Food Security and Nutrition in an Urbanizing World

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched today its 2017 Global Food Policy Report, which focuses this year on Food Security and Nutrition in an Urbanizing World. The launch event took place in Brussels, on the eve of the European Days, on June 6, 2017, with the participation of SNV World and Welthungerhilfe. I was invited to moderate the keynote interview session on “International Responses to Urbanization”, featuring two wonderful speakers: Brave Ndisela, Strategic Programme Leader for Food Security and Nutrition at the FAO, and Gerda Verburg, Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and Assistant Secretary-General to the United Nations. 

The IFPRI report shows a clear picture of the massive and rapid urbanization trend that is happening around the world and more strikingly in Africa and in Asia. By 2050, two thirds of the world population will live in urban areas. As urban population grows, poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition are increasingly becoming urban problems. The speakers addressed some of the priority actions that are needed to counter these trends. 

IFPRI did a Survey (the results are in the report) showing that 73% of the respondents think the expansion of cities and urban population will make it harder to ensure that everyone gets enough nutritious food to eat. The speakers presented the scale and space of urbanization in the developing world and the problems of food security and nutrition that are growing fast among urban population. They also noted the opportunities, in particular more balanced linkages between urban and rural. 

Brave Ndisela is originally from Malawi. Last year, the Government of Malawi launched a new National Agricultural Policy to improve incomes, food security and nutrition. Brave was asked if this policy addresses the challenges of urbanization. Brave noted that Malawi’s urbanization is going at a slow pace and this new food security strategy is going to help the country with early planning for improved rural-urban linkages and for early urban planning. Gerda Verburg noted that the SUN Movement works with 59 countries and 3 Indian States. She noted the need for local answers that will work on access and on consumer choices. 

Plato said « Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich. These are at war with one another. » The pace and scale of urbanization are constantly creating a greater gap between the rich and the poor and this gap can be seen with the nutritional status of urban population. The triple burden of malnutrition exists now around the world in an urban context. Most of the urban poor live in slums. Hans Rosling once asked “Can slums be made history ?”. Both speakers were optimistic that a variety of solutions would be found to not only improve the lives of people living in slums through improved sanitation, public services, infrastructure and provision of healthier and more nutritious food. In addition, Gerda noted the need to provide rural youth greater opportunities in the agricultural sector to slow down the migration flow from the countryside to the cities. 

The audience noted the importance of re-thinking food systems for agricultural production to respond to the needs of nutritional recommendations instead of public policies focused on subsidies for cereal and staple crops. Another comment noted the need to study urban diets closely, of the rich and of the poor. 

More information about the speakers: 

Brave Ndisale is the Strategic Programme Leader for Food Security and Nutrition at the FAO. Brave previously served as Malawi’s Ambassador to Belgium, France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland, The Principality of Monaco, and the European Union. She also held senior positions in government and international organizations, including the African Union Commission.

Gerda Verburg is the Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and Assistant Secretary-General to the United Nations. Gerda served as Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands, and as Chair of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 17) at the same time. From 2011, she was Ambassador of the Netherlands to the UN Rome-based agencies. In 2013, she was elected as Chair of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and in 2014 she was appointed as Chair of the Agenda Council for Food and Nutrition of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

 

Grain Transportation Enters New Era

The Transportation Modernization Act C-49 is being introduced in Canada and will address many long term issues concerning grain transportation.  It is exciting to see many of its provisions and everyone is eager for more details.  Congratulations to Minister Garneau and to all the parties which have demonstrated so much commitment to Canadian farmers.

Now we need that support to speed along its passage before the prior legislation sunsets.  It is important that provisions like Interswitching have continuity.  For shipments to the US, it is particularly important that Interswitching and data requirements are robust.  It is too easy just to think about the ports, but crops like Oats move mostly to the United States and so that southern corridor is just as important.

Celebrate World Milk Day 2017

Milk is considered one of the first foods, with it emerging into the agriculture scene nearly 10,000 years ago. Since then, it has been an integral part of everyday life particularly in the growth and development of children. Did you know that an eight-ounce glass of milk contains the same amount of calcium equal to twelve servings of whole grains, ten cups of raw spinach or six servings of legumes? It is a little-known fact that milk is the only product on which a human could survive wholly on as it contains every nutrient your body needs. 

Personally, the nutritional benefits of milk, for both my children and me, make it a very important part of our everyday life. Milk has been a part of my diet since I was a child, my favourite memory about milk was waking up every morning as a kid in India and waiting for our local dairy farmer to deliver fresh milk. To this day, that same local dairy farmer delivers milk. As a matter of fact, India is the largest producer of milk in the world. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation declared June 1st as World Milk Day in 2001. This year will mark the 16th annual World Milk Day. A day created to connect the many facets of the dairy industry and promote the importance of milk as a global food. This day works in conjunction with National Dairy Month, which has been celebrated every year in June since 1937. 

I welcome you to raise a glass in your community and join myself, the Emerging team, and the world in celebrating World Milk Day. Join the movement by registering an event or raise a glass by joining our social media Thunderclap.

 

Scaling up Agricultural Adaptation through Insurance

Insurance can help increase farmers’ resilience and capacity to adapt. Innovations and learning in this field are growing quickly, providing concrete responses to urgent needs. 

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), in partnership with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), is hosting a conference on "Scaling up Agricultural Adaptation through Insurance” during the UNFCCC SBSTA week in Bonn. The event will showcase CCAFS’ own work on index-based insurance as well as experiences from around the globe

 

Understanding Addis Ababa: Financing for development

2016 was the first full year of implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Efforts have begun at all levels to mobilize resources and align financing flows and policies with economic, social and environmental priorities in support of all three dimensions of sustainable development. The recently launched advance unedited draft of 2017 report of the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development Addis Ababa Action Agenda calls on businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges, and invites them to engage as partners in implementation of the sustainable development agenda. 

I could not overlook the following acknowledgment: “While the large preponderance of private business activity remains profit driven, a growing number of institutions have double or triple (social and environmental) bottom lines.” 

As the report highlights, it is important to recognize that the private sector includes a wide range of diverse actors, from individual households and international migrants to multinational corporations. And that Private business activity, investment and innovation are major drivers of productivity, employment and economic growth.

Read the advance unedited draft of 2017 report of the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development – Progress and prospects here:

Advance unedited draft of 2017 report of the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development – Progress and prospects

 

Raise a Glass for World Milk Day!

When you picture a glass of milk in a child’s hand in Canada, it might not lead you to think about the one billion people around the world who derive their livelihoods from the dairy sector. In fact, livestock, including dairy, is often a portal of entry to agriculture and food security for many small families who may not have access to land to farm. A cow that provides fresh milk or a chicken that produces eggs, can be a way, often for women to provide regular food to their family and ultimately to earn an income. Over 37 million dairy farms are female-headed making them a major part of dairy production systems and think about the multiplying impacts on their families.

Also, the importance of the dairy sector in economic terms is not limited to producing milk. There are many great examples of projects working to help create value addition through milk. It can be a simple as having a cooling facility to allow milk to get to market in programmes like those run by TechnoServe and Heifer International. In one East African programme alone, they are working with 136,000 smallholder farming families in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania to sustainably improve their livelihoods by 2018, while stimulating income growth for an additional 400,000 secondary beneficiaries.

Another example is India where milk is largely produced by smallholders. The Indian government led a “White Revolution” that has helped increase smallholder production so now the per capita availability of milk has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It is more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013. This is incredibly important in a country where milk is a vital source of protein.

The sacred role of milk in India is thousands of years old, coupled with population growth and income growth it drives the needs for more long-term sustainable milk production. Around the world, consumption of dairy products is expected to increase by 20% or more before 2021, according to FAO and OECD. So dairy will be central to meeting food security.

The role for milk in child and mother nutrition is often underestimated in particular. There is good evidence that milk and other dairy products are necessary for preventing micronutrient deficiency in vulnerable population groups (women, elderly, children-particularly in the first 1000 days). For instance, young children need the nutrients that milk provides because their developing skeletal systems replace bone mass about every two years until they reach maturity! We all grew up knowing the importance of milk for protein, potassium, and magnesium. In many countries, dairy products are fortified with vitamin D since our body needs it to absorb the calcium. These are only a few of the many reasons why milk, and its dairy derivatives, is produced and consumed in almost all the countries in the world.

So in 2001, the FAO declared World Milk Day to take place every June 1 to mark the importance of dairy and its benefits of milk for our lives.

In 2016, World Milk Day was celebrated in over 40 countries. The fact that many countries choose to do this on the same day lends additional importance to individual national celebrations and shows that milk is a global food and that it is part of all diets and cultures.

Whether milk is a breakfast drink that goes with your porridge or tea in the morning or is celebrated in a glass on its own, we encourage you to “Raise a Glass”. This universal gesture of celebration lies at the heart of all communities.

Last year’s activities included holding marathons and family runs, milking demonstrations and farm visits, school-based activities, concerts, conferences and seminars, competitions, and a range of events focusing on promoting the value of milk and illustrating the important role played by the dairy industry in the national economy.

An event can be as simple as drinking milk or finding your perfect pairing of dairy on June 1 and sharing this moment through social media. You can register your event.

  • Join our Thunderclap so your social will automatically support the campaign on June 1
  • Use the Twitter hashtag #WorldMilkDay to be sure to be recorded as part of our TINT feed (a social media aggregator)
  • Capture images of your event: Take pictures of people drinking milk and raising their glasses, post them on social media with #WorldMilkDay
  • Tell us about your event: You can write a blog post before and after the event telling about why you are involved in celebrating World Milk Day in 2017.
  • Record your event: Any type of video content (edited and non-edited) showing what your event looks like can be sent to us to be uploaded on social media platforms (#WorldMilkDay on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram)

Canada’s new investment to support food safety and a reformed Codex Alimentarius

During the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting held in Berlin on January 22, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay, met with the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Dr. José Graziano da Silva, and announced a contribution of $1 million to support international bodies that develop the standards for food safety and plant and animal health. This new investment will go towards scientific and technical work of the Codex Alimentarius and the International Plant Protection Convention, supported by the FAO, and the World Organization for Animal Health in their efforts to promote a safe, fair and science-based trading environment. This will be added to Canada’s ongoing financial voluntary and membership contributions to the FAO to support its work to improve global food security, agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. 

The importance of the Codex Alimentarius relies on the crucial role it plays in enabling trade in agricultural products that benefits both producers and consumers. One of its responsibilities is to set standards in terms of international pesticide Maximum Residue limits (MRLs). Recognition of the importance of the Codex’s role in establishing MRLs has led to recent efforts by its members to improve its functioning and, since 2007, the time of the MRL elaboration process was reduced from over 10 years to approximately 2 years. Yet, it is still too much. 

Ideally Codex MRLs should be established soon after a new active ingredient or new use is approved by a national authority and in use on crops entering international commerce. For this reason, delays in the establishment of MRLs, or the failure to develop them, and the resulting lack of harmonisation affect badly market access, productivity and farmer livelihoods. MRLs are needed to make registered products useful to farmers who wish to trade, or must trade. If there is no Codex MRL in place, importing countries can apply zero or near-zero default tolerances for residues of products.

Financial contributions like the one offered by the Canadian government are very much needed to enable the Codex to perform its role effectively by addressing current capacity challenges and ensuring that adequate resources are available to supporting global food security. 

Global Dialogue Series: Eliminating Food Loss and Waste (FLW)

One-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, and it costs around $940 billion dollars each year to the global economy. Food Loss and Waste happens through the entire value chain, but it is greater nearer “the fork” in the developed regions and nearer “the farm” in developing regions. Moreover, FLW contributes around 8% of the global GHG emission which in the context of scale, would be the third largest contributor of GHG behind China and USA. 

I recently participated in the Global Dialogue Series on Food Loss and Waste hosted by the UN Global Compact. The series are online discussions, informing the development of short briefs designed to support business engagement in support of food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 –Reduce per capita global Food Waste and Loss by 50% by 2030.  

The invited panel for the series on FLW were stakeholders from the UN Global Compact, the Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), and the World Resource Institute (WRI). The private sector was engaged as well with participation from Tesco, Campbell, and Danone who are leading the charge on FLW through concrete strategies and actions. 

Addressing this major issue calls for more sustainable productions and consumption model. Business has a critical role to play in this regards. By being transparent, setting targets, measuring waste, prioritizing and implementing corrective actions, increasing education & awareness, and forming partnerships, businesses can have a tremendous positive impact on the elimination of Food Loss and Waste. 

 

 

Time for Action on Food Waste

After spending the last 10 years meeting the needs of consumers and clients in the Food Service industry, my first visit to the United Nations at their headquarters in New York to participate in Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) conversation on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was stimulating and inspiring.

We are facing some of the most important decisions related to our collective future on one of the most rudimentary pillars of our society, food & and its security.  The fight to achieve food security, malnutrition and end hunger is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today and in the coming years. Globally, close to one billion people are undernourished and a further billion are overweight or obese.

Rising populations, diminishing resources and deteriorating environments only raise the stakes. In a world where one third of the food we produce is thrown away, we cannot help but ask ourselves the question: Could food wastage and hunger be an expression of the same problem?

Navigating through so many countries, regions, cultures, environments and needs is not an easy task by any means. However, considering the urgency and magnitude of the issues, the UN member countries, in late 2015, signed off on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would provide the impetus to address these global challenges, including three Goals (2, 3 and 12) focusing on Food Security, Health and Waste, respectively.

The emphasis now must be on building a firm and durable foundation for the engagement and participation of all stakeholders, including the private sector, academia, civil society and non-governmental organizations, in the process of taking effective actions for the implementation of the Goals. Agreed targets and standardized measurement mechanisms are fundamental and critical to the firm and durable foundation that we seek to underpin the success of these efforts. 

Our world is digitally and socially very connected. However, awareness of this looming crisis and its criticality is relatively negligible. It’s time to activate our networks and use this opportunity of the SDGs to generate awareness that can translate into tangible actions.

I feel excited and energized to be part of a team at Emerging Ag that is as passionate as I am about encouraging entities in the agriculture and food sector - global, national and local - to drive this change and be active stakeholders in securing our future on food for generations to come.

Let's be BOLD on International Women's Day

Today we are celebrating International Women Day #IWD2017. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange! Being bold is indeed what women need to do to take their destiny in their own hands. 

Change will not happen organically and it will not happen in our lifetime if all of us women don’t question every day the status-quo.

WE have to be bold to refuse the archaic roles assigned to women in the family and in the professional life.

WE have to fight for maternity leave, equal pay, equal treatment, and equal work in the home.

WE have to fight against harassment, violence and discrimination.

WE have to be kind to each other and show solidarity to all the women around us who may need our help.

WE have to teach our sons that men can change also be bold and take a stance every day for girls and women.

WE have to encourage women around us to be very bold and become politicians because they will shape the future laws of our countries for our benefit. 

I am proud to be working for a bold and visionary company that is 100% woman-owned and that employs 12 women and 2 men from all regions of the world, all ages, so many cultures and faiths. I wish there were more companies like the one I work for. I wish we all had more female role models and mentors. I wish more women were as lucky as I am allowing me to live fully my life as a professional working woman while raising two children on my own.

May every day be International Women’s Day!!!