EnvironmentOpinion

It is Time to Transform the Way We Produce and Consume Food, says FAO Ethiopia Head

By Fatouma Seid*

ADDIS ABABA – On 16 October 2021, Ethiopia will be among 150 countries that will commemorate World Food Day under the theme– “Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.” Activities of the day promote awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.

We will be commemorating this year’s World Food Day during exceptional times. Globally, we are still dealing with the widespread effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. In the case of Ethiopia, it is the third year of fighting a massive desert locust invasion. Moreover, climate-related disasters, conflict, displacement, and high food prices, continue to affect millions of people in the country. All these disasters have a direct effect on the food security, nutrition, and livelihood of the population, as well as the environment and natural resources.



More than ever before, these challenges have demonstrated the need for a shift in the way we produce and consume food – also called agri-food systems.

An agri-food system covers the journey of food from farm to table – including when it is grown, harvested, processed, packaged, transported, distributed, traded, bought, prepared, eaten, and disposed of.

Why the transformation?

Ethiopia, like many other countries in the world, will need more food for a growing population in the future, which places greater pressure on natural resources, the environment, and the climate.

In addition, today’s agri-food systems are exposing profound inequalities and injustices. While millions of people go hungry, a lot of food is lost every day, either spoiled during production or transport or thrown into the waste bins of households, retailers, or restaurants. According to a 2017 study conducted by FAO in Ethiopia, post-harvest loss of maize, wheat, haricot bean, and sorghum ranges between 14 and 27 percent. Wasting food is also a waste of the precious resources used to produce it.

In addition, good, safe nutritious food should be affordable, but often this is far from the case. Healthy foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, carry greater production risks than staple foods, such as wheat, rice, or corn, and are therefore more expensive.

Ethiopia on the path to transforming agri-food systems

This year saw the launch of the first Food Systems Summit by the UN Secretary-General, aimed at drawing up a roadmap for a major shift in the way the world produces and consumes food. The Summit is part of the milestones of the Decade of Action (2020 – 2030), called by the Secretary-General to accelerate action to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

I am glad to note that Ethiopia participated in the Summit at which H.E Ato Oumer Hussein; the Minister of Agriculture presented the country’s vision for transforming the national agr-food systems from nature-positive production to sustainable consumption patterns that promote enhanced food safety, nutrition, and healthy diets. It also seeks to improve equitable livelihoods, land preservation, as well as resilience to shocks and stress. To implement this vision, Ethiopia will leverage strong collaboration across all food systems actors from production; processing; storage, safety and transportation to consumption.

FAO’s contribution to transforming Ethiopia’s agri-food systems

FAO will continue supporting the Government of Ethiopia to implement actions that the country has identified to transform the country’s agri-food systems. We are also expanding our efforts to promote nutrition practices and reduce food loss. In this regard, FAO is working with the government, partners, youth groups, and farmers to promote food storage technologies that minimize post-harvest losses. We are also working on integrating smallholder farmers into commercial agricultural value chains such as the Integrated Agro-Industrial Parks. Our work on sustainable natural resource management, agribusiness development, responding to disasters (including pests and diseases), building resilient food systems, and increasing agricultural production will continue.

Get involved in the transformation

As we mark World Food Day, I call upon every individual, community, institution, and organization to reflect on their role in building sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agri-food systems.

At a practical level, we can start by consuming nutritious locally grown food, reducing food waste, and advocating for healthy and sustainable food choices. The private sector can limit levels of saturated fats, transfats, sugars and salt in products and ensure clear labelling, while improving food safety and quality.

Education institutions can provide or scale up nutrition education for students. Governments can help smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods by increasing access to training, finance, digital technologies, extension services, social protection, early warning systems, and crop varieties or animal breeds that are resistant to climate change.

 

Ms. Fatouma Seid*, UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization Representative in Ethiopia, wrote the message in connection with the World Food Day 2021