Virtual Webshop Focuses on Food Systems, Shocks, and Actions
Between October 12 and 16, more than 1,000 people gathered online for the AgMIP8 Virtual Webshop, which discussed the challenges and opportunities for making our food system more resilient. The event was hosted by the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), a global community of agricultural modelers.
The free, virtual event had over 1,000 registrants and encouraged involvement amongst those new to food systems as well as experts within agriculture and nutrition fields. It showcased three themes central to AgMIP’s research and development — food systems, shocks, and actions — plus health and nutrition, modeling, environmental stresses, and resilience.
AgMIP8 featured panels with informative presentations, collaborative small-group discussions, single-day workshops, and team sessions on all aspects of food system modeling for human and planetary health. The five-day-long program was organized by the AgMIP Coordination Unit, which is based within the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, AgMIP co-founder and executive committee member, stated, “The AgMIP8 Webshop followed a ‘double helix’ approach to the three themes, bringing together food system modelers and stakeholders to advance resilience to the global systemic shocks posed by COVID-19 and climate change. This intertwined pathway of science and action is needed now to scale up and speed up responses.”
Food systems are highly vulnerable to weather shocks and climate change. AgMIP supports activities that build global and regional capacity for integrated food system assessments of these shocks. These assessments provide testbeds for rapidly scaled-up food, nutrition, and health strategies in the face of climate change.
Carolyn Mutter, AgMIP international program manager and researcher at the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research, said that it was valuable to hear about AgMIP scientists’ research innovations, as well as key challenges and opportunities from outside experts.
“I really liked hearing the term ‘precision conservation’,” said Mutter, “as a way for farmers to diversify and receive credit for not only what they grow, but also what they choose to nurture in terms of ecosystems, soil health, and/or other processes that contribute to a broader set of possible goals, as growers.”
Agricultural shocks undermine the societal stability, leading to disruptions in income, market, and health issues. Understanding stressors, tipping points, and interventions can help make society more resilient to current and future shocks. AgMIP develops probabilistic projections of climate shocks for multi-disciplinary and action-oriented research.
Alex Ruane, AgMIP science coordinator, explained that “COVID-19, droughts, pest outbreaks, floods, and severe storms have each hammered regional and global food systems in recent years, and the AgMIP community is identifying modeling capabilities and assessing storyline scenarios to provide early warning and forewarning of food shocks and their cascading implications on vulnerable populations around the world.”
“This webshop showed the tremendous progress already made and vast potential for continuing research and applications in the years ahead,” said Ruane.
The workshop also shared strategies for translating agricultural research and modeling into tangible actions. Actions are enabled through collaborative innovation between experts in climate, agriculture, health, trade, security and aid. By bringing together experts in these different fields, the AgMIP community advances approaches to address food system challenges and facilitate transformation of the food system.
All live sessions from the AgMIP8 Virtual Webshop have been recorded and are now available on the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project website, in addition to details about AgMIP’s next event, which will be held from June 7 – 11, 2021.
Maria Dombrov is a research staff assistant at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research and a collaborator for the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP).