a fresh start for the transformation of agri-food systems

2020 / Rome – Global women’s voices join FAO in the need for solidarity and urgent action

Global leaders today called for urgent action to transform agri-food systems to make them more sustainable and resilient in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, healthy and nutritious food . The discussion took place during a special seminar on food and nutrition, organized by FAO, entitled An urgent call for the transformation of food systems to achieve healthy diets for all.

The keynote speakers included FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands and the Special Advocate of the United Nations Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development; Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians and SDG Advocate; Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner of the African Union (AU); Cecilia Morel, First Lady of Chile; and Maria Juliana Ruiz, first lady of Colombia.

In his opening remarks, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the FAO, emphasized that solidarity, urgency and action are three key elements needed to make progress in transforming agricultural food systems into healthier diets. FAO estimates that more than 1.5 billion people can not afford a healthy diet that meets the required levels of essential nutrients, and that 3 billion people can not even afford the cheapest healthy diet.

‘The resources – intellectual, financial and material’ are not lacking, but unless we are well organized and coordinated, the likelihood that we will be too late and inefficient for too many people in the least developed countries is landlocked. Developing countries and the small island developing states, ”he noted.

The Director-General emphasized that action must be taken not only to improve production, but also to create conditions for people to consume healthy food, which integrates actions of all stakeholders at local, national, regional and global levels and required in various fields – not only in agriculture but also in many other sectors such as trade, health, environment, education and infrastructure.

He singled out three critical drivers:

(i) supporting countries, especially the least developed countries, to strengthen their resilience, firstly through increased investment;

(ii) the shift from agricultural policies to sustainable production of more healthy foods, such as fruit, vegetables and fish, as well as aquaculture products, rather than high amounts of staple foods such as rice, wheat and maize;

(iii) implementation of innovations and digital technologies in agricultural food systems to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and integrate smallholder farmers into markets.

QU also emphasized the importance of food loss and waste reduction as the key element “that will enable us to improve food security and nutrition, improve the use of natural resources and reduce environmental pressures”.

High level participants

Queen Máxima of the Netherlands noted in her speech that many smallholder farmers were not well connected to value chains and that they had limited knowledge about the options for accessing financial services, which has the great potential of new technologies and innovations in supporting emphasize better agricultural financing and nutritional outcomes.

Queen Mathilde of Belgium, in turn, emphasized that women in many rural societies in developing countries were key players in the production and processing of food and the most important agents for family well-being. However, their rights to land and financial resources remain limited and their nutritional needs are often neglected. She called for greater consideration for women’s work, better mutual respect and better division of labor to redress these injustices.

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand reminded the audience in her video address that about one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted worldwide each year, affecting food security, nutrition, welfare, livelihoods, the world economy and the environment.

She called for strategies and actions to reduce food loss and waste to be implemented throughout the food value chain at all levels from individual households to community, national and global levels, involving farmers, food processors, food services and businesses.

AU Commissioner Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko said COVID-19 had exposed the fragility of African food systems to access safe and nutritious food at affordable prices. At the same time, she noted that COVID-19 also gave us the opportunity to ‘build better and greener’. However, it requires more scientific innovation, reducing crop losses, investing in research and creating opportunities for young people and women in agri-food systems, she added.

In her remarks, the First Lady of Chile, Cecilia Morel stressed the need to address the issue of overweight and obesity leading to increasing levels of non-communicable diseases and an increasing burden on our healthcare systems. To this end, she emphasized the need for public policies that promote the consumption of fruit and vegetables, focusing on the access of the most vulnerable population to healthy food.

The President of Colombia, Maria Juliana Ruiz, said in her video address that we need urgent action and a solidarity approach to transform our agricultural food to address the multiple challenges facing the pandemic, hunger, malnutrition and food security. to offer. systems that are also aimed at achieving sustainability, which must go hand in hand with meeting 2030 Agenda commitments.

Panel of experts

The event also included three different techniques panels of experts.

FAO chief economist Máximo Torero delivered one of the keynote speeches, emphasizing that ‘our recovery plans should link to catalytic investment and investments with a significant return on reducing malnutrition around SDG 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger) and 10 (Reduced inequalities). “

Panelists agreed that the impact of COVID-19 on agricultural food systems was so detrimental because it was not functional, and it needed to be addressed at all levels.

The panel members also stressed the need to put the issue of healthy diets high on the political agenda and called for the shift of public procurement policy to healthier products and subsidized the production of healthy foods as possible political incentives. Another aspect mentioned was raising awareness among consumers about the impact of unbalanced diets on their health and well-being.

Time to take action

In his concluding remarks, the FAO Director-General called on participants to move from discussions to policy implementation and concrete actions. He refers to the importance of political commitment and reinforces the need to work together by breaking silos and designing strategies more holistically, by involving all key stakeholders such as NGOs, civil society, academia and the private sector.

He also cites the importance of increasing production, while developing a green economy, access to education, education and applied science, as well as the empowerment of women and youth, as key elements in achieving the transformation of agricultural food systems , and emphasizes that decisions must be made on the basis of science and evidence.

The video recording of the special seminar on food and nutrition is available here.


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