||Starting in 1999, the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) Secretariat in FAO has published an annual report on global Food Insecurity and Vulnerability (see: http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/005/Y7352E/Y7352E00.HTM). The report, - The State of World Food Insecurity, known as SOFI - assembles, analyses and disseminates information on who are the food insecure, where they are
located, and why they are food insecure, nutritionally vulnerable or at risk.
The Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN) of the Sustainable Development Department, FAO, has been involved through the preparation of maps and analyses. As food insecurity can often be correlated with difficulties in making proper use of natural resources, it was considered that it would be useful to produce regular
analyses about areas where ecological processes or agricultural production are disrupted due to conflicts between environment and agriculture. Such areas are termed agricultural-environmental hotspots, or Ag-En hotspots.
The emphasis is thus on non-optimal functioning of ecosystems, agriculture, or both. "Environment" includes
natural, social, economic and cultural aspects.
A brainstorming meeting was organized on 9-10 December 2002 in FAO headquarters to define Ag-En hotspot
products that could be prepared based on data availability and on demand, with internal (FAO) and external
partners. A discussion paper was prepared in advance by Michael Glantz, Senior Scientist in the Environmental
and Societal Impacts Group at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
Based on the discussions held at the meeting, Dr Glantz revised the discussion paper, which is presented here as
Guidelines for Establishing Audits of Agricultural-Environmental (Ag-En) Hotspots.
The report serves multiple objectives, starting with terminology and delineation of concepts. Terms like
hotspots, risk, vulnerability, extreme factor, hazard, chronic vs acute hotspots, and the scale at which hotspots
are defined demand closer consideration.
Ag-En hotspots themselves can be analysed from twin points of view: first, the mechanisms that cause them, and,
second, themes such as soil, water shortage, land degradation, biodiversity, food security (as in FIVIMS),
livelihoods and nutrition.The following points are also listed among those to which the meeting participants were asked to pay particular
attention: monitoring issues, including mapping, thresholds and the possibility of "predicting" future probable
hotspots 5 or 10 years ahead; conceptual, causal and thematic links between hotspots, disasters and
sustainability; variables and indicators that will be required as a function of an Ag-En hotspot typology,
including geographical location, scale, reliability, etc. Appropriate emphasis should be given to nonenvironmental
forcing variables, such as civil unrest, poor resource endowment, and trade.
As mentioned above, the meeting also drew attention to the possibility of identifying mechanisms or patterns
that could lead to the development of hotspots in the future, as, for instance, when well-known chronic stresses
become acute problems confronting policy-makers.