How we can strengthen local food security?

Dorset Magazine|July 2020

How we can strengthen local food security?
Alan Heeks explores the upsides and downsides of climate change for Dorset’s food economy
Alan Heeks

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).

CLIMATE CHANGE HAS UPSIDES FOR THE UK

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 (magdalenfarm.org.uk). 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.

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July 2020