Mar 2023, Volume 10 Issue 1

Cover illustration

  • The global food systems face significant interrelated and complex challenges, including climate change, extreme weather events, natural resource depletion, biodiversity loss, emerging plant and animal diseases, conflict and trade shocks. Food systems encompass agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, fishery, food processing and service industries. It also includes all actors and their interconnected roles in the whole process of technology innovation, inputs, production, sto [Detail] ...

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    Shenggen FAN, Ting MENG
    Ting MENG, Shenggen FAN

    ● The goals of Chinese food and agriculture have shifted from grain self-sufficiency to diversified goals, including protecting natural resources, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving food safety and nutrition.

    ● Addressing the challenges and achieving future goals requires a systems approach to transforming the Chinese food and agriculture sector.

    ● The nexus of food, nutrition and the environment is at the core of food systems.

    ● Pathways are proposed, which include repositioning subsidies/supports, promoting multiple benefit technologies, reorienting investment and finance, guiding consumer behavior, and catalyzing global cooperation.

    After decades of development, China has made significant progress in ensuring national food security. However, the country currently faces multiple challenges, including the double burden of malnutrition, i.e., micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity, climate change, resource stress and environmental degradation, and an increasingly complex global market. This paper reviews past developments in food and agriculture, and offers initial insights into transforming the Chinese food system for achieving multiple national development goals using a systems approach. Strategies and solutions from China can also inform the design and implementation of food system transformation in other emerging economies.

    Yunyi ZHOU, Ziqi CHEN, Kevin Z. CHEN

    ● Food systems in East and Southeast Asia are vulnerable to global warming.

    ● Regional governments strive for adaption, mitigation and financing for climate resilience.

    ● Vulnerabilities of food system actors and activities exacerbate the challenges faced.

    ● Agriculture-specific goals, climate-smart agriculture and market integration are key to building climate resilience.

    Food system resilience to climate change is uniquely imperative for bringing Sustainable Development Goals within reach and leaving no one behind. Food systems in East and Southeast Asia are interacting with planetary boundaries and are adversely affected by extreme weather-related events. A practical question for East and Southeast Asian stakeholders is how to foster climate-resilient food systems in the face of lingering food system vulnerabilities and policy gaps. This paper reviews food system vulnerabilities and policy responses to climate change. In the policy-based review, this paper compares the economy-wide and agriculture-specific targets of low-carbon development across East and Southeast Asia. With China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations as case studies, multilevel policies in building and financing climate-resilient food systems are further synthesized. The findings confirm significant differences in agriculture-specific emission goals and public financing supports across East and Southeast Asian nations. With an objective to break practical barriers and finance climate-resilient food systems for the future, this paper recommends defining agriculture-specific greenhouse gas emission goals, reorienting the public finance scheme and enhancing mechanisms for the synergy of public and private resources.

    Haoyue YANG, Ting MENG, Wojciech J. FLORKOWSKI

    ● Farmer adoption of organic fertilizer and biopesticides was found to be positively correlated.

    ● The technical environment had a significant positive impact on farmers’ adoption of organic fertilizers and biopesticides.

    ● Technology training and local accessibility to new agricultural technologies enhanced both the adoption of organic fertilizers and biopesticides.

    ● Exchanging information about production techniques with others generally increased the likelihood of adopting organic fertilizers by 6%.

    Excessive application of mineral fertilizers and synthetic pesticides poses a substantial threat to the soil and water environment and food security. Organic fertilizer and biopesticides have gradually become essential technology for reducing mineral fertilizer and pesticide inputs. In the process, the technical environment is critical for promoting farmer behavior related to the adoption of organic fertilizer and biopesticides. This paper analyzes the influence of the technical environment on farmer behavior related to the adoption of organic fertilizer and biopesticides based on a survey of 1282 farmers in Heilongjiang Province, China, using the bivariate probit model. The results indicate that (1) farmer behavior related to the adoption applying organic fertilizer and biopesticides were positively correlated; (2) the technical environment had a significant positive impact on farmer behavior related to the adoption of organic fertilizer and biopesticides; and (3) the technical environment had a heterogeneous effect across different groups of farmers. This research provides insights useful for promoting organic fertilizer and biopesticides to farmers. It can be helpful to bundle relevant environmental technologies, conduct technology training for farmers and strengthen the construction of rural information networks.

    Donghao XU, Jiangzhou ZHANG, Yajuan LI, Shiyang LI, Siyang REN, Yuan FENG, Qichao ZHU, Fusuo ZHANG

    ● Large farms had the highest average yield and the least yield variation.

    ● Greater plant density and optimized nutrient input occurred on large farms.

    ● Substituting organic N for mineral fertilizers prevented soil acidification.

    ● Large-scale farming had lower soil acidification but higher risk of P losses.

    ● Large-scale farming benefits sustainable soil management and banana production.

    Large-scale farming by agricultural land transfers has been increasingly promoted in recent years, but the possible impacts on crop production, especially cash crops, and soil acidification remain unclear. This study obtained data for 110 banana plantations in Long’an County, China, and categorized them into small (< 0.67 ha), medium (0.67−6.7 ha), and large (> 6.7 ha) to determine banana cultivation, nutrient management, and soil acidification rates on farms of the three sizes. Banana yield per unit area significantly increased with increased farm size, and large farms had the highest average yield (48.9 t·ha−1) with the least variation. Despite a significant increase in organic fertilizer and base cation inputs, nitrogen (N) surplus did not differ significantly with increasing farm size. With large farms, actual soil acidification rate was significantly lower by 19.1 to 24.0 keq·ha−1·yr−1; however, potential soil acidification rate increased with increased overuse of phosphorus. Overall, larger banana plantations used fewer mineral N fertilizers reducing the rate of soil acidification and increasing the H+ buffering provided by organic fertilizers. It is concluded that larger farms deliver the dual benefits of higher, less variable banana yield and mitigation of soil acidification by substituting organic N for mineral N fertilizers, supporting sustainable soil management and food production.


    ● Promotion of local sustainable innovation developed by forest farmers.

    ● Focusing on bending of branches to increase coffee production in a pine-based agroforestry system.

    ● Using a combination of concepts of perceived characteristics of innovation.

    ● Techno-social, economic and ecological benefits are the key features.

    ● Local techniques may be prospective for developing sustainable agroforestry innovation.

    Adopting community-based innovations in agroforestry is key to enhancing livelihoods in forest farmer communities. This research aimed to explore the perceived advantages of the forest farmer technique of coffee branch bending to overcome the light limitations under the shade of a pine forest. The concepts of perceived characteristics of innovation were used to explore the advantages of this technique. Using a case study of an exclusive forest farmer clique in UB (University of Brawijaya) Forest in Indonesia, it was found that the local technique had high perceived relative advantages. Compared to the others, the bending technique increases coffee production and is easy to do. It was also found to be superior to reducing production costs and is perceived as more environmentally friendly, promoting it as a valuable sustainable practice. Technical experts need to validate it and may embrace it as a co-innovation for the available external agroforestry recommendations. Its adaptability to the local socio-ecological context and techno-economical constraints makes it a prospective innovation to be extended through social forestry programs.

    Maoran ZHU, Jian ZONG

    ● Shifting from the existing dietary patterns to the alternative recommended dietary pattern could enhance the sustainable development of environment and human health.

    ● Shifting to the Planet Healthy Pattern is more effective than the Chinese Dietary Pattern.

    ● Measures and efforts to induce balanced dietary behavior are necessary.

    With the rapid development of China’s economy, Chinese people tend to eat foods rich in fat, sugar and protein. This change in dietary pattern has brought double challenges to China’s sustainable development of environment and human health. So it has become urgent for the nation to shift to a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern. Based on the China Health and Nutrition Survey database, this study used K-means cluster analysis to classify China’s existing dietary patterns into quasi-southern, quasi-northern and quasi-western patterns. Two alternative recommended dietary patterns, Chinese dietary and planet health patterns, were selected to compare the effects of environment and health. The results show that a shift from the three existing dietary patterns to two alternative dietary patterns could enhance sustainable development of environment, especially for the quasi-western pattern shifting to the planet health pattern. Also, a shift would have of great benefits for human health, effectively reduce the relative risks of diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. The greatest benefits would come from shifting the quasi-western pattern benefits to one of the two alternative dietary patterns in terms of environment effects, and the quasi-southern pattern benefits most in terms of health effects. Shifting to the planet health pattern is more effective than the Chinese dietary pattern both in environment and human health. This paper provides policy recommendations to vigorously advocate dietary balance, scientifically promote dietary patterns, and change consumer dietary behavior.

    Hao FAN, Jingjing WANG, Xiaotong LU, Shenggen FAN

    ● Investigate the actual situation of food waste at university canteens in Beijing, China.

    ● Analyze the influential factors of student food-waste behavior in university canteens.

    ● Construct the theoretical model of the factors influencing food waste behavior based on the theory of planned behavior.

    ● Measure the path coefficients of psychological factors, individual characteristics, and dining factors to food waste behavior.

    ● Suggest some measures to reduce and prevent food waste at university canteens.

    Food waste is a major social problem that contributes to the overutilization of natural resources, affecting economic progress and environmental protection. Food waste occurs throughout the whole process of the food supply chain, especially during the consumption stage. As a special group of consumers, the emerging adults at university may have unique food consumption patterns and their food waste behavior in university canteens deserves more attention. To understand the influential factors of the food-waste behavior of students in university canteens, a field survey was conducted at China Agricultural University canteen with 705 respondents. Based on the theory of planned behavior, this paper examines the influencing factors of student food-waste behavior from three dimensions: sociopsychological factors, individual characteristics and dining factors. The results indicate that the percentage of students who waste food is relatively low, at roughly 27%. Perceived behavior control, gender, monthly living expenses, BMI, mealtime, meal expectations and food portion were significantly correlated with student food-waste behavior, among which perceived behavior control had the most prominent correlation, followed by food portion. Behavioral intention, household location and palatability were not significantly correlated with student food-waste behavior. Therefore, it is necessary to promote publicity and education on reducing food waste on campus, reinforce the administration of the department of support service, and optimize the food portion in the canteen.

    Yingchen XU, Patrick S. WARD

    ● Consumer preference for environmentally-friendly beverage packaging was investigated.

    ● Consumers are willing to pay a premium for post-consumer recycled materials.

    ● Environmental information and green identity labels have synergistic effect on consumer willingness to pay.

    ● Product unit size seems irrelevant in most consumer decisions.

    This study examined whether urban Chinese consumers with stronger environmental values have higher valuations for plastic beverage bottles that are made of post-consumer recycled material (rPET) or that come in large sizes that use plastic more efficiently. It also assesses the effectiveness of environmental information provision and green identity labeling in increasing consumer willingness to pay for environmentally-friendly packaging. The results suggest that urban Chinese consumers are willing to pay a premium for rPET bottles, indicating that there is a potential market for rPET food and beverage packaging in China that calls for manufacturing guidelines, safety standards, or regulations. Providing environmental information and attaching green identity labels increases consumer valuations of rPET bottles, with their joint use exerting the largest effect. Pro-environmental consumers are more responsive to environmental information and green identity labeling and thus are willing to pay a higher premium for rPET bottles. However, in terms of choosing large bottles as a means to reduce plastic use in product packaging, consumers were found to be indifferent about plastic bottle sizes even after receiving environmental information. It is suggested that the inconvenience of carrying or storing large bottles might have offset their perceived environmental benefits.

    Eugenio DÍAZ-BONILLA

    ● The analysis of financing for the transformation of food systems requires first a consideration of costs.

    ● Costs are then compared to six main financial flows, two internal and four external to food systems.

    ● There are enough potential financial resources available to fund the transformation of food systems.

    ● To mobilize the existing and potential funds adequate macroeconomic and overall incentive frameworks are needed, plus a variety of specific interventions discussed in the paper.

    ● Developing countries need to establish national structures to design, finance and coordinate comprehensive national programs for their food systems.

    The paper provides a review of the work on financing the transformation of food systems done by the author and colleagues at IFPRI. The analysis discusses the objectives of that transformation (related to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement) and shows estimates of the costs involved. Then it presents an evaluation of the existing financial flows and their potential scaling up, using a broader view of six main flows involved: two that are internal to food systems (consumer expenditures on food and related items, which are the main source of revenue (as sales) for the variety of actors on the supply side of food systems); and four that are external (international development funds, public budgets, banking systems, and capital markets). The paper notes that although current funding does not reach the scale needed to finance the desired transformation of food systems, there are sufficient potential financial resources available in the aggregate to achieve such transformation. However, to mobilize the existing potential funds the paper discussed several things that need to be done, starting with an adequate macroeconomic and overall incentive framework to guide both the internal flows related to consumption and production decisions, as well as the four external ones. The paper also suggested other possible interventions to mobilize, reorient, and increase the financial flows to the desired objectives. It further noted that the costs and financing, which in the paper were discussed at the global level, must be estimated at the country level, as part of the design and implementation of adequate national plans for equitable, healthy and sustainable food systems.

    Gert-Jan STADS, Alejandro NIN-PRATT, Keith WIEBE, Timothy B. SULSER, Rui BENFICA

    ● Global public and private agricultural R&D spending has increased since 2000.

    ● Agri-food R&D drives productivity growth, but underinvestment in R&D persists.

    ● Agri-food R&D will need to address objectives beyond productivity.

    ● R&D investment in climate adaptation alleviates the impacts of climate change.

    ● Greater cross-country coordination and integration of agri-food R&D is essential.

    Research is essential for improvement of agricultural productivity, resource use and resilience, and for food systems transformation more broadly. This article analyzes the drivers of past agricultural productivity growth in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and argues that productivity is not growing fast enough to meet the needs of a global population of 10 billion by 2050. A sustainable transformation of agri-food systems in LMICs will need greater and faster technical change. Higher investment in agri-food R&D is therefore needed to accelerate productivity growth and address the social, economic, nutritional and environmental challenges facing LMICs. Greater and better-targeted investment in sustainable technologies and climate change mitigation and adaptation will be particularly important to reducing the climate change impacts on agriculture and food security in the coming decades. However, LMICs with small research systems and limited innovation capacity lack the scale and resources to effectively tackle the challenges ahead. Better coordination and a clear articulation of roles and responsibilities among national, subregional, regional and global R&D actors (both from the public and private sectors) are essential to ensuring that scarce financial, human, and infrastructure resources are optimized, duplications minimized, and synergies and complementarities enhanced.

    Yifeng ZHANG, Chunfang YANG, Bright OBUOBI, Martin Kobby GRANT

    ● The choice of a modern agriculture project was found to be rational for professional farmers to reduce interference from non-market factors. The success of this project is due to its capacity to successfully fill the structural hole in the market transaction network.

    ● Professional farmers were shown to start their businesses by occupying the ‘self-benefit’ or ‘mutual-benefit’ structural hole of the market transaction network in economically developed areas.

    ● Professional farmers were found to occupy the organizational-governance structural hole of the rural social relationship network and the ‘mutual-benefit’ structural hole of the market network to start their businesses in traditional agricultural areas.

    A comparative multi-case analysis of professional farmer entrepreneurship cases in China was performed by applying the structural hole theory. The results confirmed four views. (1) Choosing the modern agriculture project entrepreneurship is rational for professional farmers, who return from urban, to reduce the interference from non-market factors. The success of this project stems from its ability to successfully occupy the structural hole of the market trading network. (2) In economically developed areas, professional farmers start their businesses and reduce transaction costs with factors by occupying ‘self-benefit’ or ‘mutual-benefit’ structural holes in market networks. (3) In traditional agricultural areas, for reducing factor transaction costs, professional farmers occupy the organizational-governance structural hole of rural social relationship networks and the mutual-benefit structural hole of market networks to start their businesses. (4) The embedding order of these two structural holes will change depending on the differences in the local resource endowment. This article proposes some suggestions to encourage professional farmers to develop featured agricultural projects, build a close benefit-linked mechanism with smallholders through the provision of socialized services, and participate in the governance of rural communities.

    Jianxiang XU