Better food system needed in fragile situation; panel

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Faced with price volatility, limited purchasing power and interruptions to value chains, several people around the world are unable to access safe and healthy diets. Coupled with all these factors, COVID-19 pandemic has triggered widespread food system failures that push more people into poverty and malnutrition, potentially undoing years of development gains, according to a new policy put forth by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

In new Policy Brief ‘Strengthening Food Systems in Fragile Contexts’, the researchers said that the international community and policymakers in fragile low and middle income countries must give more emphasis on making food systems more resilient to the many negative forces contributing to fragility today.

said that steps could be taken even in fragile settings to make food systems more capable of providing healthy and sustainable diets for all. The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition works with international, multi-sector stakeholders, to help governments in low- and middle-income countries develop evidence-based policies that make high-quality diets safe, affordable and accessible.

“Faced with price volatility, limited purchasing power and interruptions to value chains, many people are unable to access safe, healthy diets. They may prioritise staple foods for their caloric content, limiting their dietary diversity. Given the range of political, social, economic and environmental challenges often coalescing in fragile settings, promoting healthy diets can be seen as a secondary concern when so many individuals are hungry, said the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

It stressed that progress can be sustained towards development goals only if food systems are made more resilient in fragile settings. Noting that humanitarian aid will remain necessary in crises, the policy said that building and maintaining a resilient food system was the key factor and will help ensure that healthy diets remain accessible in fragile settings.

About 1.8 billion people live in fragile regions and this is projected to reach 2.3 billion by 2030. This included 80 percent of the global poor.

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition has come up with some priorities that should be emphasised for a better food system in the fragile situation. They have called for pursuing an end to end policy approach to food systems in fragile environments. They said that policymakers should integrate design, funding and implementation of actions across the spectrum from emergency response to long term development. Unless this is done, hundreds of millions of people will not be able to access healthy diets, they said.

The policy also noted climate had a direct affect on the most nutritionally vulnerable people in fragile settings. They called for adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures so that they benefit those most at risk and most in need. They also noted that the focus should be on nourishing as well as hunger. International humanitarian and development policymakers must be prepared to support a full range of programme approaches to make food systems as a whole more functional, more resilient to shocks and capable of being ‘built back better’ after a crisis, the policy noted. It also wanted to apply a food systems lens which could help identify the specific role that each sector needs to play. They opined that adopting a systems approach to identify and monitor shocks to food security and access to healthy diets in fragile settings was essential.

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, they stressed the importance of monitoring the disruptions in linkages across food systems to provide early warnings and prompt action. They wanted to build resilience to manage chronic fragility and build the capacity of small businesses, improve access to credit, knowledge and market information to enable businesses to produce, move and sell their goods.

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