Solidarity, Innovation needed to transform world’s Agri-food systems – FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has said that urgency and coordinated efforts are needed to tackle the challenges bedevilling global agri-food systems, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The food agency called for a “global synergistic action before it is too late” to transform the world’s food sector and ensure sustainable food supply for the projected 10 billion people in 2050.

Speaking at a high-profile panel at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting, virtual Davos, Director-General, FAO, Qu Dongyu, said “Solidarity, urgency, accountability, innovation, and action are required” for optimal impact.

Pulling over 1,500 businesses, government and civil society leaders from more than 70 countries, the Forum set out to tackle the effect of the pandemic on the economy and environment.

The 2021 agenda includes a focus on food systems, the subject of an important UN summit later this year. Dongyu was dissecting the importance of transforming food systems and land use.

According to the DG, global leaders need to adopt holistic changes to address pertinent issues bordering the food systems including; climate change, agricultural production, demographics, consumer demands, biodiversity, nutrition, pests and food technology, among others.

Land is foundational for human life and biodiversity, serves as “the basis for economy, society and environment” and is “vital for productivity and sustainability of agri-food systems,” he said.

He further added that effective land use and land sustainable management are urgently needed to maximise agricultural productivity while minimising the negative environmental impacts.

This, he noted, was the key focus of the FAO, as such factors are part of why agri-food systems are more complex than food systems.

Dongyu, however, disclosed that FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme harnesses science, technology, data, human enterprise and creativity to build back better.

Believing that the issues cited would be addressed, the FAO DG assured that the resources – intellectual, financial and material – to unlock innovation and transform agri-food systems were not lacking.

He said that digital innovations such as online platforms for e-commerce, delivery service and marketing can help improve the livelihood of rural small-scale food producers.

Concerted efforts to help countries and regions leapfrog beyond their digital divides, Dongyu said, was also crucial, stating “Let’s make a digital world”.

He was joined by the President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica; United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit; and several others.

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