Advancing food security and agricultural innovations by helping families and individuals meet their need is being promoted as crucial to increasing economic opportunity and growth, DANIEL ESSIET reports.

A holistic redesign of the world’s agri-food systems can make outsized contributions to achieving global pledges such as ending hunger by 2030, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Director-General, Qu Dongyu has said.

In a keynote lecture at Italy’s Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, he said: “Agri-food systems are the world’s largest economic system, measured in terms of employment, livelihoods and planetary impact,” Qu said, noting that four billion people are employed in food systems, in which poverty and hunger are  endemic.

“Transforming our food systems is among the most powerful ways to change course and make progress towards all 17 SDGs and ‘build back better’ from COVID-19,” Qu said.

After his presentation, Qu also participated in a round-table on science diplomacy with Joachim Von Braun, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Director of Germany’s Centre for Development Research (ZEF) and Chair of the Scientific Group for this year’s Food Systems Summit, and Lincei President Giorgio Parisi, a physicist, who has done pioneering work in statistics and complexity, “disordered systems” and the dynamics of Rome’s whirling storms of starlings.

The DG called for more “system thinking”, in a broad spectrum of areas, including policies, business models and even culture.

Focusing on the need to move from strategy to action, he outlined how the agri-food systems are “not delivering”, noting that as many as 690 million people are undernourished, with the COVID-19 pandemic projected to add more than 100 million; one in five children are stunted; three billion people cannot afford healthy diets; and one in 10 people are affected by unsafe food supplies.

He pointed to the scale of global food loss and waste and the fact that 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas and work in agriculture.

Bill Gates Foundation is offering $1.5 million grant for innovators which can offer solutions to smallholder farmers to improve their  production and communities’ nutritional resilience. These grants are focused on solutions for farmers in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, India and Bangladesh. The Foundation said farmers face low agriculture productivity driven by multiple factors, including incomplete information and minimal services, climate change, weather variability and pest/disease outbreaks, few tailored financial and insurance products, lack of access to and choice of market and off-take options among others.

It said the Foundation’s Smart Farming Innovations for Small-scale Producers Grand Challenge for Development seeks innovative digital solutions with potential to drive positive impact for smallholder farmer entrepreneurs. The agritech solutions, according to it, will be delivered through bundled farmer services should be enabled by scalable digital and data platforms.

The Foundation said there was also $250,000 Seed Grants for Smart Farming solutions that can demonstrate potential in meeting potential of bundling  multiple farmer-facing services into an integrated solution within 12 months.

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