Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Research led by

Related Food Activity


Image: Darren Baker / Adobe Stock
  • Funding: Open Society Foundations
  • 2020-2021
  • ECI Lead: Dr Monika Zurek (PI)

Foresight Capability for Food System Transformation in Ghana and Uganda

This project will consolidate food systems foresight capability in Ghana and Uganda to strengthen the basis of transformation planning towards more sustainable and resilient food systems. Working closely with local institutions, the project will build on earlier OSF-funded and ongoing SENTINEL research in Ghana, and on the OSF-funded IFSTAL projects in Ghana and Uganda. It will also work with African academic and government institutions in the context of the UN 2021 Food Systems Summit. The project will develop a methodology for national-level foresight for food systems transformation and an associated foresight toolkit. The work will also contribute to the Foresight 4 Food Community of Practice through focused intelligence-gathering activities and maintenance of the Resource Portal.

Agriculture. Via Flickr CIAT CC by 2.0

Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL)

This project partnership aims to address systemic development challenges in African agriculture. It is being led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and involves a range of higher education institutions and stakeholders in the UK and across Africa. The University of Oxford component is led by Professor Nathalie Seddon (Department of Zoology) and Dr Monika Zurek (Environmental Change Institute), and will focus on building agricultural development scenarios and strengthening capacity of UK science to address development challenges.

  • Funding: Open Society Foundations
  • 2017-2020
  • ECI Lead: Dr Monika Zurek (Co-I), Jim Woodhill (Co-I), Researcher: Dr Saher Hasnain.

Foresight4Food: bringing together knowledge to enhance foresight and scenario analysis for global food systems

Foresight is a key tool that governments, business and civil society can use to better understand future risks and the opportunities and to adapt – before crises hit. This project aims to explore how foresight and scenario analysis for the global food system could be improved. It will look at food issues across the entire supply chain from production to consumption as well as the connections between environmental, health and economic outcomes. It also looks at food issues in both the developed and developing world. Food is a “nexus” issue that connects across critical global challenges of reducing poverty, improving health, tackling and responding to climate change, protecting biodiversity and managing water scarcity. This project will provide mechanisms for greater scientific collaboration as well as for improved communication and engagement process that can support global, regional and national policy dialogue.

FoodSIVI logo
  • Funding: Partnership funding from Global Alliance for the Future of Food (through New Venture Fund), Syngenta, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Yara International.
  • 2019
  • ECI: Dr John Ingram (Co-I), Dr Steven Lord (Co-I)

Food System Impact Valuation Initiative (FoodSIVI)

FoodSIVI is an initiative between academia, industry and civil society to create a standard for true cost accounting in order to accelerate food system transformation. The project’s overall purpose is to work with other impact valuation and true cost accounting initiatives to help food system actors enhance food systems to become more sustainable, resilient and restorative, and to deliver better health outcomes.

Completed Projects

Mapping the UK Food System

Mapping the UK Food System - A report for the UKRI Transforming UK Food Systems Programme

This report maps and quantifies the UK food system, aiming to act as a quantified foundation for further analyses of the UK food system.

The research was commissioned by the 'Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment' programme, which is led by the Global Food Security programme.

The research team drew together publicly available data sources, public documents and research articles; the data was supplemented with interviews with stakeholders in UK food governance. The study plots the key actors in the system, their activities and motivations, and the health, social and economic, and environmental outcomes of the food system. It also presents a range of existing food systems frameworks developed by projects and organisations engaged in food systems research.

Download the Mapping the UK Food System report (PDF)

Download the Mapping the UK Food System executive summary (PDF)

Access the interactive presentation


We are grateful to colleagues for alerting us to updated data. The current PDF includes the following corrections to the version which was originally posted on 4 November 2020.

  • P37: Disposing and recycling; the figure of 9.5 million tonnes relates to annual post-farmgate waste in the UK, not, as previously stated, waste from the hospitality and food service sectors. (Source WRAP)
  • P38: The date in Figure 24 relates only to household food waste, not, as previously stated, to total UK food waste. (Source WRAP)

Reimagine project

Reimagining anticipatory climate governance in the world’s vulnerable regions (RE-IMAGINE)

This project aims to ensure that the approaches to understanding future uncertainties can lead to appropriate and effective modes of governance, and that they can be used as practical decision aids in the world's most vulnerable regions, i.e. developing countries. To do so, climate, macro-economic and agricultural research needs to bridge with policy and governance research. Ultimately, the goal of the programme is to produce, on a regional and global scale, tangible recommendations and guidelines to improve the role of forecasts in anticipatory climate governance.

Increasing resilience to water-related risk in the UK fresh fruit & vegetable system

Fresh fruit and vegetable (FF&V) supply chains are exposed to risks at multiple points from field to fork, but perceptions of risks and how to manage them differ between actors depending on where they are located in the system. This project, led by the University of Cranfield, seeks to identify hotspots of water-related risk in the UK's FF&V system by combining trade, production and hydrological data, and to integrate this information with stakeholder perspectives to develop system maps and shared visions of how to move the system in a more resilient direction. The project is part of the GFS Resilience of the UK Food System Programme, which is coordinated by a team based in ECI.

  • Funding: Open Society Foundation
  • 2017-2019
  • ECI: Dr Monika Zurek (PI); Jim Woodhill (Co-I); Dr Saher Hasnain (Researcher)

Connecting local knowledge with global food systems

The research initiative focuses on the future of small scale agriculture in the global food system. Combining insight from leading global expertise with strategic dialogue processes in Africa it will deepen understanding and debate about the transformation of small-holder agriculture. The context for this work is the rapid and fundamental changes in the global food system related to urbanisation, changing consumption patterns, modernisation of markets and trade. There are urgent questions about how transformation will happen and what pathways and strategies will be socially, economically and environmentally desirable. The project will connect a global understanding on future opportunities and challenges with in-depth processes in Ghana and Zambia. Lead country partners are engaging key stakeholders and facilitate a process to assess systemic risks and transformational opportunities. For this the project is drawing on well-established approaches to food systems analysis, foresight and scenario planning and participatory decision making.

This new report What future for small scale agriculture? is based on research by the Food Systems Transformation Group at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, and funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The report can be downloaded here.

Transforming small-scale family farming is critical to long-term global food and nutrition security, tackling rural poverty and hunger, and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Commercial small-scale family farms of 20 ha or less are and will remain critical to food supply in middle- and low-income countries. The report contributes to the creation of informed and compelling narratives about desirable futures for small-scale agriculture. Such narratives are necessary to sway interests and generate political will for change. They need to be grounded in systems thinking, supported by synthesis of research, and underpinned by alternative scenarios to assess trade-offs and re-imagined policy options. There are 500 million small-scale farms in the world and 2 to 3 billion people still depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods.

  • Funding: Horizon 2020
  • 2015-2019
  • Co-Is: Dr Monika Zurek, John Ingram , Dr Joost Vervoort

Metrics, Models and Foresight for European SUStainable Food And Nutrition Security (SUSFANS)

SUSFANS will build the conceptual framework, the evidence base and analytical tools for underpinning EU-wide food policies with respect to their impact on consumer diet and their implications for nutrition and public health, the environment, the competitiveness of the EU agri-food sectors, and global food and nutrition security. The ECI Food Group lead on FNS conceptualisation and metrics; and stakeholder engagement.

World Bank: Flickr CC-BY-N 2.0
  • Funding: UK Economic and Social Research Council and Department of International Development - Development Frontiers scheme
  • 2017-2018
  • ECI Lead: Dr Monika Zurek (PI) Researcher: Dr Maliha Muzammil

Zero Hunger - Zero Emissions: Enabling the debate on how to feed the world whilst mitigating climate change

A pilot project in Bangladesh brings together environment and development researchers and practitioners from ECI, Oxfam Great Britain and Oxfam Bangladesh and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University of Bangladesh. The project will pioneer methods to help decision-makers, and stakeholders from a broad range of civil society and the food industry, to identify ways in which Bangladesh can achieve both the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger and the goal of a low carbon economy as envisaged by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Energy and Farming
  • Funding: EPSRC
  • 2015-2018
  • Co-Is: Dr Ariella Helfgott, Dr John Ingram

"Water Energy Food" Nexus WEFWEB: Mapping the WEF nexus at multiple scales and across sectors.

This project addresses the challenges of understanding and hence identifying the dynamic, interlinked inter-dependencies across the nexus networks which are physical (water, waste, energy and food), social and political (individual, regulatory and policy), ecological and digital at multiple, nested scales (local, regional and national) and temporally. The ECI Food Group leads on the food aspect.

Download the final report: Water-Energy-Food Interdependencies: Implications for Local Authorities

  • Funding: European Commission FP7
  • 2014-2018
  • ECI involvement: Dr Joost Vervoort, Dr Ariella Helfgott, Dr Steven Lord


TRANSMANGO aims to obtain a comprehensive picture of the effects of the global drivers of change on European and global food demand and on raw material production.


Sustainable Nutrition Security Collaboration

Collaborating with the Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security (CIMSANS) in fostering new public/private partnerships on novel food system modeling metrics. This is aimed at better informing adaptation to the increasing impacts of climate change and resource scarcity on sustainable nutrition security.

Local Nexus Network
  • Funding: EPSRC and ESRC
  • 2015-2017
  • ECI Lead: Dr John Ingram | Coordinator: Clare Downing

The Local Nexus Network: Building sustainable local nexuses of food, energy and water: from smart engineering to shared prosperity.

The ‘Local nexus’ refers to decentralised food, energy and water systems which interact with each other within the context of local livelihood and environment. Starting in early 2015, the Local Nexus Network aims to: 1) establish the state of the art of local productions of food, energy and water; 2) generate initial insights to guide researchers, businesses, policy makers and communities who are enthusiastic about exploring the potential of local nexuses, and 3) develop an evidence-based agenda for future research. The ECI Food Group leads on the food component and the Oxford Case Study.

CGIAR logo

Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS)

We led the Scenarios Component of a ten-year research initiative launched in 2011 by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and 'Future Earth'.

Food distribution
  • Funding: The American Institute of Mathematics
  • 2015
  • ECI Lead: Dr John Ingram

Multiscale Modelling of the Food System: Initial Workshop

Developing a hierarchy of models for food systems at multiple spatial and temporal levels. This will be based on building conceptual models of the food system as a whole, providing the structural overview and framework for building mathematically-based models with gradually increasing levels of details. Launched at workshop in April 2015

African farmer

Food System Governance, Food Security and Land Use in Southern Africa (SAFGOV)

The formation of an international community of researchers to develop a new research agenda on the effectiveness and adaptiveness of food system governance and security in southern Africa.


Global Environmental Change and Food Systems Programme

Global Environmental Change and Food Systems (GECAFS) was an international, interdisciplinary research project which focussed on understanding the links between food security and global environmental change.