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Cambridge Global Food Security

A Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge

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Impact of water scarcity on food security

Ekaterian (Katya) Yatskovskaya is a Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for International Manufacturing Sustainability, Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

Though Katya comes from the land of plentiful but frozen water (Siberia), her research focuses on the scarcity of this resource and how that impacts on food security.

Katya’s research project is entitled ‘Exploring the Impact of Water Availability on Food Security; Development of an analytical framework’. It explores how water affects supply chain designs. She explains, “My supervisor suggested I apply for this Seed Award Grant together with another interested partner to give my research the multi-faceted approach required for furthering its relevance and impact. In my case it turned out to be the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)”.

How would the research on water availability utilize the award funds? “We have it all charted out!,” says Ms. Yatskovskaya. “A number of steps have been discussed and divulged. To start off with, I will be attending an International Water Week conference in Stockholm – Sweden is renowned for research on water. It will help tremendously to develop contacts with the attendees, mostly academics, institutional investors and big companies. Then we shall organise a workshop on Food Supply Chain and Natural Capital to help broaden the understanding of the natural capital perspective on businesses and supply chain operations”. Would it not be expensive arranging a gathering of industrial partners and academics, and can the award cover all that? “Actually the workshop would form part of a thematic strand within the annual Cambridge International Manufacturing Symposium 24-25thof September to be held in the Moller Centre, Cambridge”, says Katya.

How does the partnership with CISL help the aims of the project? “Well, the work will draw on the extensive supply chain expertise from within CISL’s global business partners”. Interestingly, the research is set to span at least three countries with diverse water situations: UK, India, Israel and maybe China. “The fieldwork aims to establish effective collaborations with relevant national institutes and universities involved in water resource protection and management. Further on, a series of case studies with a number of companies, focused on agri-food production, food processing, agricultural machinery distribution, and water-saving tools supply, will be conducted. Lastly, the funds will be used for purchasing relevant data-sets, including access to key database and literature materials”.

The team envisions advancement at a number of different levels, with immediate benefits for industry and policy. The guidelines could be used both by governments of countries with high water stress levels as well as countries in which significant agri-food production activities, businesses, and headquarters are based in order to aid the development and implementation of agricultural water-saving technologies, techniques, and standards.

Ekaterian Yatskovskaya’s email signature includes the words ‘Sustainability, Agri-food supply chain and Water Scarcity’ which nicely encapsulates her project aims along with the vulnerability associated with them. Hopefully Katya’s as well as her team’s efforts would not go wasted.

Fatima Kamal, Communications intern

Global food security is a major research priority for UK and international science.

Cambridge Global Food Security is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge. We promote an interdisciplinary approach to addressing the challenge of ensuring all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life. 

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