Food, Life and Health

Food Security is a key challenge to the world. In debates surrounding environmental and social sustainability, Food Security is a central issue, as it relates to poverty, nutrition, health, education, governance, institutional development and natural resources. Feeding the growing global population is the foremost priority. At the same time, food production comes at the cost of land and water resources, changes in the nutrient cycle and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, increased production of agricultural products can lead to conflicts over scarce natural resources and can hamper efforts to protect biodiversity and ecosystems.

In close collaboration with VU researchers and international partners, CIS-VU developed an interdisciplinary research and outreach programme on Food & Nutrition Security to help improve food production and security of local communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. This programme combines research and capacity building actions, in which an integrated, multi-stakeholder perspective is applied, combined with action in the field – one in which sustainable development is viewed from the perspective of a ‘safe and just operating space for humanity’.

Over the past ten years this programme resulted in the large production of books and peer-reviewed publications, in the innovative field of sustainable land, water, re-greening, farmer innovation and community initiatives to increase food production. The research and community-centric outreach activities are ploughed back into VU’s regular educational curricula in a variety of thematic fields related to Environment, Food Security and ICT for development.

With this research programme, VU provides an interdisciplinary approach to food and nutrition security via a socio-ecological systems perspective. The Athena Institute, the Institute for Environmental Studies – IVM and the department of Development Economics – FEWEB, and the Network Institute are leading research groups in this programme. It draws on methods from social sciences, economics, earth and life sciences and information science, as a mixture of analytic research and action-oriented transdisciplinary research aimed at enhancing local capacity and tackling local problems.

This integration of VU’s scientific and participatory research, outreach and capacity building activities in the field of food and nutrition security over the years has proven to reach communities and achieve societal impact. To date, research groups have been working in parallel on this topic, while collaboration is gradually moving into a joint programmatic approach.

Moreover, CIS-VU has a broad network of international partners including governmental bodies, universities, research institutes, the private sector, NGOs, local communities, farmers groups and extension services in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Morocco, Brazil, Indonesia, Yemen, Myanmar and Philippines.