Transforming global food systems to become more inclusive, fair and sustainable may seem an insurmountable challenge, yet there are concrete actions policymakers can take, according to a new report released by the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on 21 September.
“We are living in a world of huge and unfair contradictions. There are 800 million hungry people and yet high obesity rates. Nutritious diets are expensive yet many small-scale farmers are poor. Current food growing practices are not good for our environment. It is clear that we need a revolution. A revolution so dramatic that previous versions of food systems are unrecognizable,” said Dr. Jyotsna Puri, Associate Vice President of IFAD's Strategy and Knowledge Department that leads the production of the Rural Development Report, IFAD's flagship publication.
(Photo: IFAD/Santiago Albert Pons)
Puri sees this week's UN Food Systems Summit as a watershed moment to commit to real change, with the Rural Development Report offering governments recommendations for concrete actions that can be taken.
The report, Transforming food systems for rural prosperity, stresses the importance of focusing investments and policy changes on rural food value chains so that all people can access adequate nutritious food in a manner that does not harm the environment, and so that food producers can earn decent incomes.
The majority of people in rural areas earn an income from working in small-scale agriculture, which is a vital source of national and global food. In fact, farms of up to 2 hectares produce 31 percent of the world's food on less than 11 percent of the farmland.
The key recommendations of the report include:
“We know what needs to change to make the production, marketing and consumption of food fair and sustainable, which results in nutritious, affordable food for all. This report gives strong evidence and recommendations for specific actions. Now we need the investments and political will to take action,” said Puri.
Over the past 70 years, a focus on industrial farming and producing more calories at low cost has been accompanied by growing malnutrition, increased food waste, and a high environmental cost. Food systems are responsible for 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and are also highly vulnerable to a changing climate.
The Food Systems Summit on 23 September, under the leadership of Secretary-General António Guterres, is intended to result in actionable commitments from heads of state and other leaders to transform global food systems. It is a culmination of 18 months of engagement with governments, food producers, civil society and companies on how to transform the way we produce, process and consume food.
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