Agriculture

Dramatic changes needed in global food systems to address nutrition disparity, poverty: IFAD

The report Transforming Food Systems for Rural Prosperity called for investment in rural farms and local small- and medium-size enterprises 

 
By Shagun Kapil
Published: Tuesday 21 September 2021
Dramatic changes needed in global food systems to address nutrition disparity, poverty: IFAD

Global food systems need a revolution so dramatic that previous versions of food systems are unrecognisable, said United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) September 21, 2021.

Transforming global food systems to become more inclusive, fair and sustainable may seem an insurmountable challenge, but there are concrete actions policymakers can take, IFAD noted during the release of its Transforming Food Systems for Rural Prosperity report. 

The report recommended concrete actions to be taken by governments: 

  • Rewarding farmers for ecosystem services such as maintaining healthy soil and regulating pests and incentives for nature-based practices and local, healthy diet
  • Making available innovations such as nature-based solutions, agro-ecology and affordable digital technologies to boost rural small-scale famers’ production. The measures will also enable the cultivators to be climate-resilient employing low-carbon and sustainable techniques
  • Developing and focussing on pricing systems that reflect the full and true cost of production
  • Shifting food systems towards circular resource use for sustainability and resilience

The report stressed on the importance of government investment in rural farms and local small- and medium-size enterprises that support activities after the farm gate, such as storing, processing, marketing and food distribution. 

Small-scale family farmers are still the foundation of food supply across all low- and middle-income countries, the report highlighted. “They play a critical role in reducing rural poverty and ensuring national food and nutrition security.” 

It called for investing in and creating conditions for productive, economically viable and environmentally sustainable small-scale family farming.

The world’s food systems are riddled with huge and unfair contradiction, noted Jyotsna Puri, associate vice-president of IFAD’s Strategy and Knowledge Department. She said: 

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 majority of people in rural areas earn their livelihoods from working in small-scale agriculture, which is a vital source of national and global food. In fact, farms of up to two hectares produce 31 per cent of the world’s food on less than 11 per cent of the farmland

The rural development report called for making food markets accessible to villagers and on fair terms by rethinking the present concentration of power within food systems.

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, the authors of the report observed.

Food systems are responsible for 37 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and are also highly vulnerable to a changing climate, according to the paper. 

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