Past Event

The end of cheap food and what it means for development

9 September 2016 11:00–13:00

Henry Price Room, Chatham House
10 St James's Square

Launch event – Oxfam GB/IDS report: ‘Precarious Lives: Food, Work and Care after the Global Food Crisis’.

A pallet of broken eggs

Life was never quite the same for people on low incomes in developing countries after the global food crisis of 2008-11, but its legacies for development have not been closely considered. Faced with prices that rose fast and generally stayed high, people around the world appear to have adjusted, taking on new kinds of work, many earning higher wages. But is this evidence of resilience, or the capacity to adapt without harm?

A new report which involved research in 10 countries that accompanied people as they adjusted to higher and more volatile food prices during 2012-15, and is entitled, “Food, Work and Care after the Global Food Crisis” concludes that the period of hardship depleted people’s resources for coping and brought about lasting change in the patterns of everyday life. People are more reliant now on markets for basic subsistence. Yet most lack adequate protections against external shocks or new pressures on the domains of life on which the reproduction of society depends, such as the care work of feeding families.

Droughts and food crises in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America in 2015-16 underline the urgency of addressing the growing precariousness in the relation between people and food.

  • What does the end of the era of cheap food mean for development?
  • Are universal systems of social protection against the downsides of globalizing development the answer?
  • What are the politics of social protection and food justice movements arguing for and why?

These will be among the questions considered by our expert panel, in discussing the conclusions of the study.



  • Richard King, Chatham House (Chair)
  • John Magrath, Oxfam GB



  • Elizabeth Dowler, (Emeritus) Warwick University
  • Biraj Patnaik, Indian Right To Food movement
  • David Otieno, Bunge Le Mwananchi

Discussion, Q&A


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