Focus on Rural Food Chains: UN Agency

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has issued a stark warning regarding global food security. Their estimation is chilling: even a mere one percent reduction in food assistance could push more than 400,000 individuals to the brink of starvation.

All the people in the world can have access to enough adequate nutritious food if there is a concerted focus on investments and policy changes on rural food value chains, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

In its latest report “Transforming food systems for rural prosperity”, the agency said that the focus on investments and policy changes on rural food value chains would also help food producers earn decent incomes.

Associate Vice President of IFAD’s Strategy and Knowledge Department Dr. Jyotsna Puri said; “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,”

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.

  • Invest more in rural farms and local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that support activities after the farm gate, such as storing, processing, marketing and  distribution.
  • Focus on local ownership and employment will increase job opportunities, particularly for women and young people, while giving small-scale farmers access to new and diverse markets.
  • Make available innovations (such as nature based solutions and agro-ecology) and affordable digital technologies to boost rural small-scale famers’ production so that farmers can be climate-resilient, using low carbon and sustainable techniques.
  • Develop and focus on pricing systems that reflect the full and true cost of production, including rewarding farmers for ecosystem services, such as maintaining healthy soil and regulating pests.
  • Promote accessible and affordable nutritious food. At least 3 billion people cannot currently afford healthy diets. Changing this requires focusing on nutrition education, empowering women to make nutrition decisions, and stronger government policies to regulate and steer market choices. Governments can use market-based instruments, income support and public procurement to focus on nutrition-rich foods.
  • Engage to rebalance global trade and governance to correct power imbalances. The present concentration of power within food systems calls for rethinking regulations and trade arrangements so that rural people in developing countries can benefit. Food markets need to be accessible to rural people, and on fair terms. Incentives need to be in place to reward nature-based practices and local, healthy diets.

Puri said that the report was 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 highly vulnerable to a changing climate.


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