2021 Turner Prize nominees Cooking Sections and researchers from the Jameel Observatory host meeting at COP26 to discuss food systems
On the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, a vibrant meeting explored new approaches to sustaining food systems, fusing data science and contemporary art to engage policymakers from Kenya, the UK and beyond.
The meeting was hosted by the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action, a research centre in Kenya, and 2021 Turner Prize-nominees Cooking Sections, at the Engine Works, a former Glasgow steelworks. The meeting explored the role of innovation and data science in sustaining food systems and tackling climate-induced food insecurity. It also analysed the impact of food security on vulnerable agricultural communities, examining how data and forecasting can equip policymakers to prepare the world for climate change.
At the meeting, Cooking Sections, comprised of the London-based artists Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernández Pascual, whose installation at the TATE Britain this year highlighted the relationship between how we eat and the climate emergency, delivered a special presentation and a dinner to explore how food systems are changing due to climate change. The menu they developed embodied the concept of ‘CLIMAVORE’, or climate-responsive consumption, which aims to redefine how we produce, interact with, and consume food in response to climate change.
The meeting was an opportunity for policymakers to engage with scientists and humanitarian leaders – such as Elizabeth Adobi Okwuosa, a soil scientist at the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Organization, a Kenyan national research institution; Professor Julie Fitzpatrick OBE, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Scottish government; and Kundhavi Kadiresan, Managing Director, Global Engagement & Innovation, CGIAR; as well as key Jameel Observatory partners, including the University of Edinburgh, Save the Children, and Community Jameel. The Jameel Observatory is piloting an evidence-based approach to monitoring, forecasting, and giving early warnings of outbreaks of hunger, initially in Kenya and Somalia.
The Jameel Observatory was established in Kenya in September 2021 by the University of Edinburgh, Save the Children, Community Jameel, the International Livestock Research Institute (part of CGIAR), and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.
George Richards, Director of Community Jameel and a speaker at the meeting, said: “This meeting aimed to examine the impact of the climate emergency on food production, and to reiterate the importance of cross-disciplinary solutions to addressing these challenges. As an organisation grounded in evidence and science, Community Jameel will continue to support scientists and researchers to translate their discoveries and innovations into tangible solutions capable of effecting lasting positive impact on the world.”
Alan Duncan, Professor of Livestock and Development at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Livestock has been central to the livelihoods of pastoral people for millennia. While they tend to be viewed as harmful to the environment due to their GHG emissions, the greater concern for pastoral communities in East Africa are the threats to lives and livelihoods that climate change will bring. This meeting allowed us to explore the ways in which responsible consumption can curb the harms of climate change while reflecting on the impact of climate change on food availability.”
Gwen Hines, CEO of Save the Children UK, said: “There has never been a more urgent time for us to step up and address the persistent inequalities that are being exacerbated by the climate crisis, and particularly the impact on food security and livelihoods in communities across the Horn of Africa.
“It’s imperative we invest more time and money into developing practical solutions that will help to put pastoral and agricultural communities across East Africa back in charge of their lives, from improving data collection and analysis, to investing in social resilience solutions that are uniquely focused on children.
“One of the travesties of international action when crises hit is that it often comes too late - after communities have given up their livestock, sold assets, or adjusted their diets. This meeting brought together leading actors in this sector to explore how we can work more collaboratively to act earlier and develop a blueprint for replicating similar models in other communities around the world that are bearing the brunt of climate-related food and nutrition insecurity.”