In his World Food Day blog, Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General of Bioversity International and CEO-Designate of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, explains why systems thinking is key to fixing the food system and introduces a new strategy for accelerated change at the nexus of food, agriculture, health and the environment.
This week, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is taking place at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) here in Rome, Italy. CFS is the only intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder platform within the UN system specifically tasked with food security and nutrition policy. It convenes all the diverse food system stakeholders together in the most inclusive and coordinated way possible, including giving a voice to those most affected by the issues in hand.
One of the top items on the CFS menu this week is the proposed new Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition. While food systems might differ greatly, they offer critical opportunities for public policies, mechanisms, instruments and investments to advance the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Guidelines primarily target governments to help design public policies that support the shift towards healthier and more sustainable food environments. They also recognize that there are many other stakeholders at the table, for example, the private sector and consumers, that are crucial in making this shift.
Importantly, the guidelines note that policy decisions cannot stand alone or we can end up with solutions that solve one problem but may cause another, for example, policies related to climate change adaptation and mitigation that could affect agriculture and food production systems, and vice versa.
This systems-thinking approach is at the heart of the Alliance strategy. Using our multi-disciplinary expertise, we will take a comprehensive, systemic and evidence-based approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of food, agriculture, health and the environment. By working in the nexus of these sectors, we can recognize the multiple tradeoffs and synergies in any intervention, and effectively leverage them to improve the food system as a whole, and not just its parts.
To this end, we have identified six entry points where – working with our many partners around the world – we can play a catalytic role to:
- Reshape the food environment and consumer behaviour towards healthy and sustainable diets
- Foster innovation for environmental health and productive landscapes
- Reduce climate risk to unlock investment in adaptation and mitigation
- Make agricultural and tree diversity available for diverse needs
- Promote inclusion in the digital agriculture revolution
- Put nutrition and health at the heart of crop improvement to address malnutrition
Finally, I would like to wish you all a very happy World Food Day and urge you to join the global effort to take action to promote healthy diets and achieve #ZeroHunger.