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Improving the food system in developing countries in a time of climate change (Fall 2015)

The world faces major threats over the next 30 years as global population continues to grow and as the ravages of increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events exact their toll in the food sector, especially in developing countries. Population growth, increased purchasing power and climate threats create needs and opportunities for dramatic intensification of agricultural production by producers who often lack the capacities, assets and linkages to do so. They need to do so in a way that does not itself exacerbate climate change and its drivers, such as through deforestation. Governments, the private sector and development actors are aware that more dramatic and urgent changes are required, but the broader systems in which they participate are not currently set to take on the challenges.

The study group will examine the synergies and tensions facing the private sector and governments looking to tackle developing country food systems challenges and to promote the interests of poor and vulnerable people in so doing. Focusing on a limited set of crops, and specifically efforts to promote greater resilience in the face of climate change, we will establish the basis for improvements to be driven through actions by governments, the private sector, development funders and practitioners, and producers.

The study group will involve three sessions:

  1. What is the problem? Perspectives from different sectors: Food, climate change and development. What are academics, development actors, corporates and investors suggesting is needed to address the challenges and opportunities: including linking adaptation among small scale producers to mitigation efforts such as arresting deforestation; scaling up innovative and adaptive agricultural technologies and practices; donor coordination; and public private (and producer) partnerships? What are the differences in the way corporations and other development actors frame commitments they are making? What are the implications of these framings for meeting the two challenges of sustainable development - meeting the needs of both present and future generations?
  2. What is being done now and how well are we doing? What is currently being tried and tested on-the-ground - case examples (including from my experience) to be shared of inclusive business/shared value business models; innovative technology financing and distribution; social enterprise models; impact investment? What do we know about what is being achieved and how do we know that? What seem to be the best examples to date, and what makes them so good? Why are good innovations not being invested in and adopted at scale?
  3. How can we do better? Improving food ecosystems. We will creatively explore tools and methods that can incentivize governments, companies, investors and producers to engage more deeply and for longer than typical development initiatives to drive systems change in a small sample of key interventions areas (for example adopting more climate resilient varieties, promoting use of more energy efficient production and post-harvest practices). What is needed to improve stakeholders’ abilities to monitor, measure and learn from current initiatives? How do we incentivize adoption and adaptation of what is working at greater scale? What policy and practical tools can encourage improved multi-stakeholder action, how should that be governed and who is to be held accountable and by whom? Who should pay, for what?

Schedule

  • September 28, 2015: 4:00-5:30 pm
  • October 21, 2015: 4:00-5:30 pm 
  • December 4, 2015: 2:00-3:30 pm

Questions? Email scott_leland@harvard.edu

Simon Winter
Simon Winter is TechnoServe’s Senior Vice President of Development.  He is responsible for leading strategy, thought leadership, and business and program development.  He is also responsible for managing and incubating innovative programs, including around capital access for SMEs.  Previously he was Regional Director for Africa. He joined TechnoServe in 2003.  Winter was a management consultant with McKinsey and Company (1998-2003) during which he co-led the firm's international development practice.  He worked as an economic planner for the Botswana government, and a development consultant in Southern Africa.  He started his career with Barclays Bank plc in the UK, Cote d'Ivoire and Australia. Winter is a founding Executive Committee member of the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a Board Member of Root Capital, a steering committee member of the Initiative for Smallholder Finance, and a member of the Transformation Leaders Network of the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture.  Winter originates from the UK and holds a PhD in economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1998, which focused on the development of the manufacturing sector in Zimbabwe.  During his Senior Fellowship, Winter’s research will focus on understanding how we can change the global food system so that it can produce enough to feed the expected growing population in the face of climate change and produce positive impacts on workers and farmers across the system (especially in developing countries).  His faculty sponsor is William C. Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy, and Human Development.  Email: simon_winter@hks.harvard.edu

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M-RCBG Senior Fellow Simon Winter.