Economía Agroalimentaria

FAO globally engages with universities in foresight activities for agrifood systems transformation: The new report on the future of food and agriculture presented to academia


In its effort to engage Academia in the transformation of agrifood systems through foresight activities, FAO is systematically engaging with academia at all levels.

In Viet Nam, for instance, FAO was invited by the National Economics University (NEU) of Hanoi, in a seminar, co-organized with the Vietnamese Institute for Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD) and the University of Tasmania (Australia), to discuss the medium-long-term future of agrifood systems and how to move them towards sustainability and resilience. Several professors, government officials, students from various PhD and masters’ programs, attended the seminar and contributed to the discussions.

FAO’s contributions, provided by the Senior Economist, Lorenzo Giovanni Bellù, revolved around the findings of and the foresight methodology adopted for the FAO report The future of food and agriculture – Drivers and triggers for transformation.The participants were particularly interested in how to transform agrifood systems in low-and middle-income countries, while avoiding moving along the same unsustainable patterns followed by high-income countries in the past. Agroecology and organic agriculture emerged as interesting avenues to explore, although much more research and investment is needed in these fields. 

Given its role in foresight studies to support sustainable and resilient agrifood systems, FAO’s Policy Intelligence Branch - Global Perspectives (PIB-GP) was also invited to participate in the conference “Reimagining food systems: enlarging and enriching time horizons for informed decision making”,co-organized by the Brussels Institute for Advanced Studies (BrIAS) and the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels (FAOLOB).

BriAS invited historians, humanitarian workers, economists and foresight planners and focused the discussion on the importance of using foresight to support policy making for sustainable food system transformation. Particular emphasis during the conference was put on how to exploit historical trends of key agrifood drivers to design possible futures. As this report constitutes a typical example of such approach, its presentation by Lorenzo Giovanni Bellù was particularly welcome. The interest and support from FAOLOB were significantly appreciated.

The Italian University Roma III, which offers a Master course in Human Development and Food Security and with whom FAO has a long-lasting collaboration, invited FAO to offer a lecture on possible future alternative scenarios for agrifood systems, how to escape from “business as usual”, and which strategies and policy options are available to move towards sustainable and resilient agrifood, socioeconomic and environmental systems.

Another invitation came from the FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation (FAOLOR) that, jointly with the Russian Institute for Agrarian Studies of Higher School of Economics (NRU HSE), have organized the presentation of The future of food and agriculture – Drivers and triggers for transformation in the framework of the XXIII Yasin International Scientific Conference on Economic and Social Development in Moscow. Lorenzo Giovanni Bellù was invited to present the report remotely. In his welcoming speech, Oleg Kobiakov, Director of the FAO Moscow Office, highlighted that FAO regards HSE University as a very reliable and productive partner, stating that the “joint presentation of FAO flagship reports at Russian platforms has become a good tradition. It is fully understood and supported not only at this respected scientific and education institution, but also among a wide range of leading experts representing other higher schools and scientific research centres.”

Lorenzo Giovanni Bellu stated that the travel towards sustainable and resilient agrifood systems does not run on a “toll-free motorway”: richer countries and social groups that have enough funds to cover the inevitable costs of implementing transformations must bear these costs in order to support those who have already faced the negative consequences of unsustainable development. Researchers from Moscow-based and regional universities and research institutes, joined by representatives of private sector companies, leading media outlets, as well as students, attended the event. The interest and support from FAOLOR were significantly appreciated.

At the Ghent University (Belgium) a presentation was made to discuss the findings of the FAO report, in a special seminar organized by the University and FAOLOB with the report as the topic. In his opening remarks, the Director of FAOLOB, Raschad Al-Khafaji, expressed his satisfaction with having this event take place in cooperation with Belgian academia and highlighted the significance of the report and the need for future-oriented thinking. Lorenzo Giovanni Bellù highlighted key socioeconomic and environmental factors that significantly affect agrifood systems and presented the report’s four alternative scenarios and the related triggers for transformation. Some 80 masters and PhD degree programme students as well as professors of the faculty of Bioscience Engineering. Over 50 participants connected to follow the presentation online.