Stories tagged: food systems

New Malabo Montpellier Panel Report: Climate-proofing Africa’s food systems needs new and reimagined financing models to meet $41.3 billion adaptation cost

ADAPT: Policy innovations to unlock climate finance for resilient food systems in Africa, image: person checking production line, hand holding produce, food vendor with point of sale machine, sprout growing

African governments will need to tap into all domestic and global sources of adaptation finance to meet a shortfall of more than $40 billion to climate-proof food systems, according to the Malabo Montpellier Panel. Continue reading

Saving Soils for People and Planet

Ebunoluwa Ijeoma Ajobiewe, Ambassador for the NextGen Ag Impact Network (NGIN) and advocate for youth in agriculture, underlines the importance of protecting soils for human and environmental health. 

World Soil Day on 5 December is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of soils to not only the environment but also human well-being. In a growing world where over two billion people are affected by food and nutrition insecurity and 95 per cent of our food comes from the soil, we can no longer afford to mismanage this earthly element. Fertile soils are a non-renewable resource that cannot be recovered within a human lifespan. 

A complex narrative

Growing up, I was accustomed to having the soil around me. My family’s food and dietary needs were supplemented with vegetables from our garden and meat from chickens raised in the same environment. I had food on my plate, yet I had a complicated relationship with the soil. Topsoil was something we could play with outside, but it had no place within the house because it could mean more cleaning or crying if you were unlucky enough to get some in your eye during a sandstorm. It was only through my education that I began to understand the many components of soil. I can still remember the pie chart my teacher used to describe the composition of soil as 45 per cent minerals, 25 per cent water, 25 per cent air and five per cent organic matter.

I truly realized that the soil is alive when I planted my first maize and vegetable seeds and watched them grow, and when I viewed living soil organisms under a microscope for the first time. I realised that these tiny creatures wiggling inside the petri dish made their home in the soil beneath my feet. Soil organisms are critical to the efficient functioning of the ecosystem and important for nutrient cycling, decomposition, primary production and agronomic performance.

Photo: Courtesy A. Troccoli

Where food begins

Plants, animals, humans and the planet depend on the quality and health of the soil. This comprises many facets, including active carbon, total carbon and soil respiration. To understand the status of a certain soil or undertake a comprehensive assessment of soil health, the mineral nutrients composition, as well as ecological and biological activity, must be taken into consideration. Healthy soil should function as a vital living system, maintain environmental quality, sustain biological productivity and promote the health of the various organisms that depend upon it.

However, statistics from both FAO and IPBES reveal that about one-third of the world’s soils are already degraded, and over 90 per cent could become degraded by 2050 if we do not act. This degradation is propelled by natural and human-induced factors like erosion, loss of soil nutrients, acidification and pollution occurring worldwide. 

Photo: FAO (2020)

How can we make a difference?

There are many actions people—from farmers to youth, policymakers and more—can take to save soils and a number of resources to build understanding.

Farmers are in constant contact with this key resource and can harness the benefits of soil biodiversity. They can use practices such as diversification of crop types, agroforestry, high-precision management of nutrients and minimised tillage to conserve soil. In addition, the practice of regenerative agriculture principles, according to the World Economic Forum, could mitigate the loss of topsoil and aid the restoration of damaged soil for small and large-scale farmers. 

In its first year of existence, the NextGen Ag Impact Network (NGIN) has engaged over 200 young people in practical, in-depth discussions around regenerative agriculture alongside the impacts of agri-food education, school gardens, youth in agriculture and food security advocacy towards a sustainable food future. This is at the core of our mission. Similarly, the Global Soil partnership raises awareness and builds capacity through creative contests for children and prizes for innovative research.

The World Soil Charter recommends actions for individuals, the private sector, the scientific community, governments and international organisations to support the sustainable management and restoration of the world’s soils. These include personal stewardship of soil resources, advocacy and knowledge sharing, creation of socio-economic conditions that favour proper land tenure, facilitation of access to soil information and financial services, effective legislation and implementation of regulations. 

However, if we hope to save soils for humanity and the planet, there is a need for all stakeholders to do more. Right where you are, you can contribute to stopping biodiversity loss by becoming a soil advocate, avoiding the use of pollutants and recycling. For example, nearly 50 per cent of household waste can be composted to nurture our soil.

I am committed to enlightening the next generation about the importance of soil health and I will do my best to ensure that my actions above ground support belowground ecosystems. What will your soil promise be?


Header Photo: © 2014 CIAT / Stephanie Malyon

From Potential to Reality: Innovative solutions to the global hunger crisis

Joachim von Braun, Professor for Economic and Technological Change at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn, outlines how Africa can overcome the global hunger crisis.

Food systems around the world are facing a multi-dimensional crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically disrupted the food supply chain due to bottlenecks in farm labour, processing and transportation. Additionally, the war in Ukraine adds uncertainty to grain supply as Russia and Ukraine account for 20 per cent and 30 per cent of global maize and wheat exports, respectively. Hunger is on the rise in Africa, with issues such as acute climate stress and inflation impacting people’s ability to buy goods.

Urgent and coordinated international action is needed to achieve food security while safeguarding the environment. Policymakers must work to build sustainable and resilient food systems, while also managing the ongoing food crisis. In addition, the development sector needs to invest in scaleable, global innovative solutions driven by scientific expertise to achieve progress and reduce hunger.

From the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit to the G20 and COP27 – with its first-ever Food Systems Pavilion – food systems have remained high on the international agenda and global leaders must continue this momentum. To do so, a number of short- and long-term courses of action for policy and partnerships must be addressed, with innovation at the centre.

Long term strategic priorities for governments 

In the long term, regional and international cooperation can help turn Africa’s agricultural and food systems’ potential into a reality. For example, to secure a regular food supply for affordable and healthy diets while also ensuring sustainable use of resources, policymakers must prioritise investment and policy actions that benefit African society as a whole. 

By investing in and supporting small businesses and making productive use of the African Continental Free Trade Area, entrepreneurship in the region can be fostered. Small-scale businesses need to be supported with improved agricultural finance infrastructures so that they can access investment and microfinance opportunities.

Additionally, investing in skills development programmes should also remain a priority for policymakers in Africa, as supporting young women and men with vocational training and extension services can improve skills for all professions along the value chain. While developing skills is an important aspect of improving economic outcomes and building resilience, much of rural Africa remains disconnected from these opportunities. However, this can be resolved through better rural infrastructure and digital connectivity. 

Moreover, investing in innovations, agricultural research, solar energy supported small-scale irrigation, rural energy, digitalisation and mechanisation of production can help communities recover from global shocks.

Short term actions to improve food security

In the short term, policymakers must focus on a number of main sectors for growth, such as trade, social protection, employment and health. Trade, in particular, is essential to growing economic opportunities in Africa. In particular, supporting international efforts to unblock the grain supply – and compensating those that are indirectly impacted by the blockages – is important to reviving the food supply. Expanding trade finance and advancing intra-African trade by conducting transactions in local currencies can also help manage the food crisis. In addition, improved technology and scientific innovations like data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) policymakers and civil society organisations can also prevent food crises from turning into famines.

Strong social protection systems must also be developed to help vulnerable people cope with the global hunger crisis and external shocks. Better employment opportunities, investments in the health and education of children, and cash transfer programmes are all ways families can be empowered to lift themselves out of poverty. Nutrition programmes that are expanded to school meals, health systems and food fortification can address the growing diet deficiencies among rural and urban populations in Africa.

Looking ahead: Learning from Africa’s successes in food and agriculture

Above all, global cooperation is important in solving some of these challenges, but Africa has made great strides in advancing towards the goals set under both the Malabo Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, the progress is fragile and ensuring food security and improved nutrition is still a challenge. There is more to be done to ensure that Africa is on track to achieve Zero Hunger (SDG 2) by 2030.

The Malabo Montpellier Report “Recipes for success” (2021) can serve as a guideline for African policymakers, development partners and the private sector to achieve sustained progress toward resilient food systems. According to the report, food systems transformation in Africa can be achieved by adopting an approach that can close the gaps that are impeding progress toward sustainable growth. Beginning with countries’ development agendas, food systems transformation through innovative solutions must be an integral part of their national vision. 

Placing African innovation at the centre of food systems transformation is key to achieving resilience across the continent and around the world. By implementing smart regulations, nurturing scientific growth and supporting youth with the resources they need, African and international policymakers can optimise conditions to catalyse action across food systems.


Photo: UN COP27 Climate Talks, November 2022 (UNFCCC)

The Power of People: A spotlight on youth-led initiatives for MENA’s food systems

Rayan Kassem, West Asia Regional Director at Youth4Nature, highlights youth-led projects for food systems transformation and the ways they can be supported to lead as changemakers.

Food systems challenges are not unique to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, nor are the issues that young people face. But, as with every region, the actions needed to transform them are.  Continue reading

More Than US$27 Billion Pledged to Tackle Global Malnutrition and Hunger at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit

COVID-19 and climate change have exacerbated malnutrition and threatened the sustainability and resilience of food systems around the world.

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Helping Food Systems Recover from COVID-19: Where Do We Go from Here?

Kindra Halvorson, Chief Transformation Officer, TechnoServe, reflects on the previous year to identify key learnings to help food systems recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A year and a half since COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic, nearly every aspect of our world has been impacted and disrupted. Food systems are no exception. According to the FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021, the pandemic pushed an additional 118 million people into hunger during 2020, representing the first time in more than a decade that the number of people facing hunger increased significantly. Continue reading