Building sustainable food supply systems – Part 2
Continued from last week
In this final analysis of ways to build sustainable, healthier, more equitable food supply systems, we examine solutions put forward by experts of the World Economic Forum. Economists at the World Economic Forum seek to help public, private and civil society champions working across the food systems agenda. They aim to catalyse and build integrated global platforms for action. They aim to make economic and food systems fairer for everyone and more sustainable for the planet. And they aim to address these issues with the sense of urgency and scale that is so badly needed in the world today.
The importance of a multi-stakeholder response brings to the fore, the structural risks needed to be addressed, highlighting the imperative of an integrated multi-stakeholder response in order to transform food supply systems for the better. However, a global risks report found that analysts in the finance, investment and business community already recognize the growing importance of environmental risks in food security, extreme weather events, failure to adapt to climate change, water crises and ecosystem collapse.
Experts also realize how these risks may combine to drive more geopolitical flashpoints culminating in mass migration and interstate conflict. So we’re facing a growing web of complex, challenging and structural risks. Indeed, the interconnectedness of these risks is proving hard to address through traditional policy levers. Moreover, we are now aware that our health and well-being depend on the availability of, and access to, nutritious and more sustainable foods.
It is important, therefore, that we examine food systems as a whole, rather than as separate pieces of the puzzle. We need to value overall outcomes rather than issue-specific processes. And we need to collaborate to address these complex issues. Thus, solutions must be scalable. Which is why we must adopt an integrated response to food system transformation, which will require building multi-stakeholder platforms that can be scaled both at the national and regional level and along global value chains.
But the piecemeal progress to date must give way to a joined-up global effort that encompasses the entire food system to meet the scale and urgency of the challenge. The pandemic has shown us the power of unprecedented global action and coordination towards achieving a common goal. To build future food systems that are fit for purpose, we need to adopt a platform for action approach. Such an approach should enable us to develop public-private partnerships that meet local needs, while collectively aligning and coming together to address the global issues.
Our approach must have these three traits: its focus must be on platforms. Its energy must go towards bolstering and aligning efforts rather than duplicating or approaching them piecemeal. And thirdly, the approach requires a scaled, collaborative, multi-sectoral and solution oriented mindset from the outset. The Food Action Alliance is a good example of the needed approach in the food arena. The alliance is led by more than 35 partners from the public and private sector, civil society, farmer and consumer organizations and academia. It aligns various country and region-led initiatives on a global scale.
This approach allows existing partnerships or initiatives to maintain their uniqueness while harnessing the collective capacity of the platform as a whole. Developing agricultural ecosystems by strengthening integrated value chains, from production to consumption, is a good starting point for food systems transformation and wider economic growth. A crucial role lies with flagship initiatives. Particularly in areas such as rice in Nigeria in particular and rice in West Africa in general.
The ingredients to success are that (1) farmer best practices are adopted widely; (2) the use of the best affordable technology available; (3) and access to finance and digital services to improve market access is enhanced. Moreover, such flagships must support needed nutrition, climate-smart and inclusion outcomes. For the World Economic Forum, this isn’t a hypothesis. They are actually working on a One Hundred Million Farmers Initiative. This catalyses action to transition towards nature-positive food systems by 2030.
The initiative truly drives system change globally. Once farmers change their production methods, companies can imitate it as an operating principle through their supply chains. Finally, innovation is a critical lever of change if we are to successfully transform food supply systems. The pandemic has underscored the need to retool the entire food supply chain. Actions taken to protect and restore food systems will also have to be smarter. This requires a significant focus on innovation that benefits everyone.
In defining innovation, it is essential to adopt a wider more holistic view- one that is inclusive of local and traditional knowledge. One that recognizes the importance of policy and institutional innovation, of multi-stakeholder partnership innovation and of social innovation and social entrepreneurship. But also, we must recognize that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving disruptive technologies across many sectors.
Thus, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a threat to innovation; since innovations do not inherently bring about positive change. They may also worsen outcomes. It is up to us to shape the outcomes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the food space. We should shape them to benefit all, rather than harm us.