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Food systems

Transforming food systems for all

What is a food system?

A food system includes all the aspects of feeding and nourishing people: growing, harvesting, packaging, processing, transporting, marketing and consuming food. It encompasses all the interactions between people and the natural world – land, water, the climate, etc. – and the natural world’s effects on human health and nutrition. It also includes the inputs, institutions, infrastructure and services that support the functioning of all these aspects, as well as the role of diets and cultural practices in shaping outcomes.

A food system is sustainable when it provides sufficient nutritious food for all without compromising the health of the planet or the ability of future generations to meet their own food and nutritional needs.

Why do food systems need to change?

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food systems faced enormous challenges. Hunger had been on the rise for several years, affecting up to 811 million people as of 2020, while healthy diets were unaffordable for at least 3 billion. Meanwhile, climate change was already affecting production, and the need to address concerns related to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental footprint was growing ever more urgent. And the role of food systems in the emergence of new infectious diseases – as a result of both the loss of biodiversity due to unsustainable practices and the damage to ecosystems that it caused – had already been acknowledged.

Now, because of the effects the pandemic has already had on our food systems – and because of the potential additional effects still to come – nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year.

Furthermore, only 10 years remain until 2030 – the deadline for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and many of the goals remain far out of reach. In many cases, unsafe or unsustainable food systems are part of the problem. For this reason, we need a transformation of our food systems.

What needs to happen to change our food systems?

Transforming our food systems would encompass fundamental changes and enhancements in the institutions, infrastructure, regulations and markets that shape them, and the resources invested into them, in a way that makes them more equitable and sustainable – from the perspectives of both the workers who derive their livelihoods from these systems and the consumers who purchase the food. This would allow food producers (and other workers within food systems) to sustainably provide nutritious food for all and to be adequately rewarded for their work, so that they do not themselves become vulnerable to hunger.

UN Food Systems Summit

In 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

There are five “action tracks” intended to highlight essential pathways for the transformation of food systems to support the SDGs. IFAD has been designated the UN Anchor Agency for Action Track 4, Advancing equitable livelihoods and value distribution.

IFAD’s main goals at the Summit will be to:

  • put small-scale farmers and other rural people at the heart of food systems transformation and of efforts to achieve the SDGs
  • use IFAD’s expertise and knowledge to advance discussions and contribute to action-oriented global commitments towards sustainable transformation of food systems.

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Challenges and solutions for food systems transformation in Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe Region

Maio 2022 - EVENT
rdr  
As part of the IFAD’s Rural Development Report Policy Dialogue Series, this discussion will focus on finding solutions for adopting a food systems approach to catalyze inclusive rural transformation in the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia region and Europe Region.

Transformational, Sustainable, and Inclusive Food Systems in West and Central Africa: A dialogue on the Challenges and Solutions

Maio 2022 - EVENT
rdr  
As part of the IFAD’s Rural Development Report Policy Dialogue Series, this discussion will focus on challenges and opportunities to transform food systems for inclusive and prosperous rural transformation in West & Central Africa.

Challenges and solutions for food systems transformation in East and Southern Africa

Maio 2022 - EVENT
As part of IFAD’s Rural Development Report Policy Dialogue Series, this event will explore using food systems for inclusive rural transformation in the East and Southern Africa region.

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IFAD to increase investment and presence in transforming food systems in East and Southern Africa

Novembro 2021 - NEWS
The IFAD regional team held its annual East and Southern Africa Business Planning meeting to outline a vision for the next three years, under the IFAD 12 replenishment cycle. With less than 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the region’s small-scale farmers and rural people suffering the effects of the pandemic, climate change impacts, locust infestation and other crises, it is essential to plan bold actions to preserve and advance development gains.

To transform our food systems we must reimagine how they are financed, says IFAD President

Setembro 2021 - NEWS
To transform our food systems to end global hunger and be sustainable in a changing world, we must first reimagine how they are financed, said the President of IFAD to world leaders attending the UN Food Systems Summit, which ends today.

Small-scale farmers need decent wages - IFAD calls on world leaders to commit to action at Food Systems Summit

Setembro 2021 - NEWS
It is an outrage that rural small-scale farmers in developing countries, who grow a third of our global food, are paid a pittance for their work, said the President of IFAD who today asks world leaders attending the UN Food Systems Summit to take concrete actions to change this.

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Black jelly brings a more resilient future for rural Viet Nam

Setembro 2021 - STORY
Light and refreshing, with a mild, earthy flavour, Vietnamese black jelly is the perfect end-of-summer treat. It’s already popular throughout Viet Nam and its neighbouring countries – and thanks to the work of local growers and an IFAD-supported project, it’s now destined for wider audiences.

Climate-smart agriculture supports food systems in rural Georgia

Junho 2021 - STORY
Through the use of climate-smart agriculture techniques, an IFAD-supported project is helping rural Georgian farmers holistically restore their local and regional ecosystems.

Effective micro-organisms: The key to healthy soil and healthy diets in rural Lao

Novembro 2021 - STORY
Agriculture is the main source of income and livelihood in rural Lao. But Lao crops are highly climate-sensitive, leaving farmers with little room for error when it comes to climate adaptation.

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Nutrition-sensitive investments for resilient food systems: Lessons from Ethiopia

Março 2022 - BLOG
More and more of IFAD’s development projects are focusing on nutrition as a way to optimize their impact. Our work in Ethiopia exemplifies this.  

Nutrition-sensitive agriculture: The cornerstone of a healthier world

Dezembro 2021 - BLOG
It might seem counter-intuitive to suggest that agriculture should become more nutrition-sensitive – but many small-scale producers worldwide are at risk of food and nutrition insecurity. We’re committing to more ambitious goals for integrating nutrition into our investments and project activities.

In China, youth are at the forefront of transforming food systems

Dezembro 2021 - BLOG
Young people are the future of the world’s food systems, and they should therefore have a say in how the food systems of tomorrow should be configured. In China, youth have long been leading efforts to promote organic farming and sustainable consumption – and now, they’re beginning to act for change.

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IFAD to increase investment and presence in transforming food systems in East and Southern Africa

Novembro 2021 - NEWS
The IFAD regional team held its annual East and Southern Africa Business Planning meeting to outline a vision for the next three years, under the IFAD 12 replenishment cycle. With less than 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the region’s small-scale farmers and rural people suffering the effects of the pandemic, climate change impacts, locust infestation and other crises, it is essential to plan bold actions to preserve and advance development gains.

To transform our food systems we must reimagine how they are financed, says IFAD President

Setembro 2021 - NEWS
To transform our food systems to end global hunger and be sustainable in a changing world, we must first reimagine how they are financed, said the President of IFAD to world leaders attending the UN Food Systems Summit, which ends today.

Small-scale farmers need decent wages - IFAD calls on world leaders to commit to action at Food Systems Summit

Setembro 2021 - NEWS
It is an outrage that rural small-scale farmers in developing countries, who grow a third of our global food, are paid a pittance for their work, said the President of IFAD who today asks world leaders attending the UN Food Systems Summit to take concrete actions to change this.

Publicador de Conteúdo

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Research Series 72: Climate change and food system activities - a review of emission trends, climate impacts and the effects of dietary change

Maio 2022
This article reviews how food system activities contribute to climate change and how dietary changes affect food systems. It shows that while emissions from food production are increasing in most regions, emissions from land use change are decreasing.

Research Series 71: Urbanizing food systems: exploring opportunities for rural transformation

Maio 2022
This paper shows that while anticipated increases in food demand by 2050 can largely be met regionally, potential yield increases or diversification will not contribute automatically to inclusive rural transformation. Instead, urbanization may potentially increase rural inequality and poverty.  

Research Series 70: Do not transform food systems on the backs of the rural poor

Maio 2022
Although the importance of inclusion in food system transformation is gaining traction, this paper argues that recent research and discourse on the topic is insufficient and that specific actions are needed to ensure that this transformation does not take place on the backs of the rural poor.

Food Systems Contact

Contact information

 

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