Please login or create an account to join the discussion.

Transcript for

Episode 1: Ken Giller on the Food Security Conundrum

[Intro music]

Matthew  00:05

Debates about the future food have become more polarized than ever, and little attention is paid to why people hold genuinely different beliefs.

Samara  00:13

We are here to fill this gap by exploring the evidence, worldviews and values that people bring the global food system debates.

Matthew  00:21

Welcome to feed a podcast in conversation with those who are trying to transform the food system. I'm Matthew Kessler.

Samara  00:28

And I'm Samara Brock, and we've been engaging with these issues for years for our work on farms, around policy tables, and at universities.

Matthew  00:38

This show is presented by TABLE, a food systems collaboration between the University of Oxford, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Wageningen University.

Samara  00:45

So Matthew, what's on the table today?

Matthew  0:52

Welcome to Episode One. We're joined today by Dr. Ken Giller, expert on smallholder farming.

Ken  0:56

You talk about scale, we can see that coming in all the way up and all the way down again, from the field to the globe and back and those influences are so critical to understand.

Matthew  01:11

Welcome to Episode One. Before we dive into my conversation with Ken, since we call ourselves a food system podcast, we thought it'd be useful to have a quick chat on what is a food system.

Hey Samara, how are you feeling?

Samara  01:26

I’m Okay, Matthew, how are you?

Matthew  01:28

Pretty good. You know, I've been thinking, how do you describe what you do to people who work in a completely different field?

Samara  01:33

Like to people who aren't involved in food systems work at all?

Matthew  01:37

Exactly. When I worked on farms, explaining what I do was a bit more straightforward. But when I told people I worked with and researched food systems, that's where I really lost people.

Samara  01:46

You know, it's interesting, because I feel like people used to talk a lot about agriculture and different issues like organics and fair trade. And it hasn't been until recently that people have really taken up the idea of a food system. And I actually think there's some very different ways of defining what that is.

Matthew  02:04

How would you describe the food system?

Samara  02:07

I mean, for me, because it's kind of what my research revolves around. I try not to define it. Because I actually want to hear about how different people define it. Because I think that really matters to how we think about how to intervene in a food system to change it.

Matthew  02:23

Can you give a few examples of what you mean?

Samara  02:25

So I come across a lot of different things like when people talk about a food system singular, as in the global food system. Other people talk about food systems, plural, as in multiple systems that are related to one another, and are happening all over the world. Some people talk about nested systems. So something that starts at a smaller scale and goes up and up and up and up.

Ken  02:45

So we look at the crop, the field, the farm, the farming system, the region, the globe.

Samara  02:53

So when you are explaining to people that you work for a food systems initiative, and they ask you what a food system is, what do you say?

Matthew  03:02

Well, in order to answer what is a food system, I start with thinking about a farm and a farming system, because people are a little more familiar with that. So if you think about the farming system, you think about the boundary of a farm, which might come to the edge of the property. But of course, things are crossing that boundary all the time. So you have things like farm inputs, like seeds, and fuel and fertilizers and pesticides, that's leaving and entering the farm. Even the water that flows onto a farm belongs to a larger watershed. And then you have carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus that are part of these biogeochemical cycles that are also moving around the farm. And then of course, you have labor on the farm, and you have money that's coming and going. But, this doesn't even cover all food production, you can think about food being grown, not only on a farm, but also being cultivated or harvested in the wild - in the forest, in the sea -or even grown in a lab.

Samara 3:55

Right and the food system looks very different depending on where you live. You have different regional food cultures, diets and traditions, and processes of globalization impacting places differently over time.

Matthew 4:06

And if you look at the consumer side, the food that you eat might come from down the road, or from 1000s of miles away. And there's all these processes involved that contribute to getting the food on your plate. And that includes processing, transportation of these agricultural products and inputs, and also dealing with food waste.

Samara  04:22

Exactly. So it becomes a really complex picture. I think it the system's way of thinking about food and agriculture. I think a lot of people see a benefit in moving away from traditional discussions around agriculture that sort of get siloed into production and want to look more expansively at issues of environmental and health impacts of food. Hence, I think they're drawn to this idea of a food system that looks at all of these various issues. And all of these various players in food systems.

Matthew  04:53


Samara  04:22

I think people also find the food system concept useful to think through things like negative and positive feedback loops and to look at leverage points where one might most effectively intervene in a system to change it. And at a more meta-level to think through what kinds of paradigms shape systems and how those might change. All with understanding, as Donella Meadows would say, that systems can’t be controlled but they can be redesigned in an ongoing and iterative way through careful attention – or as she phrases it, through dancing with systems! 

Matthew  05:20

And earlier you asked what a food system is, and what I should have said is, that it's really hard to explain because it connects to every part of society and the environment. 40% of the global population is part of the Agri-food system in one way or another. So even though the total number of farms are decreasing. And of course, this is happening at different rates around the globe. people's interest in food and the number of livelihoods involved in the agri-food supply chain are growing. So these are really complex topics that will continue to unpack with our guests. And for some of these conversations, Samara and I will be speaking with the guests together, though, for the first few guests. I chatted with them one on one.

And for this episode, I spoke with Dr. Ken Giller. Ken Of course, thinks about the food system from all different angles as an ecologist as a smallholder farming expert, but also as a consumer, so I asked him the hard-hitting question and found out that for breakfast today, he had

Ken  06:06

A really crunchy muesli that takes me ages to chew through.

Matthew 06:10

Ken is a professor of plant production systems at Wageningen University within the Center for agroecology and systems analysis for nearly 20 years. He is a former professor of soil science at University of Zimbabwe. His focus the last 25 years has been on smallholder farming in Sub Saharan Africa. In our conversation today, we talked about the huge diversity of farmers that can be found under the banner of smallholders, what gets lost when translating research into practice, and Ken adds nuance and layers to what he termed the food security conundrum in Sub Saharan Africa.

Ken 06:47

My name is Ken Giller I’m based here in Wageningen, working on plant production systems. And in that we really look at the integration of agricultural knowledge at the farm level and above. So trying to understand if you like farms and farming and how that fits into the global food system.

Matthew 7:04

Ken was trained as an ecologist, something that carried with him throughout his work.

Ken 7:08

After my PhD in ecology, I moved to agricultural research, first of all in South Asia, then Latin America, and then later on a big focus in Africa. So since the mid 1980s, I've been focusing in Africa. And why I think ecology is the perfect background for this is that instead of agricultural systems in Europe, or more intensive systems, we tend to either use a big machine or throw a chemical at a problem. In tropical countries in smallholder systems. We're trying to tailor the system to the environment, and to both a social and technical, ecological environment. And for me, that's what ecology is all about.

Matthew 7:46

Can you explain a little bit about your approach to researching smallholder farming topics?

Ken 7:52

Well, we use very much what I call a systems analysis approach. So using they're almost engineering tools, if you like, of conceptualizing systems at different levels. So we look at the crop, the field, the farm, the farming system, the region, the globe, nested systems, but trying to understand then, particularly the context within which farms operate. So it's really thinking about how is it a farm system actually can operate within its broader social and ecological environment?

Matthew 8:27

And you've been working on this field for quite a while. I was wondering how your research or how different approaches to research practice and policy have changed over time?

Ken 8:36

It’s a good question. I think for many of us, our own career journeys follow a particular path of development of methods as well. And I started off if you like working very much at the crop the field level - looking at agronomy, how to grow crops, and particularly working with nitrogen fixing legumes, because they have this wonderful benefit of being able to bring in nitrogen from the air into the soil and into the crop, into the food. And then I gradually got interested in okay, we could grow them, but how do they fit in then in a rotation, so with other crops and the benefits? And then how did that rotation fit in with the farm? And then how did that farm fit in with the region and gradually then moved on, if you like, from being at one point in my career, I was called a soil microbiologist because we were dealing with the bacteria involved with the crop. So right at that macro level, to the point now where we're really looking at, you know, how the global food systems function and where's the role of farming within that. So it's been a personal journey, but also a methodological journey, I'd say, as we've gone through that whole process.

Matthew 9:41

We're going to talk a bit about setting the table and setting up the context for your research which concerns among other things the future of smallholder farming. I personally, I've been working in the food system space both as a small scale farmer and as a researcher over a decade now. And I still don't have a clear picture of the state of smallholders around the world, can you help set the scene for us?

Ken 10:05

So I've got a lot of these statistics in my head, because we're going through a whole series of dialogues at the moment, but we talk about something in the order of 475 million so nearly 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide in total, that's around 3 billion people involved in those households, and that's getting on for half the world's population more than 40% of the world's population. So it's a huge number of people. And in a sense, asking the question that you asked is, it's an impossible question to answer because, of course, it's such a diverse group, and nearly everything that we say to try and characterize things fails in one direction or another. So I think we've got to be really careful of generalizations that they can be, they can be dangerous. And because of course, in one place, we lord family farming, or smallholder farming as a perfect livelihood. In other places, it can be a desperate situation of poverty and desperation for people. So it's, it's really hard to say “This is the state.”

Matthew 11:06

Can you maybe share some examples of some of the ways in which it fails to characterize the heterogeneity of different smallholder populations?

Ken 11:15

For instance, in Brazil, where many of the farms are very large, any what's called a family farm, which is really classed a small scale farm will be anything around 50 hectares or below whereas in a recent debate, I heard that in India, 40% of smallholders have less than .05 hectares, I mean, almost a postage stamp vegetable garden, but very important for them all the same. And we shouldn't, we shouldn't forget that. So what we put under one banner is a huge breath of diversity in all aspects.

Matthew 11:54

That's quite a difference. Imagine there are a lot of challenges and thinking about what policies and different technological solutions to implement, to move towards a more sustainable future. Can you share an example from your past that explores the differences between theoretical solutions and your practical experience working with farmers?

Ken 12:12

I got involved in particularly in the early 90s, working with a program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in southern Africa, where we were working with smallholders, across Malawi, in Zimbabwe, also in Zambia, to some extent. And we have these fantastic technologies, which we could prove work super, on a small scale with a few farmers, but you saw very little, say, autonomous uptake or spreading of those technologies among smallholders. And of course, you sit and you talk with the farmers and you ask them why. And you start to learn more about their background and their hopes and their aspirations and how their farming system if you like, fits into a bigger picture.

And that really led me realize that we've got, if you like the technologies to boost production, and they can be, if you like, intensive inputs on the one hand, of course, we could use, you know, a lot of fertilizer, pesticides, whatever. We've got also more biologically based approaches using nitrogen fixing legumes that I was focused on. But none of these things really seem to be taking off spontaneously. And then you have to question why. And that's really where we were my own work, then move to focus very much on the broader environment and trying to understand the farming systems and how they fit in a bigger picture,

Matthew 13:31

And helping to paint the context to and Sub Saharan Africa. Can you speak to some of the context of addressing the yield gap and maybe explain to people what yield gap refers to?

Ken 13:41

Sure. We know from both experimental work in the field, but also from our computer models, which can tell us what the potential for production is in a different area, we can set what we call a benchmark potential yield for a given crop. And that yield, say for a crop like maize, which is a very important staple in Africa can be in the order of something around eight to 10 or more tons of grain per hectare, but current production in smallholder fields is very often much less than that often one 10th of that, to be honest, closer to one term, or one half tons per hectare. And the gap between the actual yield and what could be produced and locally is what we call the yield gap.

Matthew 14:26

And what do you attribute some of the yield gap to would that be the type of farming, the soil conditions, the varieties being grown?

Ken 14:35

So this is then when we move into a slightly multi layered answer, if you don't mind. So in a given field, it's really down, if you like too often to inputs itself into soil fertility, so the nutrient availability. But of course, in order to make the most of any nutrients you put on, you have to use what we call best management practices. So that means you're sowing at the right time, the right crop density using good genotypes. So good seed. Seed of a variety that can respond well to inputs. And doing all of those things at the right time depends on having the labor to do it. So of course, that can lead to delays if you like, because people have got their attention on other things, which means that they're not always doing things if you'd like at the prescribed time. So a yield gap is nearly always the result of a number of things, often the limit of the resources in terms of inputs - a limit, potentially, of the technology available to a farmer, and then often then a limit related to the availability in terms of labor, in order to carry out the management practices that are needed in terms of planting, weeding everything in a timely fashion.

Matthew 15:50

And how about in terms of both population growth and arable land availability? How does that fit into the context of food security?

Ken 15:58

We've been talking so far about yield gap at the field level, if we think about the farm level, we have to think about what a family needs. And then we're often using this concept these days of a living income. So living income is a decent income that can actually provide food, but also enough money for education, health, shelter, the basic human rights effectively. And we find often that the area of the farm is so small now that even if you were to fill the yield gap, and to get optimal production, the area of land still constrains the potential income that a farmer or household could earn, so that they can't actually reach that level of what we'd call a decent income. And in many cases, that they actually remain even beyond the poverty line. You asked, a second part of the question was, was talking about population growth. And whereas, population has started to stall in Southeast Asia, it's actually plateaued in China quite some time ago, in India, also plateauing. And generally, in South Asia, reaching a plateau in the next 10 to 20 years. In Africa, population growth is still going on an exponential curve. So it's really increasing very, very rapidly. And when we were in Uganda a couple of years ago, running a farming systems’ course we were talking to local people, we realized that the median age in the country is 15.2 years. So we've got this huge youthful population, all looking for opportunities, but actually, of course, putting in increased pressure on all of the land available. And because farms tend to be subdivided among the offspring, that means that farms are getting smaller and smaller in many parts of Africa.

Matthew 17:48

And that's, that's some really helpful context. You've recently coined this phrase, the food security conundrum, can you explain what you mean by this phrase?

Ken 17:55

Yeah, sure. It was actually I was in Cape Town a couple of years ago, just about to deliver a presentation at the global food security conference. And I was struggling with a way of trying to get over the complexity, if you like, of my ideas. And of course, a conundrum is a question for which there's no simple answer. And what I see is, is this sort of multi layered problem where the countries in Africa definitely need to boost their product, their agricultural production to meet the demands of a growing population. So both the urban population and the rural population, and we need more nutritious food to meet the Sustainable Development Goal number two of zero hunger. At the same time, we've got lots of farmers out there who are producing very little in the sense that they have these huge yield gaps. So there's the opportunity, we've got the demand in terms of demand of the growing population, we've got the opportunity in terms of being able to boost production, but at the same time, the incentives for those households to actually take on these technologies. And we know that we can, we've got the technologies to boost yield, that the incentives are simply not there because the farms are too small. And so farmers or other members of the household, you know, whether we're talking about the man and a woman, and very often the women are responsible for the production of many of their food crops, their attention tends to be actually off the farm looking for ways of earning money off the farm, rather than focusing on closing these yield gaps and boosting production. So you've got the opportunity. You've got the in terms of both the demand of the market and then the yield gap, but we've got the constraint in terms that what I call many farmers being reluctant farmers, if they were given the choice, they'd be working in a in a paid job, which gives it the guarantee of a regular income. And they don't have to rely on the vagaries of the weather, if you like for their food and income.

Matthew 19:59

That's a little taster of Ken's article, the food security conundrum in Sub Saharan Africa, published in the Journal of global food security in September 2020. We'll link to the article in our show notes. And on our website, I then asked him to speak about scale in the food system and how small scale farmers are influenced by a globalized food system

Ken 20:17

in terms of this, this problem, and it's one that you see, well, where which level, if we say the level in that farming systems hierarchy, where are the constraints, and I would argue that that they are multi layered. So at the field level, we've got the constraint of the inputs. But of course, then at the farm level, we've got the constraint of the limited resources or the income of the farmer, and where they choose to place those so they could feel that yield gap, or they could invest in their kids’ education, or maybe they can't do both, and which would they choose?

And then moving up one level, we think about, well, okay, if we want to address this problem, we can do that through another approach, which is looking at cooperatives or farmer organizations. So we look then more at the institutional level, the level of the governance of the food system locally, and whether we can change policies at a local level, or create opportunities through collective action. And then we move up, of course, then to the national level. And then within that national level, there are the national policies, but if a country decides on a particular policy around food system, I mean, it could be a fertilizer subsidy or a direct cash payments or something, then we often suffer the problem that the countries around have a different policy. So there's a leakage across the border or whatever, of of inputs, which are being subsidized, but sold off.

And so you can't actually avoid the fact that the country operates within a broader international system right up to the level of the global food system. And to be honest, in our discussions about the global food system, I think that we're often failing ourselves by not recognizing that that global food system operates in a broader political and economic system, which is all governed around so called free trade, but it's often really biased towards the subsidies for, you know, bigger producers in more wealthy countries, which means then that global food prices are depressed to the point that those food prices back in the developing countries are right at rock bottom. And again, you can argue that's good, because that means that cheap foods available, but at the same time, there's little incentive to produce it locally, because it's being imported at a rock bottom price. So you talk about scale, we can see that coming in all the way up. And all the way down again, if you like from the field to the globe and back. And those influences is so critical to understand.

Matthew 22:42

Thanks for painting that context. And also the myriad of challenges associated with working with smallholder populations and some of the challenges they face. I'd like to turn now to some of the solutions and thinking about what are the solutions and how to implement them. And in your article, you've suggested that we need some out of the box thinking. But before we get to that, out of the box thinking, I'd like to explore some of the different perspectives or camps that people align themselves with when thinking about solutions.

Ken 23:12

You know, when I come back to in many ways is, is that I really think that we have to escape from dogma, if you like and signing up to these are the rules, this is how it should be done. And again, that's partly because of this huge diversity of backgrounds in terms of people's cultures, the economic situations, the agroecological situations, you name it. So I think we tend to romanticize very much the idea of smallholder farming at one level, and many smallholder farmers, smallholder households would would prefer if you like, a much more regular form of income. Whether that's, you know, if you sit and talk to many households, I mean, nearly always, you say, well, you know, what would you like for your children, and they say, well, we'd love them to be - to get a good education have a job as a doctor or a nurse or a teacher or salary of employment, which in a sense takes away that risk of farming, but at the same time, they're not going to route and leave directly because that is their rural home and the farm and land has a very different meaning than just a productive resource.

So you very often find that there are different signals, which almost seem contradictory at times. So whereas you know, people can't earn a living from the farm directly. They're not going to give up that land because that could well be the place that they'll retire to. Once they've worked in city for some months or years, and then they would retire there. Later in life, it's often the rural home where their ancestors are buried, and therefore they're very attached. So I don't think we can imagine that, as in Europe and other countries, you know, what we've seen in the past is basically a mass migration, just to urban areas, people will continue to live in rural areas. And we should actually rethink a bit about how we invest in those rural areas, going back to, you know, your ideas, your questions are related to other perspectives,

Matthew  25:17

Thinking about maybe some of the different dogmatic perspectives, because I think at TABLE, what we're trying to do, is to reach out to people who might have more extreme views and put them in conversation with others. And certainly, you're someone who sees a lot of this different nuance, and both perhaps the good and the bad of these different solutions, which camps do you think would be good if they were in conversation with each other?

Ken 25:39

Sure. So you know, maybe I should come clean myself and tell you what, you know, which side of the fence or which fence do I sit, You know, I spent nearly all my career working on if you like, biological solutions to do problems, food production. So you know, nitrogen fixation, intercropping agroforestry, all these wonderful approaches, if you like, to diversifying and intensifying production, but at the same time, I can't actually sign up to the sort of strict agroecological camp, because I don't think we can boost production in Africa without adding phosphorus, we can get a lot of the nitrogen from the air through legumes, but those legumes can't grow without phosphorus. And we've done lots of studies trying to look at, you know, recycling of animal manures. And everything, everything tells us that there's just not enough phosphorus in the system.

So I end up coming back to the idea well, yes, we can use all of the innovation of those ideas as best we can. But we still need if we're going to have a productive food production system that can meet the needs of the farmers, we need, at the same time, to actually have some basic inputs going into that system to drive production. And I think very often we see, and I think increasingly, some of the big international organizations, FAO, for instance, very much embracing an agroecological position in which you start hearing people are but farmers in Africa who've got to reduce their fertilizer use. And so I wish I wish the farmers had the fertilizer to use and, and so do they very often.

And at the same time, currently, you see a burgeoning of pesticide use in Africa, which is being used in a very indiscriminate way, often using the wrong chemicals against particularly, you know, insecticides against a fungus or a fungicide against an insect. And often used by people with no proper training in the use of the products, so that they're exposing themselves and their children and others directly to toxic chemicals. And I think they're, you know, we need much more judicious and very careful use of technology. And sometimes there are problems like we had the fall army were in Africa a couple of years ago, where people come in with emergency actions to bring in pesticides in a very indiscriminate and very thoughtless way, I think, as a knee jerk reaction to a problem, you know, so I can see both sides of the coin, there are places where you need inputs, there are places where you shouldn't be maybe focusing on inputs in the same way. But I don't think it's for us to come up with a set of dogmatic rules and impose them, we have to work with local people, local communities, local governments, to - in our role can only be support, you know, we don't own the problem. Our role is in no sense, in my view, it's very much through education, helping people to own their problems and take responsibility for them themselves.

Matthew 28:45

Sure, that's I think that's a very respectful approach. But certainly the international community has quite an influence on policies and import and export markets. And I was wondering if you could speak to the policy prescription that some people suggest that we need to focus on international trade and not aid.

Ken 29:05

This is very much part of the mantra of the Dutch government over the past years is moving, if you like from a situation where when I came to the Netherlands nearly 20 years ago from Zimbabwe, where I was professor. Very much the focus was on untied aid. It was all really about aid for very little in agriculture very much education or health. And we weren't allowed to even have long term relationships between Dutch universities and other universities in Africa without going to a tender process each time to avoid us getting if you like into any form of nepotism. Now, we seem to have forgotten all of those wonderful lessons and got to a situation now where a lot of the aid budget from the Netherlands but other countries is being pushed in a direction that you have to have the involvement of Dutch companies. Because that idea then of trade, of building trade and international trade, particularly, will solve some of the problems of development. Now, of course, if you like building markets, building exports can help at one level, but I think we have to question who is it helping? And is it helping the people that we would really want to use development aid for.

I think it's very unlikely that this idea that of trickle down, you know, we get the economy going, and the benefits trickle down to reach the very poor, I think there's very little evidence that that works. And that when we are dealing with projects, which are boosting local production systems, it's very often people who are already, if you like, already on the ladder to intensification are on the ladder to a better investment in a company who are benefiting, and it's not really the poor. But again, I don't think it's an either or approach necessarily, I just think that we need more attention to the social safety nets to social support systems, or to support for, if you like, the poor is the bottom of the pyramid to allow them to take part of some of these broader initiatives. And so I wouldn't say, all right, we have to stop all that immediately. Because there are some benefits. But let's think a bit more blended way, about how we can both boost the agricultural production system at one level to meet if you like export or national demands, but at the same time, look at trying to find better opportunities in terms of livelihoods for the poor.

Matthew 31:28

And I think that makes its way, quite often into the mainstream conversation in this topic, but I was wondering, what are some less attractive or under discussed topics that in your opinion, can actually make a huge difference if either the private and or public sector invested in these particular set of solutions.

Ken 31:47

One of the approaches that I hear discussed is that we need to look for land consolidation, in order to allow farms to grow to the extent that they will be more economic and viable units. So basically, we need to get people away from the land. I think that that in the long term over generations might happen. But I don't think it's something that we should be trying to push or force because those rural homes are very much often the safety net for the households as they are. And we do see some developments around the idea of land consolidation, where in some of the densely populated areas that we work, we see one farmer renting the land from five farms to actually farm it as one unit and making more economic operation of it and simply paying rent to the households who are then in turn, they're essentially looking at employment outside agriculture, or are in in the agricultural value chain, let's say. So I think that there are opportunities there that to see some of these happening. But I think deliberately going in as, as was done in Europe, trying to force if you like farms out of business to make farming more economic, I think that's a rather dangerous approach, because it's likely to have some really nasty spillover effects.

Matthew 34:57

I hear some conversation around the topic of reducing post-harvest losses or creating the appropriate infrastructure that would make it more conducive for small scale farming.

Ken 35:11

And when we talk about solving the food security issue, we talk about this idea of food wedges, if you like this, if you think about it as a broad wedge between what we have in future and what we have now. And that can then be filled in in different ways. I mean, we need to boost production on one hand sure, that we need to reduce loss on the other hand, and we need to look at consumption patterns in the middle. So there are like three different approaches. And definitely a lot could be done around food losses. And particularly in the African system, a lot of that loss is really in post-harvest loss due to post harvest pests in the light for which we do have good technologies and simple ones that have been promoted in the past years of being these double layered bags, what they call pics bags from Purdue University initiative, where basically you can seal a crop the grain in a way that insects can't damage the grain without using chemicals on directly on the grain and that those are very successful and very useful technologies that can be scaled up. But just one caveat, and it's one of the things we've seen is if people have are harvesting too early, and they put their grain into these sealed containers or into seal bags too early - that can actually leads that can actually lead to the development of fungi on the on the grain, which causes aflatoxin problems, which can be toxic, or in extreme cases can be can be lethal, in fact.

Matthew 34:57

yeah, something that we always need to consider as something might sound like a really good solution. And it still might be, but we need to catch it in the right context. And one final question, what knowledge base do you draw from in your own research and work?

Ken 35:11

A fundamental part of my own work is spending time in the field and visiting households seeing things in my own eyes. Now, of course, that's probably led to me having a dreadful carbon footprint over the past few years. But I really believe that without that I would not have the insights into the local systems that I have, and that it's been absolutely crucial in terms of us developing a lot of the approaches. So it's working together with local researchers, local farmers to really understand their production systems and to understand the problems that we should be addressing.

Matthew 35:51

And that wraps our conversation with Ken Giller. Please subscribe to us on whatever platform you listen to your podcasts and if you enjoyed the episode, share the show with your friends, and leave us a review on Apple podcast. Who else should we be speaking to? What topics and food system debates would you like to hear more about? Send us an email to Table is a collaboration of Oxford University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Wageningen University. More information on Ken Giller and the food security conundrum and 1000s of different resources on food systems sustainability issues can be found on our website, Today's episode was edited and mixed by me Matthew Kessler, with special thanks to co-host Samara Brock and our team at Table. Music in this episode by blue dot sessions. We'll be back in your feed in two weeks where I speak to Rob Bailey, director of climate resilience at Marsh & McLennan on the vulnerabilities of global food trade.

Rob Bailey 36:46

The only thing that these things serve to do is push up international prices further and of course and cause more governments to panic and you get this vicious cycle of declining confidence, more panic, more export controls, more hoarding higher prices, etc, etc, etc

Matthew 37:04

Tune in to learn how Rob thinks we can avoid these vicious cycles on the next episode of the Feed podcast.