Sunday, February 28, 2010

Equity versus Efficiency

From experimental research and case studies we are doing at CSID during the last few years we find that there are interesting interactions between equity and efficiency. Many small scale irrigation systems function very well in the face of disturbances. They are able to adapt using the social capital within the communities. The same happens when we do irrigation experiments in a virtual environment with student subjects.
However, to meet the food demands of the increasing population with an increasing western meat oriented diet, we need to increase production. This may require a different type of organization of larger scale production that has less social-capital embedded and may become less adaptive to cope with change. Furthermore, in a globalizing world with global environmental changes, social-ecological systems will experience more variability and challenges that require a high social adaptive capacity that conflicts the increase in larger scale coordination.
Using the metaphor from an airplane, we have used commercial airplanes sofar to meet our duties. This require highly skilled pilots which were supported with a robust design of the airplanes. The requirements for the future require a higher performance, but neccesarily a less robust design of the airplane and an even more skilled pilot to fly the high performing airplane.
How do we organize a higher performing food production that is able to adapt to the increasing variability and disturbances? This seems to be one of the key questions for the coming decades.