On Wednesday I spoke with Bill Pritchard, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences. As a human geographer and researcher into food security, there are few as qualified as Bill to speak at this year's TEDxSydney event, which will focus on food and sustainability.
Watch the clip below for a preview of what Bill has to say about TEDxSydney and his hopes for food security research in the future.
Could you give a summary of the idea you are discussing?
I’ll be talking about food security and the way it’s often misrepresented in many parts of the global media. It’s often viewed as a problem of not enough production in the world. Whereas we do have a need to increase production over the next few years because of resource constraints and climate change and another number of threats to production, it’s really about distribution and allocation. There’s something like 870 million people across the planet who are defined as 'food insecure' (they don’t have enough food for an ongoing, sustainable and healthy life), and so it seems to me that our food security strategies and policies should focus on the needs of the hungry – those 870 million people – rather than simply focus on production.
What inspired you to pursue food sustainability and security issues?
I’ve always been interested in the food industry. My dad owned a restaurant I guess so it goes back many years, but in the past few years I’ve been thinking about issues in terms of globalisation and food, and that led to a number of research openings in India, where I’ve done most of my research in the past decade. In India I’ve looked at particular aspects of the food system, [such as] the changing nature of agricultural production, but also the needs of those who are food insecure. I’m leading a major project at the moment, and we’re interviewing several hundred households across rural India, trying to establish where they get their food from, whether they are they food insecure, and what kind of strategies are needed to give them a better chance to get the food they need.
How has the University of Sydney facilitated your research?
Being at the University of Sydney has got a lot of advantages. I’m in the School of Geosciences and we have a strong human geography program here. There’s a group of researchers here in this building who share a common interest with me in terms of rural development, globalisation, food and the environment. There’s a network of other academics across the University of Sydney, in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as well who have got similar interests. The University also has a South Asia program... so through those collaborations Sydney University is a good place to do this research from.
What upcoming research developments are you looking forward to?
I’m excited that we’ve got a current research application in to look at some of the same issues of food insecurity in Myanmar. That’s a country that’s basically not been researched in this way before because of sanctions and the like in the past, so we’re hopeful to be some of the first researchers of this kind doing research on food security in Myanmar.
Associate Professor Bill Pritchard will be speaking at TEDxSydney on Saturday May 4, 2013