Just four crops (maize, rice, wheat, and soybean) provide over 60% of the world’s food. This is a challenge now and a huge risk in the future. Can we be sure that, by themselves, a few “major” crops will nourish over 9 billion people on a warming planet? Our reliance on major crops makes our global food supply extremely vulnerable to climate change. Their failure to yield in major food-exporting regions would render large parts of the global population susceptible to food insecurity. Sayed Azam-Ali has spent his life addressing this problem. As Professor of Global Food Security at the University of Nottingham and CEO of Crops for the Future, he advocates the diversification of global agriculture to include crops that are currently underutilised but have the potential to be “crops of the future”. The rediscovery and consumption of so-called “forgotten foods” can help break the wall of food insecurity. Combined with new agricultural practices, processing methods and policies, the demand for forgotten foods can make the global food system more resilient to climate change, our diets more nutritious, and our food cultures more interesting. Furthermore, greater crop diversity allows farmers to cultivate “climate-resilient” crops that produce nutritious and marketable ingredients on landscapes that are increasingly marginal for the major species. At Falling Walls, Sayed discusses how crop diversification and forgotten foods are a true game changer and provides a glimpse into his relentless work to make humanity’s food supply more independent, resilient, and nutritious.
Sayed Azam-Ali is the Chief Executive Officer of Crops For the Future – the world’s first centre dedicated to research on underutilised crops for food and non-food uses. The essential problem tackled by Sayed is that, currently, only four major crops provide over 60 percent of the world’s food. This extreme lack of diversity in agriculture carries severe risks for global food supply, especially for a rising global population in a hotter, more volatile world. To alleviate these risks, Sayed aims to unravel the potential of currently underutilised crops to diversify the global food basket with nutritious crops in the face of climate change. Sayed also holds the Chair in Global Food Security at the University of Nottingham and is Chair of the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture (AIRCA), a nine-member alliance focussed on increasing global food security by supporting smallholder agriculture within healthy sustainable and climate-smart landscapes.