Tag Archives: Financial Times

My Letter to the FT on the Complexity of Food Security

One of the realities of working in corporate communications is that the lionshare of our time is spent reading, thinking and writing on behalf of our clients, and we are left with little time to write things in our own names.

But since much of my time these days is spent thinking about agriculture (from a variety of perspectives) on behalf of my clients, it struck me when two “food security” articles appeared in the Financial Times on the same day, one highlighting a surge in global cereal stocks and the other lamenting a serious famine in the West African country of Niger.

Below is the resulting letter to the editor, published in today’s FT (or read it here online).  It alludes to two interesting pieces of client work in which I am currently involved.  The first is the Farming First coalition which advocates for a farmer-centric, science-based set of solutions for sustainable agriculture; the second is a sub-Saharan African seed security initiative being implemented by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) – which also received coverage in the Guardian recently.

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(from the May 14 edition)

Sir, Two FT articles highlight how complex, and often befuddling, the issue of food security can be to manage. On one side, Javier Blas reports the US Department of Agriculture’s claim that “surging [cereal] production has … allayed recent concerns about the world’s ability to meet rising food, feed and fuel needs” (“Crop stocks set to rise for third year in a row”, May 12).

On the other side, Tom Burgis reports from Niger of “a food crisis spanning the Sahel” due to “high prices and lack of rain” (“Niger is on brink of food shortages”, May 12).

Whether it be food surge or food shortage, what these articles reveal is that food security at the global level is about much more than food availability. It is about local access to inputs and information as well as a set of policies that reflects farmers’ needs first. For example, the Southern African Development Community is piloting an innovative scheme to harmonise the seed regulatory systems in Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe so farmers can access quality seeds more reliably and at a lower cost.

Food security is about production, but it is also about policies.

The Rise of Personal Branding

One of the themes of these blogs will likely end up revolving around how pornographic I think the developed world is today. Particularly in places like London, the drive to “make it” and distinguish yourself from your peer group can be pretty strong. Everything seems to be a commodity which is either for sale or for exchange.

My week’s comings and goings have been good subject matter for reflecting on the different ways that people go about representing themselves and relating to others. The idea for a blog came about on Thursday when I was reading an article in the Financial Times by Stefan Stern about a woman who charges £1200 ($2400) for a series of 3 personal branding consultations.

Working in corporate branding, I’m fairly well-acquainted with the concept (and, for the record, think that it is quite useful for organisations or for personal corporate profiles). At the same time, I find it a bit odd to apply the concepts to one’s personal life. Brands are means of communicating messages more concisely and more efficiently; they help organisations differentiate themselves and build a legacy that lasts from one leader to the next.

However, I also believe humans to be inherently inconsistent or even paradoxical (and that is often what makes me find them interesting). We are not meant to produce consistent messages as humans or else how would we be allowed to evolve or even change our views on life.

When talking to a friend about my idea for this blog, he turned to philosophy and debated the choice between being who we are and being who we want to be. Ulitmately he argued that our identity — our meaning — is a choice which we make for ourselves consciously. There are no right or wrong answers in his opinion, but the caveat is that we must be accountable for the direction that we eventually decide to take (or for the decision to remain indecisive).

I like this answer, and I suppose that this is the closest thing to a “personal brand” that I’ll ever get. It places me somewhere between the person I am and the person I want to be — fallible to the end but always cognisant of my ability to improve.