Participants stressed that climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation cannot be achieved without science and innovation
FAO Chief Scientist Ismahane Elouafi offers her takeaways at the close of the second edition of the Science and Innovation Forum.
Rome - The second edition of the Science and Innovation Forum, a key constituent of the annual flagship World Food Forum, closed here on Friday after three days of discussions and proposals on how technology can help agrifood systems deal with the climate crisis.
The forum, which was held in hybrid form at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), attracted hundreds of stakeholders from across the globe. Nearly 150 speakers from the world of academia, business, government and non-governmental organizations, as well as Indigenous People, shared their expertise and perspectives during a series of roundtables and panel discussions. Participants were also presented with the Action Plan 2022–2025 for the implementation of the FAO Science and Innovation Strategy, which provides a common framework for the agency's action at country, sub-regional, regional and global levels.
Partnership agreements were finalized with CAB International (CABI), the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), Italy's University of Naples Federico II, and the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil.
At the forum’s closing session, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu thanked participants for their contributions, noting how this year's edition offered "more intensive dialogues and discussions," more "out-of-the-box" thinking, more interlinkages with other sectors, such as potential investors, and more engagement with Indigenous Peoples and farmers' associations. Going forward, he called for even more focus, more interlinkages and more holistic approaches when designing programs. He also invited the private sector to offer "more specific requests" to FAO.
In summing up the outcome of the three-day forum, FAO Chief Scientist Ismahane Elouafi offered the following takeaways:
More than a dozen events were held during the forum, all illustrating how science, technology and innovation can be a powerful engine to end hunger and malnutrition while helping mitigate, adapt and increase the resilience of our agrifood systems, which currently account for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
During an event entitled Future Forward: Advancing Climate Solutions through Science, Innovation and Technology, the panel discussed such ground-breaking innovations as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and biotechnology, as well as FAO’s flagship Agrifood Systems Technologies and Innovations Outlook. Notable speakers at this event included Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Ildephonse Musafiri; Gabriel Mbairobe, Cameroon’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; and Christina Gravert, a behavioural economics professor at the University of Copenhagen.
The second day of the forum saw participants discuss a variety of topics, starting with an event entitled Innovative Solutions for Soil and Water Management for Climate Action. This event highlighted innovations in re-carbonizing soils, improving soil health, and enhancing water use efficiency. Strategies for promoting integrated governance of natural resources and managing water scarcity were also discussed.
In a keynote speech, Rosa Poch, Chair of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, highlighted the recent FAO-hosted Global Symposium on Soils and Water, which aimed to find solutions for sustainable soil and water management and food production.
The forum heard how an efficient use of water, judicious fertilizer use, reduced pesticide use, and improvements in soil health could lead to average crop yield increases of 80 percent.
Thursday’s program also saw a discussion on Enabling Research, Science, and Innovation in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in which participants shared experiences and insights on facilitating access to science, research, and innovation in LMICs and SIDS to strengthen capabilities in climate change adaptation, mitigation, resilience and response. They also discussed context-specific and evidence-based solutions for populations that are not sufficiently represented in global research agendas while facing disproportionate impacts.
At an event on bioeconomy, the forum discussed how bioeconomy can be a catalyst for addressing the current climate crisis and achieving global agrifood sustainability through a more efficient and responsible management of our natural resources.
FAO is the first UN agency to have developed a strategic priority programme on the bioeconomy, which was endorsed by its Members two years ago, and is positioning itself at the forefront of global efforts to promote bioeconomy innovations to make our agrifood systems more efficient, equitable, resilient, and sustainable.
Moderated by Joachim von Braun, a German agricultural scientist who acts as the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the event brought together high-level speakers and some of the field's biggest experts from around the world.
Another event held on Thursday, entitled AI and Digital Tools for Climate Resilient Agrifood Systems, saw participants agree on the need to harness the power of digital tools and provide better and safer access to innovation. There were, nonetheless, broad calls for caution in using these tools in an inclusive and responsible manner, recommending validation and quality assurance of AI outputs and stressing that unchecked use of these tools can create more bias, result in less inclusion or even widen the digital divide.
In his keynote speech, FAO Chief Economist Máximo Torrero drew attention to some exciting examples of digital tools already developed by FAO. One of the most recent is a digital application entitled FLAPP (the FAO Food Loss App), which enhances the ability to analyze where and why food losses happen, allowing for more targeted interventions in reducing wastage.
Friday's session on Implementing the FAO Science and Innovation Strategy and the Strategy on Climate Change in Synergy discussed the need to ensure their successful implementation in synergy, in order to address climate challenges through science and innovation. The event also provided FAO with the opportunity to showcase diverse cases of a successful and synergistic implementation of the two Strategies.