Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

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Addressing Food Insecurity in the Philippines through the Private Sector-Led Zero Hunger Coalition

In a 2021 FAO Report, food insecurity in the Philippines has reached 40- 60% of its population. Food insecurity is the consistent lack of food to have a healthy life because of economic situations. Hunger has substantial economic costs for individuals, families, and societies. Labor, often the only asset of the poor, is devalued for the hungry. Mental and physical health is compromised, cutting productivity, output, and the wages that people earn. Food insecurity compels people to remain within the cycle of poverty unless interventions are provided.

With food insecurity’s far-reaching effects on people, the UN Global Compact (Philippines) Zero Hunger Coalition seeks to address these issues and amplify the business case for zero hunger, ESG, and food systems transformation as a mechanism for inclusive and sustainable recovery and resilience in the next 5 years. We are guided by the UN Food Systems action tracks of (1) Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all, (2) Shifting to sustainable consumption patterns, (3) Boosting nature-positive production, (4) Advancing equitable livelihoods, and, (5) Building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress.

In keeping with FAO’s 10-year Strategic Framework, our coalition’s main goal is the pivot to more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all.

Our coalition recognized the need for more stakeholders involved as one organization will not be able to address the issues of food insecurity. From 4 core members in April, we have grown to 40 organizations, 13 of which are from the People Pillar of the UN Global Compact (Philippines), 5 agencies from the UN System in the Philippines with primary support from the UNIDO and UNGC Network Phil. 5 from the LGUs led by the City of Baguio and 16 agribusinesses from Benguet. As a private sector-led initiative, Morination Agricultural Products, Inc. leads the coalition. Manila Doctors Hospital is our co-lead, supported by other members of the Private Sector and the CSO- ICM, Metro Pacific, Nestle, PPSA, Komunidad, Smart Communications, Eco-business, IRRI, Shinkozan, ADEC, and Yuchengco Center.

At the frontlines of our fight to zero hunger are our Benguet growers. For them to effectively take on the roles of food champions, our coalition has adopted UNIDO’s holistic approach to trade and capacity building structured around three key imperatives for our growers: (1) The people pillar is developing competitive productive supply capacities for our growers for them to be able to compete domestically and internationally; (2) We will also assist them in conforming to standards such as obtaining organic certification for their farms and Good Agricultural Practices certificates to prove compliance with market requirements in an internationally recognized manner; and third,  Enhance their connectivity to markets.

Among the first activities we have embarked on is the setting up of a systems-based multi-stakeholder approach in the Coalition. Our first year of operations functioned through the in-kind support of the members. We are also running a sustainability model to finance our operations. The establishment of the Zero Hunger Fund is also used to scale the initiative to be sustainable, inclusive, and just. Our members have defined our roles guided by our goals and their core competencies.

In a baseline study and round table discussion on our community leaders, the following challenges emerged for our growers: Undersupply and oversupply of vegetables, lack of water irrigation, lack of digital connectivity, unfair trade practices, limited access to markets, unpredictable weather conditions, poverty, an aging population, among others. With these, we seek to address these and will provide them an enabling environment, capacitate them and support them.

Our pillar is developing a Nutrition Agriculture program through the ADB grant application and the assistance of the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (the sustainable arm of the ASEAN Secretariat and World Economic Forum's Grow Asia) to transform our growers in taking their roles as effective food champions through learning, mentorship and assessment activities

ICM also is designing our zero-hunger roadmap. This would lend focus to our pillar’s milestones that would include 14 million of the Philippines’ ultra-poor in our value chains.

Manila Doctors Hospital through their adopt a community program will send community health workers to their hospitals for training. Moreover, they will design and execute sustainable health capacity development programs for our Food Champions’ pilot communities.

Metro Pacific is also our health partner in conducting health wellness checks of our growers. The Mwell app showcases a holistic approach to telemedicine—from doctor consultation, e-pharmacy, emergency services, and home care—to fitness and nutrition programs.

Together with the Baguio SMART City, we are also providing digital connectivity, designing and executing data architecture for a digital platform to integrate source mapping and e-commerce. We are also getting support in adopting climate-smart agriculture in the agri-food systems to accelerate climate action and improve resiliency during natural disasters.

From our growers’ crops, these are processed to become Nutripacks, thereby increasing their shelf life and adding value to our growers’ harvests, lessening crop wastage, and having additional market access with assistance from UNIDO, Baguio, and the Pillar. Guided by the Committee on World Food Security and the ASEAN Responsible Agri Investments, The Baguio Food Innovation Hub and Morination are establishing post-harvest facilities for Nutripacks production to support efforts in fighting hunger and providing livelihood in the local economy including ICM’s 14 million base of Filipinos in the supply chain.

Finally, Eco-business is documenting the Zero Hunger journey of the Pillar to amplify community-based stories as active economic & sustainability partners and to champion the impact of The UN Global Compact & sustainable business in achieving the SDGs.

In closing, food insecurity is a complex issue with the most adverse effects felt by the poor. In this instance, the private sector and all stakeholders need to take accelerated action to address these and in getting involved in a cause greater than ourselves and our organizations- getting out of our comfort zones but still playing to our strengths. In the end, we all have a role and responsibility in making this world better for all.