Can we ensure that there will be food in times of crises?

Doctoral candidate Pontus Ambros will study local and regional food production in the Baltic Sea Region context, focusing on how to improve the food security in times of crises.

In our modern life, we have access to almost any kind of food at any time, with supermarkets and home delivery allowing us within minutes to access an abundance and diversity of food never seen before in human history. But taking this for granted can potentially be very dangerous. Times of crises (such as war, pandemics and social unrest) or climate change-induced weather irregularities, threaten our easy access to food. 

That food is a fundamental need for us, might seem obvious, and the lack of it can easily lead to great societal unrest. A good example of this is the Arabic Spring of 2009, when according to some scholars the increased food prices caused by a major drought were the straw that broke the camel’s back, sparking protests in an already unstable region. Although it is likely that food shortages would play out differently in the context of northern Europe, it does not mean that we are immune to it.

It is therefore vital to understand how our food system works and how our food security is dependent on a diverse and abundant production. The food in our stores in northern Europe is often a mixture of local, regional and global produce, providing us with a stable diet year-round. But a crisis could disturb production on the different levels, cause food insecurity. For example, could a regional climate disturbance (like a cold and very rainy summer) wipe out a majority of a regions produce, leaving its citizens relying on a supply from the global food market? Likewise, can climate change cause major disturbances in the global food market, like the Eurasian drought of 2009? Also, major conflicts like the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine have proved to impact global food supply in a negative way.

The different scales of food production (local, regional and global) are often intertwined and hard to distinguish from each other in a food system, making it difficult to estimate how regions and countries are dependent on the different scales to ensure a good food security. In this doctoral project, the aim is to better understand these dependencies and ways to ensure that our food system will be working also in times of crises. The first part of the study will look into statistics from the Baltic Sea Region to understand its development and dependencies. The second part aims at a qualitative study in the context of Finland and Sweden, where a more in-depth study of local food production will be conducted. 

The first peer-reviewed article of the project can be found here: Trends in Agricultural Land in EU Countries of the Baltic Sea Region from the Perspective of Resilience and Food Security