Today is World Food Day which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The theme for this year is; Grow, Nourish, Sustain Together. While this year’s Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the challenges in the food system, it should be a rallying call for everyone to play their rightful role in transforming how we grow, distribute and consume our food. The challenges in the global food system are complex and require a systemic and interdisciplinary approach. The new approach should bring together stakeholders to debate the trade-offs between various interventions, devise ways to compensate potential losers and design ways to scale up the solutions from local to global.
Food is at the centre of the major global challenges being experienced at the moment. From health, poverty, trade disputes, inequality to climate change. The journey towards a sustainable global food system will not be an easy one. Gone are the days, when more chemical fertilizers and pesticides, tilling more land and use of machinery meant higher yields. We are at crossroads, conserving biodiversity (including pollinators), dealing with food waste, sustaining the ecosystem and ensuring that future generations can produce food requires new thinking. There won’t be a single solution for instance mechanization and use of technology (e.g. genetic modification) in agriculture. Neither will novel agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture, urban farming, regenerative agriculture or soil-less farming be enough by themselves.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has forced most decision makers to retreat to short-term emergency measures to cushion the poor and most vulnerable, let us not forget the importance of thinking long-term. As we ‘build on better’ and ‘embrace the new normal’, let us expand on the local solutions that worked during the crisis. There is need to experiment more, upscale what works and improve on what doesn’t. We will not achieve this in our silos. From techies, climate scientists, engineers, investment analysts among others have to collaborate. Only then shall we understand the ‘pressure points’ in the food system and design multiple coherent solutions that will transform the whole system positively. You might not be a farmer but as a consumer, activist, investor, researcher etc you have a role to play to ensure a sustainable food system. We all do!