Director-General  QU Dongyu

The Director-General stresses the crucial importance of science and innovation for the future of agri-food systems


21 September 2021, Rome – The future of agri-food systems needs to be built on science and innovation if it is to meet the complex challenges facing humanity, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) told Members today.

“The transformation of agri-food systems demands innovative systemic changes”, Qu said as he opened the first consultative session with FAO Members for the development of a new FAO thematic strategy on Science and Innovation. “We need innovation in technologies, policies, business models and mindsets, innovation that is by people and for people.”

The FAO Science and Innovation Strategy will be the Organization’s second new thematic strategy, following the Climate Change Strategy, which is also in the process of being developed to supersede an earlier version adopted in 2017.

This new Science and Innovation Strategy comes amid unprecedented complex global challenges. Despite increasing global food production, in 2020 as many as 161 million more people were undernourished than in 2019. FAO’s role as the lead specialized UN agency for agri-food is to help  harness the latest developments in the rapidly changing landscape of Science, Technology and Innovation to play a key part in mapping out new solutions.

Qu underlined the critical role of science in providing the foundations for FAO’s overarching new Strategic Framework 2022-31. The Organization’s 20 Programme Priority Areas (PPAs) set out in the Strategic Framework are driven forward by four “accelerators”: technology, innovation, data, and complements (consisting of governance, human capital, and institutions).

“Science underpins all four accelerators,” Qu stressed. Since he assumed the leadership of FAO in 2019, Qu has implemented several initiatives to  strengthen the role of science and innovation in the Organization’s work:

  • A new position of FAO Chief Scientist, the first ever in FAO’s history, ensures the robustness, breadth and independence of its scientific approaches.
  • A new Office for Innovation consolidates and strengthens FAO’s innovative spirit.
  • New landmark science-based initiatives, including the Hand-in-Hand Initiative built on the importance of data, and the associated Geospatial Platform, strengthen evidence-based sustainable development interventions and decision-making.

Qu said “the Strategic Framework will support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life (four betters), leaving no one behind.”

The planned Science and Innovation Thematic Strategy reflects a view that more must be done to close the digital divide. FAO's 1000 Digital Villages Initiative focuses on converting 1000 villages across the world into digital hubs – all with the aim of supporting the transformation of agri-food systems.

To bring these science-focused initiatives into a coherent framework, and to facilitate the development of new initiatives, Qu said he was proposing the first ever FAO Science and Innovation Strategy.

The aim is to put FAO firmly on the path to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems by enhancing the use of science and innovation – including indigenous and local knowledge.

Qu said the Informal Consultation aimed to kick-start the process and solicit Members’ feedback. The blueprint will go through a series of consultations and revisions at various levels through FAO’s Governing Bodies before it is expected to be submitted to the FAO Council in June 2022.