GECAFS (2005) Science Plan and Implementation Strategy. Earth System Science Partnership (IGBP, IHDP, WCRP, DIVERSITAS) Report No. 2; 36pp, Wallingford.
GECAFS was launched in 2001 as an international, interdisciplinary research project to better understand the relationships between Global Environmental Change (GEC) and food security. GECAFS is a Joint Project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). GECAFS also has formal research partnerships with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). GECAFS’ goal is to determine strategies to cope with the impacts of global environmental change on food systems and to assess the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of adaptive responses aimed at improving food security. GECAFS undertakes research that not only studies food security in the context of GEC but also feedbacks from adaptation strategies to the Earth System.
GECAFS has been developed with two essential principles in mind:
Principle 1: GECAFS research must concentrate on integrative issues of common interest to all three sponsoring Programmes and develop research questions where interdisciplinarity is required.
Principle 2: GECAFS research must draw together and build on relevant aspects of each Programme’s
Core Projects and, by linking these with appropriate inputs from other organisations, set them in a broader context of coupled human-environment systems. GECAFS addresses three major questions of interest to science, development and society:
(i) How will global environmental change affect the vulnerability of food systems in different regions?
(ii) How can we adapt food systems to cope with global environmental change and improve food security?
(iii) How will various adaptation options feedback on environmental and socioeconomic conditions?
To answer these questions, GECAFS is developing a portfolio of conceptual and methodological research closely linked to a set of regional projects. The conceptual and methodological research employs international research networks. They bring together and synthesise relevant, high-quality research from around the world to improve understanding on four key topics:
(i) Food systems research: to improve understanding of food systems suitable for GEC research.
(ii) Vulnerability research: to integrate social science and natural science concepts of what makes a food system vulnerable.
(iii) Scenario research: to determine how to construct the comprehensive scenarios needed for GECAFS regional research.
(iv) Decision support research: to determine how best to improve dialogue between scientists and policy-makers on environment and food issues.
Regional research consists of a few regionally-based projects representing a range of major GEC issues and food systems. These projects are designed at the sub-continental scale, which is an important spatial scale for food security, food system research and GEC considerations. The initial regional GECAFS projects are:
The research programme is being implemented in three phases.
Phase I (2003-05) entailed a series of scoping exercises to define researchable issues and prepare initial research proposals.
Phase II (2005-08) will deliver interim methods and tools:
(i) An analytical framework to help assess food system sensitivities to GEC, based on food availability, access and utilisation.
(ii) Analytical methods to assess the factors that make food systems vulnerable to GEC, and to assess policy and management options to reduce risk of damage from GEC, and/or options to better deal with environmental stresses caused by GEC;
(iii) Region-specific scenarios of future socioeconomic, ecological and environmental conditions involving food systems;
(iv) Decision support systems to communicate GEC issues to policy-makers and to analyse how different adaptation options for food systems may then affect the environment, society and economies; and
(v) Assessment of several regional food systems, their vulnerability to GEC and their policy contexts for possible adaptation options.
Phase III (2008-11) will deliver the longer-term GECAFS objectives:
(i) Understand how GEC will additionally affect food security in different regions and among different socio-economic groups;
(ii) Determine how different societies might adapt their food systems to cope with both GEC and changing demands for food;
(iii) Assess how strategies designed to cope with GEC and changing demands for food will affect the environment, societies and economies; and
(iv) Provide information and research findings in formats that help better policy-making for food systems in the context of GEC.