Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Food System Response to COVID-19

I have been closely observing the impact of the pandemic on food systems and the response of agri-food actors around the world. The projections of food insecurity are devastating. However, I have found reassurance in seeing how the global food system showed tremendous resilience in such adversity. We saw many actors rising to the occasion to become food heroes. These were ordinary people such as farmers, transporters, grocery store owners, restaurant managers who worked around the clock, adjusted nimbly to difficult challenges, and demonstrated that every part of the food value chain is essential to a sustainable and resilient food system.

Without them, the story would have been different and we most likely would have had a food crisis in addition to the current health crisis.

Throughout, innovation has really shone through.  I am thrilled to be moderating a great panel of leaders from the farm all the way to urban gardening programs at this year’s Agritecture Xchange.  Please register to hear their inspiring stories.

I am proud to be part of a sector that has shown such a persistent spirit. It is dedicated to providing the most valuable product we all need – food – and bred creativity at every level.  We witnessed brilliant innovation from food production, to food processing and manufacturing, to even the meals people make right at the consumption end. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.

As a result, the respect people had for the food and agriculture industry has grown in leaps and bounds. The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), a national charity whose mandate is to help Canada’s food system earn public trust by coordinating research, resources, and dialogue, reported that the level of confidence that Canadians have in the food system has gone up by 12% compared to last year in their 2020 Public Trust Research Report. In these times of uncertainty, this is a huge accomplishment and demonstrates how well the food sector is performing. I look forward to hearing more of such stories as we share on Food System Responses to COVID-19 this December.

Join me at Agrictecture Xchange. Buy your tickets today!

Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020

The world grows hungrier …

The SOFI 2020 Report is clear – global hunger remains entrenched, large numbers of the world’s population have little or no access to regular, safe and nutritious food, a situation that has been gravely exacerbated by the onset of COVID-19. Global efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition need to be intensified.

Launched during the 2020 session of the United Nations High Level Political Forum, the report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 presents the most recent and authoritative estimates of the extent of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition around the world. This year, the report includes a special focus on transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets.

The report indicates that “since 2014 the numbers of the world’s hungry have continued to slowly rise. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the global population, were undernourished. The new estimate for 2019 has revealed that an additional 60 million people have become affected by hunger since 2014. If this trend continues, the number of undernourished people will exceed 840 million by 2030. Preliminary projections based on the latest available global economic outlooks, suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic may add an additional 83 to 132 million people to the ranks of the undernourished in 2020”.

Added consequences of the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19, has been the loss of major sources of income and the reduction in quantity and quality of food for millions. Access to safe and nutritious foods has been severely affected and, in some cases, eliminated. It is the world’s most vulnerable, among them women, children, elderly, migrants, informal sector workers – who mostly suffer from the lack of access to food and poor diets.

Hunger remains entrenched because of persistent poverty, social and economic exclusion, lack of social protection programmes, poor governance, high cost of nutritious foods – too many people cannot afford even the cheapest of healthy diets – and a range of other factors. This is a problem that affects people from all over the world, in both developed and developing countries. This is not a one size fits all problem and the solution can therefore not be a one size fits all solution.

Political commitment is a must. Governments must scale up partnerships with the private sector, NGOs, scientific and academic communities, and all stakeholders to assess country specific challenges and develop appropriate strategies to tackle the problem. Making healthy diets more affordable must be linked to greater job creation and efforts to reduce inequality. Greater financial and infrastructural investment must be made in food security and sustainable development.

As the agenda is set for the first UN Food Systems Summit, which will take place in 2021, this is an opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses throughout the food system as magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Strengths must be expanded and provided with the necessary resources to be upheld while creative and innovative measures must be used to address weaknesses and gaps. Technology and cross sectoral policy coherence are also crucial factors, particularly with the health sector.

The Food System Summit must help us understand and transform our global food system in a manner which will allow the world to accelerate efforts towards achieving the SDGs while simultaneously catering for tailored responses to country specific challenges.

And for those of us who are lucky enough to have access to regular, safe, and nutritious food, we must learn how to respect food and reduce food waste and food loss.

Registration Open for the African Green Revolution Forum Virtual Summit!

In a continuing string of virtual events, the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) is fast approaching! AGRF is Africa’s largest agriculture and food systems event. The summit is intended to be a forum that allows for sustainable and actionable plans to be developed which will help African countries continue to grow their agricultural sectors. This 10th annual summit will take place September 8th – 11th and bring together thousands of participants including government officials, civil society and private sector members, research fellows, and development partners.

This year’s theme is Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa. The theme is incredibly timely in the wake of COVID-19 as the need for a restructuring of food systems is being called for.

 “We need food systems that are equitable, sustainable, resilient, and capable of meeting the global challenges of malnutrition, poverty and climate change as well as be responsive to emerging and unforeseen challenges – such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must not relent in our effort to transform food systems for the benefit of everyone” – Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA

Registration for the event is now open to all! By attending the conference, you will have the chance to be part of the key outcomes that have been posed for the Summit in the areas of:

  • Resilience
  • Nutrition
  • Markets & Trade
  • Food Systems

AGRF 2020 is being co-hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the AGRF partners group.

Learn more here. 

Digital Agriculture: Strengthening Food Systems Through the Pandemic and Beyond

This article was originally posted through Farming First

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on nearly every facet of life, and food systems are no exception.

The disruptions and dislocations caused by the virus have rocked each link in the global food chain from farming, to processing, to trade, to retail. The costs of this turmoil will fall disproportionately on the poorest actors in this system, particularly those in the global south, where smallholder farms predominate, supply chains can be particularly fragile, and under-investment in agriculture and rural areas is chronic.

This has implications beyond efforts to reduce poverty – which will face enormous setbacks this year – as many of these actors (predominantly smallholders) represent the primary engine of the world food supply. If the looming surge of destitution and hunger is to be addressed, not to mention the ongoing and increasingly dire climate crisis, transformative change is needed.

Fortunately, such a change was already underway and has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Like everything else, agriculture is increasingly going digital.

“Digital agriculture” encompasses a broad range of innovations and technologies with enormous potential to make farming more efficient, enhance environmental sustainability and improve producers’ livelihoods. This potential will only grow as rates of internet penetration and mobile phone access increase in the poorest regions of the world.

Examples include precision agriculture, data aggregation and analysis, satellite imagery and guidance, robotics, automation of machinery and workflows, and many other hardware and software solutions. The coronavirus has rendered many of them indispensable for continuing to conduct trade and agriculture safely and responsibly.

Online provision of extension services, such as the planter clinic webinars conducted by the Climate Corporation, can help farmers get the advice and knowledge resources they need, when they need it, without risk of infection. Online analysis and marketing platforms, such as G-Soko and FarmIT in Eastern Africa, can help connect farmers with buyers, input suppliers and labourers, while maintaining social distancing. Variable rate application systems and other precision agriculture tools, such as those developed by FarmersEdge, can help producers cope with variations and interruptions in pesticide and fertilizer supply chains.

The benefits of increased uptake of digital agriculture solutions will continue to be felt long after the pandemic subsides. By boosting yields and encouraging more rational use of inputs, these digital technologies will lead to substantial improvements in food security, food system sustainability and farmers’ livelihoods.

This is the why the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has placed them at the heart of their COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, aiming to “build back better” so that coming out of the crisis, food systems are more resilient and able to serve the needs of all than they were before it hit.

For this to happen, however, stakeholders and policymakers must be familiar with these innovations and their advantages, as well as any challenges that must be addressed in order for them to be deployed effectively and equitably. Depending on context, these challenges may include intellectual property rights, data usage and privacy policies, and public perceptions, among others.

The digital agriculture sector’s profile is currently not equal to its promise. There is therefore an urgent need for greater coordination and outreach efforts among the sector’s members.

They should work together to ensure their collective voice is heard in multi-lateral venues, along with proactively engaging and partnering with farmers, international organisations, and government institutions, to raise awareness of what they can do to help in the struggle against hunger and poverty. Information-sharing, developing shared messaging and policy positions, and establishing collaborative cross-sectoral initiatives will all be crucial means of achieving this.

The pandemic has reshaped the world in countless ways. Digital agriculture does not only offer solutions to address many of the problems this global crisis has engendered, exacerbated and exposed. It will be an invaluable tool for rebuilding and strengthening the fair, efficient and sustainable food systems of tomorrow.

Food Systems and Nutrition Patterns: Biodiversity, Resilience and Food Security

On July 8th Emerging ag Inc, in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) hosted a Zoom webinar entitled Food Systems and Nutrition Patterns: Biodiversity, Resilience and Food Security.  

The session asked the questions around if agriculture and biodiversity can coexist and how food systems can best prepare for disasters. It provided a discussion on how natural disasters impact the environment and food systems. The session also explored how to increase food production for the growing global population while still being able to protect the environment and promoting biodiversity.

The webinar, which was held in the auspices of the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF), boasted an impressive panel of five experts who were able to speak on various aspects of the issue at hand. The panel included:

The webinar was attended by over 200 people and had an additional audience watching through a live YouTube showing. It was an interactive session which began with a series of polls which the audience could take part in to further understand some of the context that would be talked about by the panel. Poll questions included the topics of biodiversity landscapes, sustainable foods and food waste. Those in attendance were also able to ask questions following each presentation and take part in a question and answer period at the end of the session.

Overall, the event was a huge success and provided some much needed and appreciated insight into the state of the world’s food systems and how adaptation to changing climate factors can affect the biodiversity of the food we eat, as well as the importance of biodiversity in our food systems.

Watch the full session here:

Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Privacy Policy
Close and Accept
Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Privacy Policy
Close and Accept