Assessment of current status and modeling of future capacity for land based food self-reliance in southwest British Columbia

Project Lead: Caitlin Dorward
Project Type: Thesis, MSc Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems
Supervisors: Dr. Sean Smukler, Dr. Kent Mullinix
Project Partner: Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (SWBC Bioregional Food System Design Project)


There is growing awareness that climate change, economic instability, resource limitations and population growth are profoundly impacting the capacity of the contemporary global food system to meet human nutrition needs. Although there is widespread recognition that food systems must evolve in the face of these issues, a polarized debate has emerged around the merit of global-verses-local approaches to this evolution. Local food system advocates argue that increasing food self-reliance will concomitantly benefit human health, the environment, and local economies, while critics argue that only a globalized system will produce enough calories to efficiently and economically feed the world. This debate largely takes place in absence of knowledge of the current food self-reliance status of specific regions and capacity to increase it in the future. This study addressed this knowledge gap by developing methods to assess current (2011) status and model future (2050) capacity for land based food self-reliance in a diet satisfying nutritional recommendations and food preferences that accounts for seasonality of crop production, and comparing self-reliance in livestock raised with and without locally produced feedstocks. The methods were applied to the southwest British Columbia bio-region (SWBC). Results indicated that SWBC production of feed and food grain is a major constraint on self-reliance. Total dietary self-reliance of SWBC was 12% in 2011 if discounting livestock feed imports or 40% if including them. Self-reliance could be increased in 2050 in a Localized food system in which crops are allocated to agricultural lands in a manner that maximizes food self-reliance, but not in a Business as Usual (BAU) food system in which crop and livestock production follows 2011 patterns. The average of nine modeled scenarios for 2050 food self-reliance in the Localized food system was 26% if discounting livestock feed imports or 44% if including livestock raised with imported feed, and in the BAU food system was 8% and 23% respectively. Analysis revealed that both food systems are more sensitive to changes in farmland availability than climate change-induced changes in crop yield. Land use results indicate that horticultural crop production would dominate farmland use in a scenario of increased food self-reliance.

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