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Rosamond L. Naylor (Editor): The evolving sphere of food security

Rosamond L. Naylor (Editor): The evolving sphere of food
Oxford University Press, New York, USA; 2014, 394 pp. ISBN 978 0 19 935406 1
Prabhu L. Pingali
Received: 27 September 2015 /Accepted: 30 September 2015
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2015
The food price crisis of 2008 brought agriculture and food
security is back onto the global policy agenda with a renewed
sense of urgency about dealing with the problems of global
hunger and malnutrition. Anticipated impacts of climate
change add to that sense of urgency. It is therefore not surpris-
ing that there has been a steady stream of books in the last few
years addressing the food security challenges that we face and
providing us with a wide range of solutions to the way for-
ward. NaylorsBEvolving Sphere of Food Security^distin-
guishes itself from the plethora of recent contributions on
the subject in three important ways: first, it takes a strong
multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach to food securi-
ty; second, it discusses food security across the development
spectrum, from food availability and access problems faced by
the bottom billion to the political economy drivers of food
policy in the high income countries of North America and
Europe; and third, it highlights the close links between food
security and environmental sustainability and even ventures
into a discussion on the consequences for international secu-
rity. Naylor has successfully induced a strong group of highly
experienced development specialists to contribute their best in
succinct yet well-documented and insightful chapters.
Naylors volume of almost 400 pages is divided into five
parts. Part I provides the overall conceptual framework for the
book, highlighting the multi-dimensional nature of food secu-
rity and the evolving nature of the food security problem with
economic growth and development. The overview chapter by
Naylor provides the logic for the organization of the book,
choice of chapters and authors. The BConnecting the dots^
figure (page 4) is a great representation of the food security
challenge and is worth keeping in mind as you read through
the book. Part 2 provides a discussion of the political economy
of food and agricultural policy as countries transition from low
to middle and to high income status. Part 3 is focused on the
unique challenges the poorest countries face as they try to
meet the food needs of their populations. Part 4 discusses
the interdependence of agriculture and the environmental re-
source base, and the final part of the volume presents the
interconnections between food security and national security.
The political realities of food policy formulation are partic-
ularly well presented in this volume. In the four chapters of
Part 2, countries across the development spectrum are shown
grappling with the political challenges of transitioning from an
urban biased food policy in low income countries to one that is
overly protective of an increasingly stronger rural lobby even
as the share of agriculture in the economy declines with
growth. The Indonesian case presented by Falcon, drawing
on decades of personal involvement in that countrys food
policymaking, is particularly insightful in this regard. It is
extremely helpful to consider the evolving food policy chal-
lenges as the country made the transition from low to middle
income status. Falcons personal anecdotes add to the richness
of the story. Middle income countries face unique challenges:
persistence of poverty and food insecurity despite growth; the
need to look beyond the Green Revolution era emphasis on
growth of staple crop productivity; promotion of a diversified
food basket; and managingthe human costs of structural trans-
formation from predominantly rural societies to increasingly
urbanizing and industrializing economies. Rozelle and Huang
draw on their decades of intensive field based research in
China to describe the Bmiddle income trap^and the potential
*Prabhu L. Pingali
Charles Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management,
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative, Cornell University,
Ithaca, NY, USA
Food Sec.
DOI 10.1007/s12571-015-0515-0
policy pathways out of it. In high income countries, the agri-
cultural sector is small in relative value and in terms of popu-
lation dependent on it for their livelihood, yet it exerts a dis-
proportionately large influence on politics and policy. This
volume is unique in presenting the challenges of high income
countries, the United States and the European Union, along-
side those of developing countries thereby highlighting the
policy continuum.
The poorest regions in the world are caught in a Blow ag-
ricultural productivity trap^. In these countries, enhancing
food security and poverty reduction is very closely associated
with growth of smallholder productivity. Lagging regions in
middle income countries could also benefit from a focus on
the growth of smallholder productivity as an engine of poverty
reduction. Part 3 addresses some of the technological, institu-
tional and infrastructural constraints to increasing smallholder
productivity in the least developed countries. I found chapter 8
on the evolution of land tenure and land policy in sub-Saharan
Africa to be particularly instructive, although I would have
liked a more definitive discussion on the current debate on
large-scale land acquisitions. The question of the policy envi-
ronment under which the lagging regions would see produc-
tivity improvement was left unanswered.
I found the discussion of agriculture environment interac-
tions in part 4 of the volume to be particularly strong. The
trade-offs between agricultural intensification and resource
use and resource degradation are clearly presented, particular-
ly in the case of water and nutrient use. Competition for re-
sources outside the agricultural sector and their impact on food
security are also highlighted. Recent expansion of area under
biofuel production and the consequent trade-off between food
and fuel production is a case in point, although low fuel oil
prices today have moved biofuels off the developing country
agendas, at least temporarily. The fact that biofuel production
is not necessarily climate friendly is brought out very clearly
in chapter 9. Part 4 emphasizes that it is indeed possible to
improve resource use efficiency without a loss in yields, but
requires significant institutional and policy reforms that are
often hard to do. Hence the growing divergence between the
high income and the rapidly developingeconomies in terms of
resource use efficiency and resource degradation.
The final section of the volume discusses the nexus be-
tween food security and national security. As recent crises in
the Middle East have shown, countries that have made signif-
icant progress in enhancing their food security can quickly
spiral back into a state of food insecurity as their overall se-
curity situation deteriorates. On the other hand, sudden shocks
to food security, such as a sharp rise in food prices, can quickly
unravel political stability and lead to periods of national inse-
curity. Analytical and policy thinking has not advanced
enough on exploring the nexus of food and national security.
Stedmans chapter provides us with a starting point for much
needed work in this area.
As with any effort that tries to provide a comprehensive
coverage of a topic as wide as global food security, there will
be some shortcomings. Not all chapters are equally strong and
the geographic coverage of the volume is limited to the areas
that Stanford and its collaborators were actively involved in. I
would also have liked to have seen a comprehensive chapter on
food security in Sub-Saharan Africa and one on South Asia,
similar to Falcons chapter on Indonesia. The role of trade and
food security also deserved attention. In any case, this volume
is a valuable addition to the literature on food security and will
be read widely. I teach a course on Global Food Policy at
Cornell University and I certainly expect to assign several of
the chapters in this volume as required readings.
P.L. Pingali
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