steps


One les­son we can learn from coron­avirus is that if the UK, US and other gov­ern­ments had taken the pan­demic threat more se­ri­ously when it first emerged, we could have been bet­ter pre­pared. Maybe the UK Gov­ern­ment will now con­sider the is­sue of food se­cu­rity, but let’s not de­pend on it. We can take the ini­tia­tive lo­cally.

Food se­cu­rity means hav­ing the means for feed­ing your pop­u­la­tions from your own coun­try, rather than im­port­ing. Bri­tain has rel­a­tively good land and cli­mate for food pro­duc­tion, but our food se­cu­rity has been steadily drop­ping. In 1984, the UK pro­duced 80% of its food: by 2018 this was only 60%. The key rea­son is that suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have favoured a cheap food pol­icy, open­ing our mar­kets to the cheap­est sup­pli­ers around the world, in­stead of pro­tect­ing and sup­port­ing do­mes­tic pro­duc­ers (EU rules cre­ated some ex­cep­tions to this, but that’s dis­ap­pear­ing with Brexit).

In or­der to start the shift away from global to lo­cal on the home front you need to make some changes to your diet.

Here are some ex­am­ples that you could try:

• Re­duce your con­sump­tion

of red meat: a lot of grain is

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