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World Food Day - the role of botanic gardens and food security

15 October 2013

Achieving global food security whilst reconciling demands on the environment is considered by many to be one of the greatest challenges facing humankind today. By 2050 it is likely that we will need to feed 9 billion people, with the increasing population also demanding a more varied, protein-rich diet.

All this means we need to grow more food on less land, with limited access to water and increasing costs for fertiliser and fuel.  The impact of increasing food prices has already been felt in many countries, with associated riots and civil unrest.  A less well-known fact is that more people die each year from hunger and malnutrition than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. (World Food Programme). The World Bank estimates that compared to production in 2000, cereal production needs to increase by 50% and meat production by 85% to meet demand in 2030.

The role of botanic gardens

Botanic gardens are already involved in a wide range of activities that have relevance to the growing food security crisis.  It is important that these activities are recognized, promoted and enhanced. 

For example, using improved crop varieties with enhanced resistance to pests, diseases and environmental stress is key to developing a food system that has a lower impact on biodiversity and uses less land and water.  Producing such varieties relies on the deployment of genes often found in the wild plants conserved in botanic garden collections.  At a local level, growing suitably adapted food plants in community and school gardens can have a significant impact on the quality of diets, especially for those in poor and deprived areas.  The horticultural and outreach skills found in botanic gardens are invaluable to support such initiatives.

In May 2013, BGCI carried out a survey in order to identify and understand how botanic gardens are addressing food security issues.

A total of 88 responses were received from botanic gardens in 40 countries around the world.  The responses covered a range of types, ages and sizes of botanic gardens.

The results of the survey were reported in BGjournal, together with a number of case studies of the work of botanic gardens and food security.

Download a copy of BGjournal - Botanic gardens and food security here

 

 

 

 

 

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