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FEATURE: Holistic approach vital for managing issues of food, wealth and the environment


Michiel van Dijk of LEI-Wageningen UR reports on the growing need for policy makers to be aware about and balance trade-offs among food securityFood security is a condition related to the ongoing availability of food. Concerns over food security have existed throughout history. There is evidence of granaries being in use over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in civilizations including Ancient China and Ancient Egypt being ..., poverty, climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... and sustainable developmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in ....

Food security, poverty, climate change and sustainable development are closely linked and can no longer be considered separately. This key message emerged from the 2nd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change held in Vietnam this month. The gathering of some 500 government representatives (including more than 50 ministers of agricultureCultivation of the ground and harvesting of crops and handling of livestock, the primary function is the provision of food and feed.), international organisations, civil society groups and the private sector concluded that agricultural policies have an important role to play in helping to meet these challenges.

A new CDKN-supported study analysing the interplay among future land use, food security and climate change in Vietnam, presented at the meeting, echoes these findings. Undertaken by LEI-Wageningen UR, Aidenvironment, the Terrestrial CarbonThe TCG demonstrate that all types of terrestrial carbon are essential in combating climate change and should therefore be included in any future climate change response. Initially this would include peatlands, forest and lands that can become secondary forest; other areas could be phased in as ... Group, plus Vietnam’s National Institute of Agricultural Planning and Projection (part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development), it highlights the potential trade-offs that occur among these issues. If decision-makers are to balance such trade-offs, they must be aware of the complex interaction among land useLand use refers to the total of arrangements, activities, and inputs undertaken in a certain land cover type (a set of human actions). The term land use is also used in the sense of the social and economic purposes for which land is managed (e.g., grazing, timber extraction, and conservation). ..., food security and climate change, and adopt a forward-looking and integrated approach when formulating policies.

For example, the report indicates that economic development, structural change and urbanisation will lead to a reduction in the area of land able to produce paddy rice, the main food staple, of around 23% between 2010 and 2030. Such a reduction will threaten the target of 3.8 million hectares of paddy rice that is fixed under food-security policies in Vietnam. The finding that 57% of land currently used to grow paddy rice will be vulnerable to floodingThe overflowing of the normal confines of a stream or other body of water, or the accumulation of water over areas that are not normally submerged. Floods include river (fluvial) floods, flash floods, urban floods, pluvial floods, sewer floods, coastal floods, and glacial lake outburst floods ... by 2030 further jeopardises the target. Meeting national food security requirements will therefore demand policies that safeguard those paddy areas at risk from floodingsee flooding.

The expected contraction in land growing paddy rice will, however, help Vietnam achieve its objective of decreasing greenhouse gas emissionsGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. by 20% before 2020, as laid out in its national climate change strategy. This seems to be particularly important for implementing the national Green Growth Strategy that is currently being developed in Vietnam.

Global-to-local approach

The study employed an innovative global-to-local modelling approach that combined a global economy model and a spatially explicit land use model to answer the following questions: “what is the impact of socio-economic development on land use and land use changesee land use for the period 2010 to 2030 using different scenarios, including climate change?”; “what is the spatial pattern of land use changeLand use refers to the total of arrangements, activities, and inputs undertaken in a certain land cover type (a set of human actions). The term land use is also used in the sense of the social and economic purposes for which land is managed (e.g., grazing, timber extraction, and conservation). ... in Vietnam?; and “what are the implications for food security and greenhouse gasGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC)?”

Under all three scenarios, Vietnam will undergo a profound structural transformation. Its economy will become increasingly oriented towards services and manufacturing, while the agricultural sector becomes less important. Vietnam has already experienced rapid growth in recent decades, and the forecast growth pattern is a continuation of this trend. It echoes the shifts experienced by other emerging economies, such as South Korea and Taiwan in the 1980s, and has important consequences for future land use change.

The models show that commercial forests and built-up land will expand at the expense of paddy rice-growing areas, non-plantation forestsForestry is the management and care of woods, including fellings and plantation of new trees. and shrub land. Future land use maps reveal most of the urbanAn urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to the areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets. growth will be concentrated in the Red River and Mekong River deltas. The growth of commercial forest lands will mainly take place in the central highlands, plus north-central and south-central coastal regions.

Climate change has a negative effect on economic growthIdeally, economic growth is decoupled from energy consumption. This can be achieved through different measures, one of them being energy efficiency or a shift towards less energy intensive sectors, such as services. in Vietnam, particularly within the agricultural sector. Flooding induced by climate change poses a serious additional threat to rice production. The paddy rice fields in the low-lying Mekong delta and, to a lesser extent, the Red delta are susceptible to floods. This presents a risk to domestic food production and the international rice trade.

The scientists assessed climate mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) options for paddy rice, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the agricultural sector. The forecast contraction in paddy rice land will lead to around 23% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from the cultivation of rice. The authors suggest that a further reduction of between 14% and 19% could be achieved by improving agricultural practices and restricting the burning of rice straw. This analysis could be greatly improved by combining future land use maps with more detailed information on  greenhouse gas emissions factorsA factor that converts activity data into GHG emissions data (e.g., kg CO2e emitted per liter of fuel consumed, kg CO2e emitted per kilometer traveled, etc.). (WRI, 2013) that take spatial variation of soils and crop inputs into account.

Good data is vital

Although modelling and analysing potential future scenarios can be very powerful tools to assess the trade-offs among policy options, they nonetheless simplify a complex reality; outcomes rely on the coverage and quality of available data. Another important finding of the study was that serious inconsistencies exist among the various land use and land cover data for Vietnam. Policy-makers urgently need to develop a consistent classification system that harmonises the different sources of spatial data in Vietnam.

Only three scenarios were analysed in the report, and many more “potential futures” may be relevant. For example, the impact of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, currently being negotiated, could have major consequences for economic growth and development. The results of this study therefore represent a first approximation of possible future pathways for socio-economic development and land use changeOccurs when the demand for a specific land use results in a change in carbon stocks on that land, due to either a conversion from one land-use category to another or a conversion within a land-use category (WRI, 2013) in Vietnam. The same approach could be taken to support policy-making on land use, food security and climate change issues in other developing and emerging economies.

Note: A policy brief with main results was presented during a side event at the 2nd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change. This CDKN-supported policy brief and the full report will be available through www.lei.wur.nl/UK in December 2012.

Find out about CDKN funded project Land use policy optimization: integrating global to local approaches to enhance land use planning capacity and governance in Vietnam

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