Ecosystem Services and Food Security: Economic Perspectives on Environmental Sustainability

December 1, 2010 - Author: Robert B. Richardson

IDWP 110. Robert B. Richardson. 2010. Ecosystem Services and Food Security: Economic Perspectives on Environmental Sustainability

Food security in developing countries depends in part on the sustainable use of natural
resources. Food security is usually examined through three dimensions, namely the
availability, access, and utilization of food. Ecosystems directly and indirectly support each
of these dimensions through the provision of critical ecosystem services that facilitate
agricultural production, create income-generating opportunities, and provide energy for
cooking. However, in some cases, household uses of natural resources undermine particular
elements of food security, hindering national poverty reduction strategies and threatening the
sustainability of critical ecosystem functions. I examine the role of ecosystem services in
rural food security through the lens of its three dimensions, and highlight the tensions that
stem from household-level interactions and uses. In some cases, uses of resources and
services that support the access and utilization dimensions may undermine the ecosystem
functions that support food availability. The conclusions underscore the importance for the
integration of ecosystem services into food security plans and poverty reduction strategies in
developing countries.


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