JOINING UP: The social and political dimensions

Stephen G. Hughes*, Paul Richards, John A. Bryant, Xiaobai Shen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Although this book project focuses on crop development to meet the challenges posed by climate and climate change we need to recognise that climate is but one of several interlinked factors, which bear on crop productivity and food security. Population increase, demographic changes, resource depletion and loss of agricultural land all combine with climate change to produce a perfect storm. We note that just as exploitation of resources is not evenly spread over the globe, neither is vulnerability to climate change. It is in general the most resource-poor countries that are most at risk and are least able to ameliorate the effects. The situation is further complicated by the considerable agro-sociological differences in respect of seed systems and crop husbandry between the industrial-scale farming systems of the global north and the small and diverse systems, which support livelihoods in the global south. Both represent agro-sociological capital but in very different ways and any breeding of crops in response to climate change needs to take this into account. The range of issues considered extends to environmental justice, power and economic imbalances, differing economic statuses, different demographic structures as well as regulatory provisions and institutional policy. We acknowledge the need to engage the local and traditional knowledge and practices of those who already face extreme climatic challenges and have acquired adaptive capacity. In the context of top-down institutional drivers for adaptive capacity building and bottom-up adaptive capacity acquired through experiential learning we examine the social implications of research and technology. Which properties of plants should we be looking at, where should the research be done and by whom? We need to consider too the possibility of new pathogens in a changing climate and their possible impact on traditional or new crops. The social acceptability of biotechnology approaches is considered as are problems in knowledge sharing and transfer. Finally, we examine socio-political aspects of plant breeding for crop improvement. Who is making the decisions and who benefits? Can formal and informal seed systems work side by side or even be integrated together. Other forms of collaboration and especially farmer participatory plant breeding are then discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConcepts and Strategies
EditorsC. Kole
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9783642370458
ISBN (Print)9783642370441
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


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