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Lessons from the 2008 World Food Crisis

Himanshu Gupta • June 5th, 2020.

At the brink of a global food crisis in 2008, Ed Schafer, a businessman and politician from North Dakota was appointed to lead the United States Department of Agriculture. Before joining the U.S. Cabinet, Schafer had already served two terms as Governor of his home state.

He would be in charge of running the mammoth machinery that is the USDA. That meant Schafer would lead over 100,000 federal government employees working on all-things-agriculture — from growing and marketing crops, to livestock and livestock products, to serving forest land, helping farmers with price support subsidies, and inspecting food to ensure the safety of the consumers.

At the global level, Schafer would partner and collaborate with public service counterparts from across the world to tackle the pressing challenges presented by a food catastrophe that had pushed millions of people into hunger and threatened to stoke social and political turmoil around the world. Schafer would unite with global leaders seeking ways of reducing the suffering of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

The ways in which the food crisis interrupted, yet tied our planet together at the time, is comparable to the global health crisis facing the world today, says Schafer in the latest episode of Agriculture Adapts. Not only is it comparable, it was likely a more imposing global challenge than the coronavirus pandemic, Schafer adds.

[quote text=”“The problem you saw with the food supply chain was similar to coronavirus but on a grander scale, he says.”]

The myriad of factors that fueled the food and nutrition crisis including, dryer, hotter, longer droughts, and extreme precipitation, continue to loom large on global agriculture even today.

Over a decade later, we are in the era of climate change, where the severity and frequency of extreme weather conditions is further affecting agricultural production, restricting food availability and threatening food safety.

What are the lessons from the past that can be applied to our present and support us as we build a more resilient and sustainable agriculture future? What is the state of food system resilience around the world and what technologies do we have at our disposal to improve?

Tune in to Agriculture Adapts to hear Ed Schafer speak to these questions, and more.

Background reading:

This is the 23rd episode in an ongoing podcast series called Agriculture Adapts, produced by a team of climate and agriculture entrepreneurs at ClimateAi, a San Francisco-based company. Each episode features a conversation with climate change and agriculture experts, leading academics, and cutting-edge farmers to explore how the agriculture industry is adapting and innovating at the local, national and global levels, to adapt to a changing climate. Tune in to the previous episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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