Building resilient agrifood systems in Least Developed Countries in the face of risk and uncertainty: FAO Chief Economist

At the 5th UN Conference on the LDCs in Doha, Qatar, Máximo Torero called for investments to minimize, cope and recover from risks affecting food security

FAO Chief Economist, Máximo Torero, addresses a panel during the 5th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries



Doha- Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are the most vulnerable nations to agrifood systems’ risk and uncertainty brought by climate change, water stresses, pests and diseases, trade and macroeconomic policies and unexpected events, the Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned today in Doha.

“We need to build resilience in our agrifood systems”, Máximo Torero urged while speaking at a side event during the 5th UN Conference on the LDCs being held in Qatar this week.

The chief economist explained that LDCs remain hotspots of chronic and acute food insecurity with an average of 22.1 per cent of prevalence of chronic undernourishment — with some countries with more than 50 per cent.

He added that while there has been some progress since 2020, the situation has overall deteriorated over the last decade with many LDCs hurt by conflicts and climate shocks, as well as economic and demographic pressures.

For example, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic have been affected deeply by conflict. Meanwhile, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Guinea- Bissau, Madagascar and Lesotho have had to deal with climate shocks.

“Our agrifood systems operate and will continue to operate under risk and uncertainty, and LDCs will be the most vulnerable countries to this”, he underscored.

Building resilience

Torero explained that building resilience in agrifood systems has three components: minimizing risks or vulnerabilities, coping with risks when they occur, and having the capacity to recover and build back better.

To minimize risks, he said, it is necessary to increase investment in early warning systems to identify areas where food insecurity is likely to occur, enabling timely interventions to prevent the situation from escalating.

He also highlighted the importance of the One Health Approach to face the emergence of new zoonotic reservoirs and emphasized how critical it is to increase access to agricultural insurance and finance.

FAO’s Chief Economist further explained that for LDCs to be able to cope with risks it is a must to put in place well-targeted social protection to support the most vulnerable, including cash transfers and food for work programs.

Another way to do this, he said, is to prioritize investments in interventions with the maximum returns and assuring minimizing tradeoffs, a measure that needs accurate and up-to-date data and information to take the right decisions. The FAO Hand in Hand initiative is currently supporting this.

To build resilience and increase productivity in the face of climate change, smallholder farmers in LDCs also need access to technology, markets, crop diversification, finance and resilient infrastructure, among other measures, Torero underscored.

Finally, to build back better, investments in renewable energy, digital solutions and addressing the gender gap are of core importance.

“We need to connect energy, water, technology and human capacity to transform agrifood systems”, the FAO expert underlined, adding that a new social contract is needed to guide our common life on our shared planet.

“This social contract has as pre-condition that we work together to increase resilience to secure for all people recognition of the universal right to food and provision of the means to attain it”, he concluded. 

FAO at the 5th UN Conference on the LDCs

Over the weekend, FAO and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) launched the Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA), a global programme designed to help LDCs make their agrifood systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by fostering partnerships and generating public-private investments.

During the Private Sector Forum at the 5th UN Conference on the LDCs, FAO’s Chief Economist highlighted that ASTA will help countries move from broad recommendations and strategies for agrifood systems to concrete implementation and measured impact.

“ASTA brings a fresh new approach”, he said, adding that the initiative brings real impact, catalytic facilitation, partnerships, and technical excellence.

FAO’s Chief Scientist, Ismahane Elouafi, is also in Doha to participate in the conference.

Speaking at a side event dedicated to the importance of investment in research and development in LDCs for smart and innovative societies, Elouafi underscored the importance of investing in science to transform agrifood systems. 

“Statistics shows investment in research and development in agriculture is extremely low”, she warned, adding that nations not only need to increase these investments but also maintain them continuously.


FAO News and Media (+39) 06 570 53625 [email protected]

Laura Quinones FAO News and Media [email protected]